The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

MCIBS - Candidacy exam

information about the MCIBS candidacy exam


The purpose of the MCIBS candidacy exam is to test the student's knowledge about the chosen area of study and critical thinking skills.

The exam consists of both written and oral components, and is based primarily on the students' ability to critically read, understand, and communicate the key findings of a current research paper selected from the literature.

The exam will be taken in the Fall semester of the student's second year.


Exam procedure:

A Candidacy Exam Organizing Committee will oversee administration of the exams.  At least one faculty member from each of the MCIBS Emphasis Areas, appointed by the elected Emphasis Area Representatives, will serve on the committee for 1-2 year terms..  The Organizing Committee will assemble a three-member faculty Exam Committee for each student.  In addition, the Organizing Committee will identify 3-5 scientific papers appropriate to the MCIBS program and its Emphasis Areas that will serve as the basis for the exams.  Finally, the Organizing Committee will prepare a separate written exam corresponding to each of the papers.  To facilitate this process, the Organizing Committee may seek input from the larger pool of Exam Committee members both during the paper selection process and for the purpose of formulating exam questions. Exam questions may include, but are not limited to, those that test knowledge of the background concepts underlying the paper and the Emphasis Areas, test the understanding of methods and techniques used in the paper, test data interpretation skills, or test the ability to apply knowledge gained from the paper towards novel problems.


10 days prior to the written exam date, the Organizing Committee will forward to each student the 3-5 scientific papers that have been selected for the exams.  Students may examine all of the papers, but must choose one that will form the basis of his or her candidacy exam.  On the day of the Written Exam, each student will declare which paper he or she has selected, and will be provided with (1) the Written Exam corresponding to that paper, and (2) a printed copy of the paper.  No other written materials or electronic devices may be used during the written portion of the exam.  Students will be given three hours to complete the Written Exam.  Copies of the completed exams will be provided to the Exam Committee members that have been assigned to each student, in preparation for the Oral Exam.


Oral Exams will take place within two weeks following the written exam.  The Organizing Committee will notify each student regarding the composition of the three-member faculty Exam Committee that has been assigned to them.  Students will be responsible for scheduling a date, time, and location for the Oral Exam.  On the day of the Oral Exam, the student will provide a formal presentation of the paper, and answer questions raised by committee members related to the Written Exam, the oral presentation, and the paper in general.  Upon completion of the Oral Exam, Exam Committee members will reach a consensus regarding whether the student has passed the exam.  In the event that the student does not pass the exam, a second-chance exam will be provided. Within two weeks of completing the second-chance Written Exam, the student will take the second-chance Oral Exam.  A new exam committee will be formed for the second-chance exam, drawing from faculty members who serve on the Organizing Committee and/or serve as Emphasis Area Representatives.  Failure to pass the second-chance exam will result in termination of the student’s tenure in the MCIBS PhD program.