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Texas A&M University

Preliminary Exam and Candidacy

Preliminary Exam Requirement

  • All Ph.D. students are required to take a Preliminary Exam.
  • Through this exam the student's committee verifies that the student has:
    1. a sound research program which, if succesfully accomplished, would be sufficient to graduate;
    2. the ability to carry out the research program (possibly providing preliminary results);
    3. obtained adequate knowledge of the relevant literature.
  • Procedures:
    1. The exam is to be given no earlier than a date at which the student is within approximately 6 credit hours of completion of the formal course work on the degree plan (i.e. all course work except 681, 684, 690, 691 and 692) or no later than the end of the semester following the completion of the formal course work on the degree plan. The preliminary exam should be taken as soon as possible-- ideally, by the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th year.
    2. The student consults with their full Committee to decide upon a date/time for their Preliminary Exam. Then two weeks before that date, the student submits the Preliminary Examination Checklist and Report form in the DocuSign system. At least one week before the exam, students should share with their committee members a rough draft of their research proposal;
    3. The student's Committee will report the results of the Preliminary Exam through the DocuSign system promptly after it's completion. The Office of Graduate Studies must receive these results within 10 days after the exam is completed otherwise it will be recorded as a failure;
    4. After passing the Preliminary exam, students must complete all remaining requirements for the degree within four calendar years or else be required to repeat the Preliminary exam.

Research Proposal

As soon thereafter as the research project can be outlined in reasonable detail, the dissertation research proposal should be completed. There is no minimum page requirement but the proposal should be a complete document which includes an objective, the present status of the question, and a detailed description of the proposed research methods. The proposal document and Research Proposal Approval form must be submitted through the DocuSign system to the Office of Graduate Studies. Students are strongly advised to submit the research proposal soon after the Preliminary Exam.

Admission to Candidacy

To be admitted to candidacy for a doctoral degree, a student must have:

  • Completed all formal course work on the degree plan with the exception of any remaining Math 681, Math 684, Math 690 and Math 691 hours;
  • A 3.0 Graduate GPR and a Degree plan GPR of at least 3.0 with no grade lower than C in any course on the degree plan;
  • Passed the Preliminary Examination;
  • Submitted an approved Research Proposal;
  • Met the residence requirements. A student who enters a Ph.D. program with just a BS must spend 1 academic year plus 1 semester in resident study (study on campus). A student who enters a Ph.D. program with a BS and MS must spend 1 academic year in resident study. An academic year may include 2 adjacent regular semesters or 1 regular semester and 1 adjacent 10 week summer semester.

The Office of Graduate Studies will review each student's case to confirm that all these 5 steps have been met. Once confirmed, they will admit the student to candidacy. The final oral examination will not be approved for any doctoral student who has not been admitted to candidacy (note: there needs to be at least 14 weeks between the Preliminary Exam and the thesis defense).