Biology (M.S.) Candidacy

Biology (M.S.) Candidacy


To be admitted to candidacy, every biology graduate student must pass an oral candidacy examination. The purpose of the examination is to assess the breadth of the student's background in biology. The examination will cover general principles and concepts of biology.

The oral candidacy examination must be scheduled before completing 6 credit hours of graduate coursework and be successfully completed before scheduling beyond 12 hours. Candidacy requires, in addition, that the student has a 3.0 or higher QPA. The examination will consist of six oral questions addressed to the student by the examination committee. Each question will be given 10 minutes of the examination.

The Examination Committee is composed of:

  • The student's academic advisor and tentative thesis committee (thesis option) or the student's tentative reading committee (non-thesis option);
  • At least three-fourths of the departmental graduate committee; and
  • Any other departmental graduate faculty member in attendance. All departmental graduate faculty are strongly encouraged to attend candidacy exams.

The outcome of the candidacy examination will be determined by a simple majority vote by the examination committee. Each graduate faculty member present, whether or not they posed a question, shall have one vote. One of three outcomes is possible:

  • Unconditional Pass - The student may proceed with the program. The application for candidacy and for transfer credit, if applicable, should be made immediately following successful completion of the oral candidacy exam.
  • Conditional Pass - The examination committee decides that the student has an adequate background in biology, except in one or two key areas. A consensus is reached (by simple majority vote) as to conditions. Conditions may include an oral retest of problem areas, a written test in problem areas, or remedial actions. Remedial actions may include taking a course or readings and study in an specified area, for example. The student will be informed of the conditions decided upon by the committee. If after completing or attempting to complete the conditions, the examination committee decides that the student has not met the conditions set forth by the committee, he or she will be required to retake the entire examination according to the stipulations outlined above under "fail." If the student fails the examination at this retake, the student will be dismissed from the program.
  • Fail - The student must retake the entire exam at a later date to continue with the master's program. The student has one more chance to pass. In order to continue with the program, the student must pass the examination unconditionally on the second attempt.