In November 2023, CGPS Faculty Council approved reframing the requirement for a comprehensive examination to a requirement for a doctoral candidacy assessment.  The assessment is to be completed within 24 months from the start of the PhD program to move from a PhD student to a PhD candidate. The policy change will come into effect May 1, 2024.  


Doctoral Candidacy Assessment - Definition

The requirement for a doctoral candidacy assessment to be completed within 24 months is replacing the requirement for comprehensive exams that did not have a deadline for completion effective May 2024, as approved by CGPS Faculty Council, November 23, 2023

The purpose of the candidacy assessment is for doctoral students to demonstrate they have:

  • an adequate grasp of the current state of knowledge in the intended field of research;
  • the potential ability to conduct advanced original research independently using relevant methodologies;
  • the ability to communicate in ways appropriate to their field of research and practice (and, if applicable, other knowledge or skill requirements for the discipline).

If applicable, the candidacy assessment may also evaluate a student’s capability to meet other knowledge or skill requirements set by the academic unit for the discipline.


  • The demonstration that the student has satisfied the candidacy assessment is approved by the student’s advisory committee.
  • Completion of the candidacy assessment will occur within 24 months of initial registration (36 months for students who transfer from master’s to PhD)
  • Occurs following the completion of all for credit course and ethics training requirements, as listed in the program of studies.
  • The candidacy assessment may be composed of multiple elements such as field exams, written and/or oral assessment of the student’s research plan (in the form of grant applications or dissertation proposal), and any other program requirements that are not part of the required courses.
  • For some programs, the format of current comprehensive exams will align with the purpose as defined in the new policy and simply be renamed “candidacy assessment”. Other programs are using the change in policy as an opportunity to redevelop their assessment practice.
  • Programs must specify for students all the components that are required for candidacy assessment. This information should be available in program guidelines and may be listed in the catalogue description of the program.

The doctoral candidacy assessment policy will take effect May 1, 2024, at which point the requirement for candidacy assessment terminology will replace the requirement for a comprehensive exam. 

  1. PhD students who begin their program on or after May 1, 2024 - All students will be required to complete a candidacy assessment and will be required to adhere to the timelines as detailed in the policy.

  2. PhD students who began their program before May 1, 2024 - In cases where programs alter the format of the assessment from what was the comprehensive examination, these continuing students may opt into the new format or be evaluated for candidacy assessment through the format of comprehensive as was described in program guidelines when they entered the program.
  • Students will not be required to complete the candidacy assessment/comprehensive exam within the 24-month time frame. Programs are nonetheless encouraged to have continuing students who are beyond 24 months complete their comprehensive exam/candidacy assessment sooner rather than later.
  • Students completing either type of assessment after May 1, 2024, will have the candidacy assessment noted on their official transcript.

Successful completion of the doctoral candidacy assessment will be recorded in the same manner as the comprehensive exam is currently recorded in Banner.

Students who complete their doctoral candidacy assessment on May 1, 2024, or later will have the doctoral candidacy assessment noted on their transcripts.  The student’s transcript will have a comment by level that states:

  • Doctoral Candidacy Assessment Satisfied – Major Code
  • Date Completed (dd-month-yyyy)

Students who complete their comprehensive exam on or before April 30, 2024, will not have a comment on their transcript.

Student Information Services (SIS) will be updating the training manual for Graduate Program Administrators who currently add Comprehensive Exam information into Banner to reflect the policy and process changes.

As we transition to the new system, each term, CGPS will share a report of students who have not completed a comprehensive exam or doctoral candidacy assessment within 36 months of their program start date. The intent of this reporting is to:

  • Assist units and programs to more readily identify students who may have written a comprehensive exam already, but it is not recorded in Banner.
  • Encourage the completion of the comprehensive exam/candidacy assessment in a timely manner for all students including those who started prior to May 1, 2024.
  • Flag transfer from master’s to PhD students who should complete the candidacy assessment within 36 months of their program start date.

Each academic unit/program will need to discuss and decide how to structure the doctoral candidacy assessment process to meet the purpose of the new policy.

  • It is expected that programs should have revisions to their current process completed by the end of the 2024/25 academic year (end of April 2025).
  • The candidacy assessment process must be designed to conclude within 24 months (36 months for transfer students) of a student’s start date.
  • When discussing your unit/program’s candidacy assessment structure, consider the best ways to assess your doctoral students’ readiness to be considered a doctoral candidate.
  • Programs must specify for students all the components that are required for candidacy assessment. This information should be available in program guidelines and may be listed in catalogue description of the program.

The qualifying exam was required for students wishing to transfer from a master’s to Ph.D. program.  As a qualifying examination is no longer required (effective May 1, 2024) for all PhD programs, the CGPS requirement for a qualifying exam will no longer be required as part of the transfer. 

The other three conditions remain, as follows:

  1. The transfer aligns with the student’s motivations and personal and career objectives.
  2. The student has completed at least 9 credit units at the 800-level and has achieved a minimum average of 80% with no individual grade below 70%. Exceptions are subject to the approval of the dean, CGPS, or designate.
  3. There is evidence the student has requisite writing and oral communication abilities, research skills, and disciplinary knowledge, to be able to successfully complete a Ph.D. dissertation.

Note: CGPS will be recommending a change to policy to clarify that an advisory committee will assess if the student has demonstrated the points noted in item 3 above. Programs may use the same process they used as the qualifying exam to satisfy item 3 above.