PhD Comprehensive Exam

Advancement to Candidacy

It is required that all doctoral students be admitted to candidacy within 36 months from the date of initial registration. A student who is not admitted to candidacy within this time period will be required to withdraw from the program. Extensions may be granted under exceptional circumstances and with the permission of the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

The basic requirements for a doctoral student to be admitted to candidacy are:

  • all required course work has been successfully completed
  • the comprehensive examination has been passed
  • the research supervisory committee has certified that the thesis proposal has been approved

Comprehensive Exams

The Comprehensive Exam does not replace the Annual Supervisory Committee Meeting.  We encourage you to keep your Annual Supervisory Committee Meeting schedule but recognize that you may need to make adjustments to accommodate your committee due to the timing of your Comprehensive Examination.

For detailed information on the Exam please download the Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

For detailed information on the role of the Chair please download the Chair Guidelines

*NEW* Choosing a Stream: Students must choose from 2 streams for their Research Proposal topic; either STEP (Strategic Translation and Extension of Project), or LEAP (Lateral Exploration of Alternate Project).  For the STEP stream the student will determine a comprehensive exam topic that is either a future-cast project, (i.e. a follow-up project stemming from findings/anticipated or expected outcomes of the existing project), or a side-line project, (i.e. a project that may expand on a component or single aim of the student’s current proposal project), that addresses an original hypothesis that builds on the student’s current proposal.

For the LEAP stream the student will select a comprehensive exam topic outside their immediate thesis topic that addresses an original hypothesis distinct from the student’s thesis topic. This option is similar to the comprehensive exam format in place prior to 2024.

The examination consists of preparation of a research proposal (written according to the regulations for an application for a grant-in-aid from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) which will be presented and defended orally before an examination committee.

Both your topic and Examining Committee needs to be approved by the Associate Director of Examinations. Please fill out this form, sign it and have your supervisor sign it and return it to the Graduate Program Coordinator for final approval. The Examining Committee consists of:

  • the student’s research Supervisor
  • a member of the student’s Supervisory Committee
  • two other examiners who are not members of the Supervisory Committee (at least one of whom is a member of the Department)
  • a Chairperson, typically the same Chairperson of your Supervisory Committee.


Students are expected to take their Comprehensive Examination between 24 – 30 months of registration into Graduate School (this includes students who transfer from the MSc to PhD program).

UBC SPARC is a great resource to view sample grants.  These are resources only, and not available for copying and pasting.

All PALM Examinations are strongly recommended to not be scheduled during the months of July and August.