Examinations and Program Planning Meeting

    1. Candidacy Examination

      1. Objective: to determine if the student is qualified in terms of basic communication skills, deductive or scientific reasoning, and previous training to successfully pursue a Ph.D. program.

      2.  Timing: The candidacy examination may be administered after at least 18 credits have been earned in graduate courses beyond the baccalaureate (includes M.S. coursework). The examination must be taken within three semesters (summer sessions do not count) of entry into the doctoral program. The student must be registered as a full-time or part-time degree student for the semester in which the candidacy examination is taken. The Graduate School is notified after the student passes the exam via the Graduate programs coordinator, but not in advance (unlike the other exams). The student is responsible for arranging the exam at a time and place agreeable to all committee members.

      3. Procedures for the examination: A Candidacy Exam Committee is selected by the student and advisor, usually consisting of the faculty who will be asked to serve on the Doctoral Advisory Committee. The student should arrange times for the written and oral exams, and inform the graduate program coordinator (Stacy Smith) of the time. The exam does not have to be scheduled in advance with the Graduate School, but the advisor shall inform the graduate program coordinator of the outcome immediately after the exam.
        In the Horticulture program at Penn State, the evaluation of English competency is done during the candidacy exam. However, the committee decides separately whether the student passes the candidacy exam and demonstrates English competency.

      4.  Written critique: Ph.D. students (domestic and international) in the Horticulture graduate program will be evaluated on their English writing competency approximately one week before the oral candidacy. The advisor will provide a journal article for the student to critique. This critique is the basis for the committee evaluation of written English competency. (See “English Competency Policy” in the Horticulture Graduate Guide). The student should circulate the article and critique to the whole committee as soon as the critique is complete.

      5. Oral exam: The oral examination will be administered by the Candidacy Examination Committee. During the candidacy exam, the student will present an oral report on the paper critiqued for the writing competency evaluation. The Candidacy Examination Committee will determine whether the student is qualified to become a candidate for the Ph.D. in Horticulture, and (separately) whether he/she has satisfied the English Competency Policy requirements in both written and verbal skills (See “English Competency Policy”). Each committee member will rate the candidate's performance and recommend one of the following:

        1. Pass without reservation

        2. Fail, with an opportunity to retake the examination at a later date. No more than one retake, at a date no later than one month following the first examination, will be allowed. 

        3. Fail without reservation resulting in termination of the student's graduate program.

          A favorable vote of two-thirds of the committee members is required for passing. If the student passes the candidacy examination, recommendation will be made to the Associate Dean of the Graduate School via forms submitted by the graduate programs coordinator and signed by the department head, that the student be accepted as a Ph.D. candidate in Horticulture.

    2. Program Planning Meeting

      The program planning meeting will be held within one semester after passing the candidacy examination.

      1. Objectives:

        1. To discuss the student's strengths and weaknesses in pertinent subject matter areas.

        2. To guide the student in developing a plan of study.

        3. To review and discuss the proposed thesis research.

      2. Procedure:
        At least one week prior to the program planning meeting, the student, in consultation with the advisor, should prepare and distribute to the committee a preliminary plan of study and dissertation research proposal. During the meeting the committee will discuss the student's proposed plan of study, considering the student's background, interests, and proposed research. At the end of the discussion, the committee will review, modify if necessary, and approve the student's plan of study. Most of the discussion usually centers around the dissertation proposal. This meeting provides an opportunity for all committee members to discuss the proposed research and plan of experiments, and to make suggestions for improvement. The student, the advisor, and the remainder of the Doctoral Advisory Committee should come to an agreement on the research plan. If major changes in the research become necessary during the course of the research, the student should discuss this with the committee members. Following the program planning meeting, the committee chairman should report the results of the meeting and file a copy of the approved plan to study and dissertation proposal with the graduate programs coordinator.

    3. Comprehensive Examination

      1. Objectives: The examination will determine if the candidate has attained a level of training in the specific area of horticulture with sufficient depth and breadth to be worthy of the Ph.D. degree upon submitting an acceptable dissertation.
      2. Timing: The comprehensive shall be given when, in the student opinion and the advisor's, the student is ready for the examination, and when the communications requirements, English competency, and essentially all of the course work have been completed. The comprehensive exam must be given at least three months before the final exam. The student must be registered as a full-time or part-time student at the time the comprehensive exam is administered and must maintain continuous registration (spring and fall semesters) from that time until the dissertation is accepted. The student shall notify the graduate programs coordinator with the date, time and room of the comprehensive exam at least three weeks in advance so that appropriate paperwork can be completed with the Graduate School.
      3. Procedures: The comprehensive examination includes written and oral exams. The oral exam date and time should be arranged by the student and scheduled by submitting the request to the Plant Science office at least three weeks before the oral exam date. 
        1. The written exam: The committee members will prepare a written list of questions to be completed by the student. Not more than three hours will be allowed for each member's set of questions and not more than two sets may be completed per day. Each committee member shall be responsible for supervision of their written examination session. Each committee member shall correct their part and return it with an evaluation to the student within one week after the examination, and provide a copy to the committee chairman. The written examination and evaluation shall be completed at least one week but not more than four weeks prior to the date of the oral examination. All committee members having an appointment in the Department of Horticulture must give both written and oral examinations. Members of the committee not having an appointment in the Department of Plant Science may at their discretion omit the written examination and defer all questions to the oral examination.
        The oral exam: An oral examination shall be administered by the Doctoral Advisory Committee with the committee chairman in charge. Each committee member will have approximately 30 minutes to question the student. At the end of the examination each committee member will be asked to rate the candidate's performance on both the written and oral portions of the exam. The Doctoral Advisory Committee will make one of the following decisions: 

(a)Pass without reservation.

(b) Pass with reservation (to be defined by the committee). A favorable vote of two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing.

(c) Fail with the option to retake the examination once, at a date no later than 90 days following the first examination.
(d) Failure without option for re-examination.  This decision results in the termination of the student's graduate program in the Department of Plant Science.

Decision of the committee will be reported by the advisor to the graduate programs coordinator within ten working days, on the forms provided by the Graduate School.  The Graduate School will then be notified of the examination results.

  1. Final Oral Examination  
    1. Objectives: The main objective of the final oral examination is to determine if the student demonstrates the degree of scholarship worthy of the Ph.D. in Horticulture. Since the major evidence of scholarship is the dissertation, the major part of the examination is a dissertation defense. The following points are used as guidelines for evaluation:
      1. Has the candidate demonstrated originality, creativity, and resourcefulness in the conduct of research?
      2. Does the research utilize proper experimental designs, appropriate techniques, and are these adequately described?
      3. Is the candidate able to satisfactorily defend the methods, findings, and conclusions of the research as embodied in the dissertation?
      4. Does the candidate demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the relevant literature, and can the candidate place his or her contribution in proper context with the literature?
      5. Is the dissertation research worthy of publication in a refereed scientific journal?
    2. Timing:  The final oral examination may not be scheduled until at least three months have elapsed after the comprehensive examination was passed. Be sure to schedule the examination before the deadline set by the Graduate School for the semester the student intends to graduate (see Graduate School calendar ). Note that the exam must not only occur by a certain date, but also must be scheduled by a certain date.  The student should have no deferred grades and at least a 3.0 grade-point average.  The examination must be scheduled within six years of passing the comprehensive examination and all Ph.D. requirements must be met within eight years of the date of the candidacy examination. 
    3. Procedures: Early drafts of the dissertation should be reviewed by the adviser and be revised by the student until the advisor determines that the dissertation is ready for review by the whole Doctoral Advisory Committee. Copies of the complete dissertation, including the abstract and vita, in approved Graduate School format, should then be submitted to all committee members. This must occur at least two weeks before the final exam. Committee members must return the dissertation with comments and corrections to the student at the defense.

      At the final exam, the student will make a presentation summarizing the dissertation, followed by a period of questions and responses. The questions will relate primarily to the dissertation, but may cover the student's whole program of study, since one purpose of the exam is to assess the scholarly attainments of the candidate. The committee members evaluate the student's performance during the exam and the quality of the dissertation on forms provided by the graduate school, and determine whether the student passes the final exam. A favorable vote by two-thirds of the committee members is required for passing. In the event of failure, the committee may determine whether another examination may be taken.

    4. Dissertation acceptance: During the final exam, the committee may decide that changes to the thesis are required. In this case, the student must revise the thesis to the committee's satisfaction and obtain the signatures before the final due date at the Graduate School. Doctoral Advisory Committee members will indicate their acceptance of the thesis in its final form by signing the signatory page either immediately after the final exam or after satisfactory revisions have been made.

      The decision of the committee will be reported to the graduate programs coordinator and to the Graduate School within ten working days on the forms provided by the Graduate School.