EDBB Candidacy exam

You will find all details regarding the candidacy exam under internal regulations of the EDBB doctoral program.

Before the end of the first year a candidacy exam (CE) will be held and prior to that, at least 4 credits must have been earned.

• a research plan no longer than 15 pages (font 11, spacing 1.5) will have to be sent 2 weeks in advance to the jury and signed by all participants on the day of the exam together with

• the Candidacy Exam (CE) form prepared by the EDBB Office and emailed to the PhD Candidate before the exam.

• A mentor needs to be identified before the exam, but does not need to be present at the exam

Candidacy Exam Jury will be composed of:

• the president of the Candidacy Exam who has to be either an EDBB committee member or an EDBB thesis director (with PO, PA, PT, MER or PATT status),

• the thesis director

• the thesis co-director (if applicable)

• two experts in the field (one of whom may be external to the EPFL)

• the mentor (the mentor’s presence at the exam is optional)

The EDBB Office can be contacted anytime to check the validity of the CE jury.

Fail or Pass

There is no possibility of “passing conditionally”: the outcome is either “pass” or “fail”. If the candidate fails the candidacy exam, a second and final exam may be rescheduled within a maximum period of 15 months after enrolment.

How to proceed?

At least 2 weeks before the Candidacy Exam (CE), the student should complete and validate the jury proposal by logging in to his/her IS-A account. There is no need to print and sign your jury proposal. Once you have validated it online, the EDBB administrator receives an automated message with the candidacy details and will email the students their candidacy exam form based on the data provided, i.e.:

1. the (provisional) title of the thesis work

2. the names (and address if not EPFL) of the CE jury members (see above)

3. CE date, time and room

The research plan cover page is also available to the PhD student through the IS-Academia portal.

After the exam, the 2 documents (CE form and research plan) are to be signed by all participants, PhD student included, and brought to the EDBB Office by the PhD student right after the exam, or latest within 2-3 days after.

More details on the Website of the doctoral school


This exam should be planned for no more than 30 minutes in length uninterrupted, or 60 minutes with interruptions and questions.

Formatting guidelines for EDBB research plan:

Font size 11 point and 1.5 line spacing. Proposals not adhering to the maximum page limits will not be accepted. The lengths given as ca. are only suggestions and you can vary them so that it fits your project best.

1. Summary of the research plan (max 1 page)

In your summary, please present the background and rationale of the project, list its overall objectives and specific aims, mention the methods to be used, and briefly discuss the expected results and their impact for the field and beyond.

​2. Research plan (Max 15 pages)

​2.1 Current state of research in the field (ca 2-3 pages)

Describe your project in the context of the current state of knowledge in your field. This part serves as introduction to your research topic. Make reference to the most important publications, particularly by other authors/labs. Please describe:

  • which previous insights provided the starting point and basis for the planned studies
  • in which areas research is needed, and why
2.2 Current state of your own research (ca 2-3 pages)

Please present the research work you have already undertaken during your first year, describe the results obtained so far as well as the relevance of these preliminary undertakings for your project.

2.3 Detailed research plan (ca 6-10 pages)

Based on the information provided under 2.1 and 2.2, please specify the approach you are taking and the concrete objectives that you aim to achieve during your PhD.

  • Describe the studies or experiments needed and/or envisaged to reach the set goals. Assess the risks involved and propose alternatives if necessary.
  • If applicable: Characterize existing sources and datasets and describe the data collection strategy and possible alternative strategies.
  • If applicable: If your project relies on collaborations, please describe these and describe to what extent the success of your project depends on the success of collaborators.

Your description should be as detailed as is necessary to enable an expert to assess whether your methodology is appropriate and your project feasible.

2.4 Schedule and milestones (ca 1 page)

Please compile a schedule that includes the most important milestones.

2.5 Relevance and impact

Scientific relevance Please describe the expected impacts of your project for the discipline and for science as a whole (research and education/teaching).

3. Bibliography

List the sources of all concluded and/or ongoing work referred to in the research plan. Give the full reference, especially the title, source and full author list. The bibliography is not included in the max. number of pages.

Request for extension of the Candidacy Exam date:

Should you need to postpone your candidacy exam beyond the mandatory 12 months after your enrollment date, you may submit a Request of Extension form to the Doctoral School via the EDBB office.

Such a request needs to be approved by your thesis Director(s), the EDBB Director and finally by the Dean of the Doctoral School at least 1 month prior to your exam due date.