EDIC Candidacy exam

The candidacy exam must be passed within 12 months from the date of enrollment. A second attempt is permitted but the retake must be passed within 15 months from the date of enrollment.

In the first year, students must successfully pass a candidacy exam. The exam consists of a short write-up, a presentation, and a question and answer session in front of a committee including the thesis advisor(s) and two other faculty members. The write-up, the presentation and the exam are based on three publications collectively defining the background for the exam.

The goal of the exam is for the student to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the articles on the reading list and be able to evaluate them critically, taking into account the background knowledge and research forming the foundations for the contributions in the articles.

Updated process to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Candidacy Exams should be fully done by videoconference until further notice.

  1. The PhD student sends the exam jury proposal to EDIC.
  2. EDIC confirms the date to the exam jury, cc’ing the lab assistants.

  3. Ten to eight days before the exam, the PhD student should send the write-up, the background papers (titles, authors and links) and the Zoom link to the exam jury, cc’ing EDIC.

  4. Shortly before the exam, EDIC sends the exam evaluation form to the exam jury, cc’ing the lab assistants and the PhD student.

  5. The exam president collects the signatures from the exam jury members (electronic signatures are acceptable) for the exam evaluation form and submits the signed form (PDF) to EDIC by email shortly after the exam.

  6. The PhD student downloads the research cover page from the IS-Academia portal, signs it and has it signed by the advisor(s) and submits it to EDIC by email (PDF).

  7. EDIC transmits the paperwork to the SAC.


The exam jury consists of the following members (3 or 4 in total):

  • Advisor
  • Co-advisor (if applicable)

Selected by the student jointly with the advisor:

  • Exam President (should be selected from the list of EDIC Thesis Directors)
  • Co-examiner/expert (should be a professor or a senior scientist (MER) at EPFL

Both the exam president and the co-examiner must be outside the student and the advisor’s lab/unit.

Start scheduling the exam at the beginning of the spring semester. Book the date, time and room (check with your lab assistant if you need help). Schedule the meeting for 2 hours. The exam should take place between May 1 and August 31. The last day it can be scheduled is August 31.

Complete the form in your IS-Academia portal. Print the form; write manually the name of your thesis advisor and co-advisor (if applicable). Provide the signed form to EDIC two months before the exam date and at the latest by June 30.

EDIC approves the jury proposal by email to the exam jury with a copy to the student and the lab assistants.

Directly after providing the jury proposal form, email to EDIC the titles, authors and links of the chosen papers. EDIC will announce the exam and publish the abstract, the background papers and the links on the Memento.

The “research plan/cover page” is available in your IS-Academia portal. It should be finalized 10 days before the exam. Be sure to include your abstract, print the form and take it with you to the candidacy exam for signature.

Use the EDIC template [latex; zip file] to finalize the write-up. Email the write-up to the exam jury 10 days before the exam with EDIC in copy. Failure to do so, risks cancellation of the exam by the jury president.

EDIC sends the exam evaluation form to the jury and student one week before the exam. The jury president should submit the signed form to EDIC within 5 days of the exam.

Bring the signed “research plan/cover page” to the EDIC secretariat. If you have made any modifications to your write-up, please also bring an updated version.

EDIC submits the final write-up, the “research plan/cover page” and the exam evaluation form to the Doctoral Students’ Office who registers the exam result.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Consult with your advisor(s). Pick papers that provide a good foundation for your write-up and talk. Pick one “basic” paper that is a tutorial or survey of the main ideas in the area, and two papers that are closer to the specific work. Pick at least one recent paper.

Additional paper selection guidelines:

– No paper with the examiner/expert as a co-author

– Two papers maximum with authors from EPFL

– One paper maximum with a committee member as an author

– The total length of the 3 papers should not exceed 60 pages

Yes. Your write-up and presentation should point to what area and problems you are likely planning to pursue. Your actual PhD plan may change over time. The exam is on topics where you can demonstrate depth and breadth within the scope of the background papers and write-up.

No. Your advisor(s) helps you with the selection of the committee members and the choice of papers. Your advisor(s) does not correct your slides or write-up before the exam and does not participate in dry runs with you.

You must schedule another exam within 3 months and at the latest 15 months from the program enrollment date. A second failure will result in an immediate exmatriculation from the program and the termination of your employment contract.  

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