I did not pass my PhD candidacy twice and planning to apply at other institutes to pursue my PhD dream. In that case, should I mention my failure in candidacy to my SOP? If yes, how can I convert that to something positive to make my application impactful. Please suggest. Thank you

  • Why did you fail your PhD candidacy?
    – Allure
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 6:59
  • 3
    You can choose not to mention it. Commented May 10, 2020 at 8:37
  • or, you can describe what have you learned from that negative experience?
    – Our
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 12:08
  • @AnonymousPhysicist probably not a good idea. The truth is bound to come out eventually. Commented May 10, 2020 at 12:47
  • 2
    The above commenters are wrong. There is no obligation to mention how you did on candidacy exams in your SOP. It may or may not come out eventually, but this is irrelevant. Your candidacy exams just have limited relevance to your SOP, which is about why you should be admitted. Commented May 11, 2020 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


Did you graduate with a master's degree? If yes, then one option is to avoid discussing this altogether. You can approach this (honestly) as "I earned my master's degree and now I want to get my PhD." They may guess what happened (or your letters of recommendation may spill the beans), but it still lets you avoid dwelling on a negative in your SOP.

Your other option (and only option, if you left without a degree) is to provide your own perspective on what happened. "Turning a negative into a positive" is probably too much to hope for, but you can take some of the sting out of the negative. I would suggest to: acknowledge the failure, explain what went wrong, and explain why things will be different next time. You can do this very concisely -- just a few sentences.

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