For a student who has failed the PhD qualifying exams twice, is there usually any hope for him/her appealing to stay in the school?

Any advice from professors/students with experience in this will be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot.

Edit: Just asking out of interest, I haven't taken the quals yet.

Extra info for those who saw my previous question: I am now on good terms with 2 of the admin staff. One of them regularly chats with me. Learnt my lesson, no intention to make any enemies / offend anyone.

  • Probably not good enough to finish the topic anyway – HelloWorld Oct 23 '15 at 8:07
  • 4
    You may want to add some details. Failing a very difficult qual in a very top tier program is different from failing a relatively easy qual in a middle tier program. I do agree that failing qual twice is very serious. Have you talked to your advisor? – scaaahu Oct 23 '15 at 8:54
  • 5
    I know more than one person who got a PhD in mathematics at a major US state university despite failing qualifying exams twice. One of them became a professor and continues to publish. In his case it was a particular exam that gave him trouble and the difficulty was some strange psychological barrier. He convinced some professors of his passion and his ability to work hard by writing a good master's thesis, and was allowed to continue in the program. While this is probably best considered the exception that proves the rule, it does show that there is hope. – Dan Fox Oct 23 '15 at 9:26
  • 1
    @DanFox Can you please turn your comment into an answer so that I can vote for it? – jakebeal Oct 23 '15 at 11:26

Sure you can, however there are the following points to consider, before jump in to the next Ph.D. position:

  1. Abstraction On Failure and Potential Side Effects: First of all, failure is not a bad thing, it just means the person is not ready yet. However, most people deal with depression after a failure, and for few suicidal thoughts come to mind. So in one hand, it is not a big deal, however it is a big deal in another hand; if the person does suffer from depression. The person needs to be very honest with him or herself about this. In case the person is not sure, he/she needs to talk to a psychologist about it.

  2. Supervisors' Role: I saw students who were smart and determined, and finished their Ph.Ds through though times (a friend of mine, finished her Ph.D, where her supervisor had a cancer and needed to be absent the last 12 months of her Ph.D.). However, some students, throughly need supervision, through out their Ph.D. programs, and their supervisors play a big role in their success. If the Ph.D student in the question, belong to the second group; then he/she needs to find a supervisor who take care of his/her students and provide an excellent service. Starting at the same environment, does bring the chance of failure to 100% ... again.

  3. Student's Role: If a Ph.D. student, does not have a good manner, and wastes his/her time; and/or does not listen to his/her supervisor, having the supervisor and getting another Ph.D. position, does not change a thing; and result in the failure again. This is one of those things, that the student him/herself need to commit to do. The Ph.D. student needs to throughly look at him/herself and see what traits he/she has that effects the outcome of his/her progress.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.