First-hand report: The Aptitude Colloquium

At the end of the first year of your doctorate, you must present your doctoral plan in an aptitude colloquium. VMI, the association of scientific staff at our department, attended some of the first aptitude colloquia1 and we want to share our impressions with you. You can find regulations and other information regarding the doctoral plan and the aptitude colloquium here.

The aptitude colloquium is split into two parts: a presentation of your doctoral plan and a Q&A session. Afterwards, you leave the room (or virtual meeting) and the committee decides whether you passed the colloquium. The aptitude colloquium is not open to the entire department, but your supervisor decides who is allowed to attend. At least your supervisor, your second advisor, and the chair of the aptitude committee will be present. Some supervisors allow a broader audience, which typically means that members of your institute are invited.

Based on our experiences as attendees of aptitude colloquia, the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. Doctoral students start by motivating their field of research and continue with the goals as presented in the doctoral plan. They typically spend 30-50% of the presentation on the first goal for which they can already demonstrate some progress. The committee expects to hear about your achievements so far (e.g., submitted papers or possible contributions towards a paper) and goals for the future. For the latter, there is a focus on how to approach the goals from a methodological perspective. From the committee’s perspective, the purpose of the aptitude colloquium is to assess whether you are on track to succeed in your doctorate. This means whether you can convince the committee that you can conduct independent research and that you have a good understanding of related work in your field.

You can expect to get a couple of critical questions during the Q&A part, e.g., questioning your proposed approach to tackling a particular problem. However, these questions can be anticipated. You will probably have discussed them in meetings with your supervisor before the colloquium. In the first year of your doctorate, you familiarize yourself with your research field, read up on related work, and exchange ideas with your supervisor and colleagues. This is all it takes to master your aptitude colloquium. We wish you the best of luck!

  1. Aptitude colloquia were introduced with the new doctoral ordinance in 2022 and the first colloquium at the department took place in Oct. 2022.