Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Examination is typically offered once a year at the beginning of June. Ph.D. students must complete it within two years of admission to the Ph.D. program, and it can be taken at most twice. A minimum GPA of 3.25 for all ELEG/CPEG graduate courses, excluding special problems and independent study courses, is required to take the Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Examination consists of written and oral components, with both being considered in reaching the final pass/fail decision.

  • Written Component. The written component assesses comprehensive knowledge of the material covered in Foundation courses, which are offered in each of the major research areas within the Department. The Exam is closed book (paper is provided and calculators are not allowed) and typically lasts for five hours. It includes two questions based on each Foundation course.  Each student must answer three questions in his/her area of concentration and three questions outside his/her area of concentration, for a total of six questions answered.
  • Oral Component. The oral component is individually scheduled for each student in the next five business days following the written examination. The specific time slot for each student is announced the day of the written examination. The oral component consists of a closed question and answer session with a committee of three faculty members. Questions may cover foundation course material and current research topics in the student’s area of concentration.

Every year, the Graduate Coordinator will announce in April the specific exam dates for that year.  Students planning to take the Qualifying Examination must communicate to the Graduate coordinator their intention to register by  April 30.

Students registering for the qualifying exam must submit a Research and Course Plan (RSP) prior to taking the Qualifying Examination. The RSP details: (1) all courses taken by the student, (2) all future courses planned to be taken in fulfillment of the degree requirements, (3) an abstract of the research to be undertaken in fulfillment of the degree requirements, and (4) a list of the individuals that have agreed to serve on the student’s dissertation committee. The form asks for courses (current and future) that will count towards the Ph.D. degree as well as a research project title/abstract and members of the dissertation committee.  We realize that many students take the qualifying examination in their first year of study and that project directions may be preliminary. If project directions or committee members change in the future, simple adjustments can be made to the plan.