Ph.D. Qualifying Exams

The Departmental Qualifying Exam is based on material covered in a set of nine fundamental undergraduate courses in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Any student that has graduated from either of the undergraduate programs in our department should have taken at least 8 of these courses. Students who have degrees from peer programs should have taken courses similar to many of these.

Exam Format: The exam consists of two questions from each of the areas listed above. Each question is designed to be completed in 20-25 minutes. Each student is required to answer any 6 of the 18 questions on the exam. This insures that each student has at least some proficiency outside of their main focus area, but does not require students to study extensively outside of their area of expertise. The exam is closed book, in-class, and time limited to 3 hours. Students must use department-issued calculators for the exam; personal calculators are not permitted. Students can check-out an ECEN calculator one week prior to the exam to become accustomed to it if needed.

Exam Syllabus – Included at the end of this document is an exam syllabus explicitly outlining the material that might be tested for each of the courses listed above. Hence the students will have an explicit list of topics to prepare for rather than a general “material from course xxx” type statement.

Timing: The exam is offered twice a year, once in mid-January shortly before the start of the spring semester, and once in mid-June. In both cases, the exam date is about one month after the end of finals. This encourages students not to spend more than one month preparing for the exam. One to two months before the test dates, the Graduate Office will send an email with a link for students to sign up for the exam.

Incoming Ph.D. students are required to take the exam within one year of starting the program. Students entering the program with a previous degree outside of Electrical or Computer Engineering will be allowed, with the approval of their advisor, an extra year and will be required to take the exam by the end of the second year. Those students that fail the examination will be given a second opportunity to retake the exam which must be taken at the next opportunity in which the exam is offered. Those that fail the examination twice will be removed from the Ph.D. program. Current MS or MENG students are not allowed to take the qualifying exam.

Grading: The faculty who composed each problem will grade their perspective problems in the written exams. Once grading is complete, the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) will meet to determine passing thresholds for the examination. The GSC may elect to normalize grades from each problem in order to maintain fairness across the various problems. Results of the exam will be available within four weeks of the date of the exam. Appeals regarding the results of the exam by either students or faculty must be submitted in writing to the Graduate Office and will be handled by the GSC.

Note: Ph.D. students who pass the Qualifier are required to submit degree plans within one semester after passing the exam.