Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Procedures

Objectives of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

The objective of the Qualifying Exam (QE) in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSEN) is to test the candidate’s intellectual maturity and fundamental knowledge and understanding of materials science and engineering.

The QE will serve as an indicator of the candidate’s ability to continue the Ph.D. dissertation work and carry out research independently in a chosen field of study. An important component of the examination is evaluating the capability for critical and creative thinking, the ability to summarize and critically assess a large body of the literature and the ability to propose cutting-edge research to fill gaps in knowledge related to the selected topic.

Doctoral students who are in the two-semester Qualifying Exam process are called Qualifying Exam Candidates.


General requirements for Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

All MSEN students pursuing the Ph.D. degree, with or without a prior master’s degree, are required to pass the QE to be eligible to continue their Ph.D. work. Students should take QE for the first time by the end of their third 15-week semester (spring or fall semesters) in the MSEN Ph.D. program. The qualifying exam is offered during fall and spring semesters only. 

Three or more of the following courses must be completed: MSEN 601, MSEN 603, MSEN 640, MSEN 620, and/or MSEN 602.

Students who are on probation by the MSEN QE request submission deadline (established through the MSEN Graduate Program) are not eligible to take the QE.


Format of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

The MSEN qualifying exam consists of:

(1) Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Paper - a written focused literature review with critical analysis of a specific topic, not directly connected to the candidate's Ph.D. thesis topic (for more details see Section 9.1 in handout);

(2) Oral Ph.D. Qualifying Exam consisting of a presentation and defense of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Report (for more details see Section 9.2 in handout). Students must demonstrate basic knowledge of fundamental materials science and engineering concepts related to the written report.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Report and Oral Ph.D. Qualifying Exam are evaluated by the Ph.D. Examination Committee appointed by the chair of the MSEN Ph.D. Examination Committee for each candidate. (See Section 6 of handout for more details).


Timelines of Ph.D. Qualifying Exams

2017-2018 Important dates

ActionTimelineFall SemesterSpring Semester
Submitting request for QE to the MSEN Graduate Program Office Minimum 12 weeks before 1st day of classes Before June 5, 2017 Send three QE topics to QE candidates
QE Orientation Minimum 12 weeks before 1st day of classes Before June 9, 2017 Before October 23, 2017
Appointing examination committee for each candidate 10 weeks before 1st day of classes June 19, 2017 November 6, 2017
Sending three QE topics to QE candidates 8 weeks before 1st day of classes July 3, 2017 November 20, 2017
Candidate's confirmation of the selected topic 7 weeks before 1st day of classes July 10, 2017 November 27, 2017
Deadline for submitting Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Report Wednesday before 1st day of classes August 23, 2017 January 10, 2018
Oral Ph.D. Qualifying Exams 1st week of classes August 31 - September 3, 2017 January 18-21, 2018
Deadline for submitting final version of Qualifying Exam report to MSEN Graduate Program Office By 7th week of classes October 17, 2017 February 26, 2018


Request for Qualifying Exam

To register for QE, students provide the MSEN Graduate Advisor with an electronic version of a completed application form by the designated date listed in the timeline above for that semester. The application form includes the following:

  • name of your chair (faculty advisor)
  • current thesis topic
  • abstract of dissertation research
  • abstract of the master’s degree thesis, if applicable
  • degrees received

In addition to the application, please provide:

  • Unofficial Texas A&M University transcript
  • CV
  • Degree Planif filed and approved, include degree plan.