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As part of the degree requirements for a Ph.D. in computer science or computer engineering, students must pass the preliminary examination given by the advisory committee as described in the graduate catalog. The preliminary exam consists of written and oral portions. Each committee member is scheduled to administer a written exam during the approximately three weeks prior to the common oral examination. The format of the oral exam is flexible and is determined by the student's advisory committee. In the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, it is common for students to present their dissertation proposal at the oral prelim. In this case, the student will typically provide the advisory committee members with a draft of the proposal several weeks before the prelim. Students should discuss the format of their oral exam with their advisor well before scheduling the prelim.

Listed below are the procedures to be followed for preliminary exams in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Much of this information is taken from the Steps to Fulfill Preliminary Exam on the Graduate and Professional School website and the department's graduate brochure.


The preliminary exam is typically held at about the time that the degree plan coursework requirements are completed. In order to hold a prelim exam, students must meet the checklist requirements.


To be eligible to schedule the preliminary examination, the student must meet the following requirements:

  • By university regulations, at the end of the semester in which the exam is given, there can be at most six hours of course work (excluding 691 hours) remaining on the degree plan.
  • The cumulative and degree plan grade point rations must both be at least 3.00 (excluding transfer courses).
  • All English proficiency requirements must be satisfied prior to scheduling the preliminary examination.
  • Students must be registered in the university in the semester or summer term in which the preliminary examination is taken.


Listed below are the steps that should be followed in scheduling and administering preliminary examinations for Ph.D. degrees in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

  1. The student and the chair(s) of the advisory committee should complete the Preliminary Exam Checklist. This is to verify the student's eligibility to take the preliminary exam (which is important otherwise the exam may need to be repeated). If different courses were taken than are listed on the degree plan, then the appropriate Graduate and Professional School petitions can be filed to make the necessary changes.

    Deadline: Several weeks before the exam.
  2. The student should consult with their advisory committee and select a mutually agreeable date and time for the oral portion of the preliminary exam, and all committee members should schedule or waive the written portion. The time span from the first written to the oral exam should be about three weeks. All advisory committee members should attend the oral. If one of the members cannot attend the oral examination, he or she must find an appropriate substitute. Only one substitute is allowed and there can be no substitute for the chair. Normally, two hours should be reserved for the oral preliminary exam. The student is responsible for ensuring that a room is reserved for the oral prelim; the advising office can help with this if needed.

    Deadline: Several weeks before the exam.
  3. After the student's eligibility to take the preliminary exam has been verified and all members of the advisory committee have agreed to the exam schedule (typically several weeks before the exam), then the student should complete (as much as possible) the following Graduate and Professional School forms and bring them to the advising office:
    • Preliminary Exam Checklist. This form should be fully completed and signed. The advising office will retain it and submit it to the Graduate and Professional School along with the result of the exam.
    • Report of the Preliminary Exam. This form should be completed with the names of the student, the committee (and substitute if applicable), and the date of the prelim. The advising office will retain it until the date of the prelim and will provide it to the student's chair together with the student's file on the date of the exam. The advisory committee will complete this form at the conclusion of the exam.

    Deadline: Three weeks before the exam.
  4. The student's advisor should return both the Preliminary Exam Checklist and Report of the Preliminary Exam to the advising office immediately after the exam. The advising office will submit both the Preliminary Exam Checklist and the Report of the Preliminary Exam to the Graduate and Professional School. If they are not submitted to the Graduate and Professional School within 10 working days of the scheduled oral examination, then a failing grade may be recorded.

    Deadline: Immediately after the exam (at the latest, within 10 working days of the exam).