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The purpose of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) qualifying examination is to ensure that our doctoral candidates in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering can demonstrate proficiency in the primary areas of petroleum engineering (drilling, production, and reservoir) and that these candidates have the potential to perform innovative and high-quality research, consistent with the standards of Texas A&M University.

All doctoral students admitted to our department are required to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination at the end of their first semester. 

Format and Timing

The qualifying examination consists of three written exams, each covering a specific area: reservoir engineering, production engineering, and drilling engineering.

It is offered twice in an academic year: May and January.

  • Students admitted in a fall semester take the exam in January.
  • Students admitted in a spring semester take the exam in May.

Written Examination

The written exams consist of three subjects: reservoir engineering, production engineering, and drilling engineering.

The suggested books to study to prepare for the qualifying examination are:

  • Fundamentals of Reservoir Engineering by L.P. Dake, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co. Developments in Petroleum Science 8;
  • Petroleum Production Systems. by M. J. Economides, A. D. Hill, C. Ehlig-Economides, and D. Zhu, 2nd Edition, Prentice Hall publication;
  • Fundamentals of Drilling Engineering, edited by Robert F. Mitchell and Stefan Z. Miska, SPE Textbook Series No. 12

Students are encouraged to take the courses PETE 661 for drilling, PETE 662 for production and PETE 665 for reservoir. However, taking these courses and completing them successfully are not required for the written exams.

The written exams are closed book (i.e., no materials are permitted in the examination).

The qualifying exam is scheduled on two consecutive days for the three subjects, and each subject exam is two hours.

The committee determines if the students pass or fail based on the score.  

Administration of the Examination

All new Ph.D. students will be contacted to come and pick up a qualifying exam ticket.  

  • Students will be given a registration number for the exam.
  • Students will use the registration number for the qualifying exam.
  • Students should never write their name on any exam-related papers.

The exam is administered on two consecutive days (Monday/Tuesday). The first day is comprised of two 2-hour exams and the second day of one 2-hour exam.

The next examination schedule:

  • Monday, May 16: 9:00-11:00am – Production
  • Monday, May 16: 2:00-4:00pm – Drilling
  • Tuesday, May 17: 9:00am-11:00am – Reservoir


The results of the qualifying examination are reported back from the examination committee to the graduate advisor and announced in the beginning of the following semester.

A student’s continuation in the program will be based on the following rules:


Students receiving a pass may continue in the doctoral program.  If the student is serving as a GAR or GAT they may have their stipend increased to the PhD level with approval of their supervisor.

Conditional Pass

Students receiving a conditional pass must take a course in the subject area in the following spring or fall semester. 
NOTE: the course used for the qualifying exam pass may not be used for graduate degree plan credit. 

  • Students receiving a grade of A or B for the course will be issued a pass for that subject area of the qualifying exam. 
  • Students receiving a grade of C or below will fail that subject area of the qualifying exam and be removed from the doctoral program.


Students failing the qualifying examination will be allowed a second attempt.

  • Students will retake only the exam on the subject area(s) they failed.
  • Students who fail the second attempt will be dismissed from the doctoral program. 
  • Students who fail any subject area twice will have failed the qualifying exam and will be dismissed from the doctoral program.
  • Students must pass ALL sections of the qualifying exam to continue in the doctoral program. 

Not showing up for an exam is treated as a failure.