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ECE PhD Qualifying Exam

Both MS to PhD and BS to PhD students are required to take the Qualifying Exam (QE) in the 1st semester of their 2nd year. Students who begin the PhD program in autumn semester are required to schedule the QE during the following autumn semester, students who begin the PhD program in spring semester schedule the exam during the following spring semester and students who begin the PhD program in summer term schedule the QE during the autumn semester of the following year.

QE Exam Timing

The QE must be scheduled during a one month window in autumn and spring semesters. The autumn semester scheduling month is October and the spring semester scheduling month is March. The March timeframe is extended to April 15 due to spring break.

QE Course Requirements

Effective for students starting in autumn 2019: Students starting the ECE PhD program in autumn 2019 and after must complete two graduate letter-graded ECE courses in their primary research area and one graduate letter-graded ECE course in their secondary research area by the term the QE is scheduled. One of the three required courses may be taken during the semester when the QE is administered. 5000-level courses will meet the ECE QE course requirement.

Failure to do so will be considered a failed attempt.

QE Committee

The QE Committee consists of three P-status ECE faculty. One member is the faculty advisor. An additional member is selected by the student and the advisor. The 3rd member will be assigned by the ECE Graduate Studies committee (GSC) and will be outside the student's primary research area. To allow sufficient time for the GSC to add the 3rd member, the ECE Request for Approval of PhD Qualifying Examination Committee form must be submitted to the graduate program coordinator at least one month prior to the anticipated QE date.

QE Policies and Procedures:

  • The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to test the fundamental knowledge acquired by the student over prior coursework and assess the ability to apply this fundamental knowledge to approach research questions/problems.
  • Two QE attempts are allowed. The 2nd attempt must be scheduled during the one month window in the semester following the semester of the failed attempt. The QE committee remains the same for the second attempt. If the advisor changes between the first and second attempts, the two other committee members remain the same. If a student fails after two attempts, the student is no longer in the PhD program and can earn a master's degree after completing master's requirements. If the student does not take the QE during the semester he/she is required to take it, this will be considered a failed attempt.
  • Format: The exam will be 90 minutes long. The student will be asked to give a short presentation (10 minutes) on a research problem chosen by the advisor and the student. The presentation will be "uninterrupted" to assess its clarity, coherence and depth without external input. The presentation will be followed by 20 minutes of questioning by each member, followed by a second round of final questions. These questions will be on fundamentals testing the student's ability to integrate the material learned in the courses they took and the ability to apply their knowledge to solve research problems. These questions may not be associated with the presentation.
  • Each QE committee member will submit a grade of 0 (fail), 1 (marginal) or 2 (pass) to the Graduate Studies committee. A score of 4/6 is required to pass. When all results have been submitted, the Graduate Studies committee notifies the student and the QE committee about the outcome of the exam.