Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Doctoral Qualifying Exam


The intent of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (CE) is to assess the student’s potential for successfully completing doctoral level studies and research in the department.

Comprehensive Examination Format

  • The student with the approval of his/her advisory committee will pick from the 6 departmental Ph.D. Technical Areas listed below: one Specialization Area (SA) and two Technical Support areas (TSA). One of the two supporting areas must be Mathematics.
  • The student with the approval of his/her advisory committee identifies 3 courses in the Specialization Area and 2 courses in each of the Supporting Areas. The courses will all be at the graduate level (5000 or higher level), with at least 3 courses at the 6000/8000 level. These courses are enumerated solely for the purpose of defining the scope and coverage of the exam. The test will be open book.
  • The examination will be in two written parts, on two consecutive days, one for the Specialization Area (day 1) and the other for the Technical Supporting Areas (day 2). Each part of the examination will be of 4-hour duration.
  • The student’s advisory committee will prepare the examination with the approval of the Graduate Committee.
  • The Graduate Committee will coordinate the exam.

The following is a list of the departmental Ph. D. Technical Areas:

  • Communication Systems and Signal Processing
  • Electronic Devices and Circuits
  • Systems and Control
  • Software
  • Computer Systems and Architecture
  • Mathematics


Students wishing to take the CE must notify the Graduate Director in writing during the first two weeks of the term they plan to take the examination. A student in the Ph.D. program can take the exam up to two times and must pass it within the first two years after entering the Ph. D. Program. Direct admittees (those admitted directly to Ph. D. program with B. S. degrees) must complete the comprehensive exam within the first three years into the graduate program. Exceptions to this time schedule must be approved by the Graduate Committee.


The student’s advisory committee will review the results of the CE and based on the student’s performance makes one of the following recommendations to the Graduate Committee:

  • Student passes the CE unconditionally and proceeds onto the dissertation.
  • Student fails the exam and is found lacking the potential for doctoral study. The student will not be allowed to continue the Ph. D. program.
  • Student passes the examination with some deficiencies. The student is directed to complete an additional work prescribed by the advisory committee.
  • Student fails the examination but is still believed to have the potential for doctoral work. The student is directed to retake the entire exam for a second time. This is only an option on the first attempt at the comprehensive examination.

Based on the recommendation of the student’s advisory committee and the result of the examination, the Graduate Committee will make the final decision and the Graduate Director will inform the student about the status of his/her examination.


A student may request a review of the graded Ph. D. Comprehensive Examination in writing to the Graduate Director. The student should specify the reasons for the appeal. The student’s advisory committee will then review the grading and provide a recommendation to the Graduate Committee for a final decision.

Last Updated: 6/30/19