Ph.D. Exams

Qualifying exams for electrical engineering Ph.D. students

Qualifying exams are designed to discover weakness in the background of new Ph.D. students and should be taken at the beginning of the program.

You must choose two of the following six exams:

  1. Electronics and circuits
  2. Communication
  3. Computer engineering
  4. Power systems and machines
  5. Systems and controls
  6. Electromagnetics

The exams cover junior-level material as well as fundamental topics usually included in senior electives (not to exceed 20 percent of the exam).

Outlines of the exam topics and sample exams are available using the links above. You can get additional information from the members of your examining committee.

Students who do not obtain satisfactory results will be required to do one of the following:

  • Retake the exam (allowed only once)
  • Complete remedial courses and attain a grade of A or B
  • Drop out of the Ph.D. program

The decision on which course of action to take rests with the examining committee.

Exam sign up

Sign up to take your qualifying exams online.

Comprehensive exams

These examinations are designed to assess the suitability of a Ph.D. student for research in a specific area and will therefore focus on advanced topics covered in graduate-level courses or research papers. Satisfactory completion of these examinations is required for Ph.D. candidacy. The exams should be taken before you start your Ph.D. research and after the satisfactory completion of the qualifying exams. Typically, students take these exams after the completion of all or most of the courses included in their Ph.D. program.

You must submit a preliminary research proposal to your research committee prior to taking the comprehensive exams. The exam should cover three areas related to your Ph.D. research as outlined in your research proposal. The format of the research proposal will be decided by the research committee and will be used to determine the three areas on which you will be examined. For example, a student proposing research in electromagnetics may be required to take examinations on electronics, electromagnetics and digital signal processing. A student proposing research in artificial intelligence may take examinations on artificial intelligence, neural networks and computer architecture.

After you pass the written exams, you must orally present your proposal to the research committee. The presentation is the oral part of the comprehensive exam.

You can retake the comprehensive exam once if your performance is deemed unsatisfactory by the examining committee. Students who fail to satisfy the examining committee after the second comprehensive exam must drop out of the Ph.D. program.