PhD Qualifying Exam


The goal of the Qualifying Exam (QE) is to provide a robust framework for both the student and advisor in mentoring and assessing students toward PhD candidacy and to assess the readiness of the student for research at the graduate level. It is important to remember that the QE is not an assessment of the student’s research topic; it is an assessment of the student’s readiness to conduct research at the graduate level.

It is expected that students will take the QE within one year of defending their MSEE or entering the PhD program. Students will be allowed two attempts for the QE. If the student fails to demonstrate sufficient research readiness after two attempts, it will be recommended that the student limit their graduate studies to the MSEE. Exceptions will be considered by written request to the graduate studies committee (GSC) who will render a decision in consultation with the departmental QE committee (QEC)


The student will be assessed on critical thinking, inquiry & analysis, integrative learning, and written and oral communication. This assessment will be facilitated by the student’s performance in conducting, synthesizing, and presenting a report on the assigned technical topic/area. There are two components to the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam:

1) The student will complete the graduate core with all grades at a grade of B or better. See the graduate core page for details.

2) The student will complete the QE. Full details and expectations can be found in the QE Procedures Document and associated grading rubric.

It is expected that the core coursework (component 1) will be completed in the same semester or before taking the QE (component 2), but under exceptional circumstances the QE can be taken before the graduate core is complete with permission from the Qualifying Exam Committee Chair and Graduate Student Committee. 


The Ph.D. Qualifying Exam will be offered each semester. Registration must be completed by the first Friday of September/February for the Fall/Spring exam. Please see the registration form.

Important Dates
  • Registration: By the first Friday of September/February (Fall/Spring)
  • Written Report: By the first Friday of October/March (Fall/Spring)
  • Qualifying Exam: On the second Friday of October/March (Fall/Spring)

Important Documents

Graduate Core Courses