PhD Qualifying Exam (PQE) Guidelines for PhD students

Before attempting the PhD qualifying examination, students must obtain a grade B or above in each of the following UG courses or their equivalent: COMP 3511 Operating Systems, COMP 3711 Design and Analysis of Algorithms, COMP 3721 Theory of Computation. These UG courses cannot be used for PG course requirement.

Scheduling the Qualifying Exam

  1. Students can take their PhD Qualifying Exam at any time after they enter the PhD program, but no later than the end of the first 18 months of their PhD study.
  2. The qualifying exam committee must be set up at least six (6) weeks prior to the date of the exam. It is the responsibility of the student and his/her advisor to find members willing to sit on the examination committee.
  3. The written survey must be distributed to the committee members at least two (2) weeks prior to the actual examination.
  4. If the student fails the qualifying exam the first time he/she must retake it within six months. The Qualifying Exam can be taken at most twice. The Qualifying Exam must be passed within the first 24 months of study.
  5. If a student does not take the qualifying exam within the first 18 months of study he/she will normally be considered in poor academic standing and will be ineligible to be supported as a TA or RA until she/he takes the exam. For students who enter PhD program in September of each year, if they do not schedule their qualifying exam by January 31 of the next academic year, they will be ineligible for funding, as a TA or as a RA, in the following Spring semester.

Qualifying Exam Guidelines

  1. Each PhD student must satisfy the PhD qualifying requirement which consists of a comprehensive, critical written survey and review and a public oral examination.
  2. The written survey should normally be approximately 25 pages long
  3. The oral presentation should normally take approximately 30 minutes
  4. The purpose of the qualifying requirement is to assess the student's understanding of the literature, as well as preparedness to conduct research, in the selected research focus. The written survey and review should identify important research issues in the student's intended research focus. The research focus should be broad enough to contain many potential thesis topics, yet sufficiently narrow that the highly relevant papers number in the tens rather than in the hundreds. The student is required to present and be examined on the survey and review before his/her qualifying examination committee at a public oral examination.
  5. The written survey should take a subfield and survey a small number of results in that subfield. It should NOT be a cut-and-paste list of results. Instead it should attempt to integrate research findings within a unified framework and reflect a clear understanding of the area. Suggested topics to cover are, how did the field develop, early results, new techniques, advantages/disadvantages of some approaches compared to others, etc..
  6. The survey should not be targeted at specialists who already know the field. It should start off with a clear explanation of basic definition and necessary background, so that a non-specialist in the area, e.g., a faculty member with a good basic knowledge of CS but not expert knowledge of the survey area, can follow the report and presentation.

Other Comments

  1. The qualifying exam requirement must be satisfied before a student attempts the thesis proposal defense.