The Qualifying Examination is an important checkpoint meant to show that you are on a promising research track toward the Ph.D. degree. It is a University examination, administered by the Graduate Council, with the specific purpose of demonstrating that “the student is clearly an expert in those areas of the discipline that have been specified for the examination, and that they can, in all likelihood, design and produce an acceptable dissertation.” Despite such rigid criteria, faculty examiners recognize that the level of expertise expected is that appropriate for a 3rd year graduate student who may be only in the early stages of a research project.

See campus policies about the Qualifying Exam.

Professor Ana Arias and Professor John Wawrzynek have made available useful information for students planning to take the Qualifying Exam. See slides (Calnet authentication is required).


  • For students entering Fall 2003 or later, the Qualifying Examination must be taken within 6 semesters of starting the program
  • In forming your committee, please remember:
    • you need a total of at least four members on your committee
    • at least three of the members must be regular UC Berkeley faculty that are member of the Academic Senate
    • your advisor(s) cannot be the Chair
    • One member must be from outside the EECS Department (As of spring 2020, the outside member can be a UCB faculty member with no more than 0% appointment in EECS, or a faculty member or distinguished researcher from another institution.  To request an off-campus person to be the outside member, students must request an exception by submitting a general petition, including the person’s CV, to their staff advisor for review with the Head Graduate Advisor. )
  • Submit the paperwork to the Staff Graduate Advisors at least one month prior to your scheduled exam:
    • Apply online through Calcentral under your “Dashboard”. On the right hand side for “Student Resources”, students will see an option to Submit a Form for Higher Degree committees. Choose the option for the Qualifying exam application.
  • You must be registered the semester the exam is given. Summer quals are OK if you are registered the previous Spring or the following Fall semester.
  • The prelim requirements (which include passing the oral exam and completing the prelim breadth course requirements) must be completed before a student is eligible to take the Qualifying exam. However, it is not required that all the coursework (e.g., the courses listed in the major and minors) be completed before taking the Qualifying exam.
  • Students take quals, format A or B, within 6 semesters of starting the EECS graduate program.Format A: Research area survey, directions, evidence of research ability.
    Format B: Research area survey, directions, thesis proposal defense.
  • Students passing only Format A for quals must also do a satisfactory thesis proposal defense within 10 semesters after matriculation.
  • In the unfortunate case that a student does fail the qualifying exam twice, per the Graduate Division’s policy, a third attempt is not permissible. The student will not be eligible to continue in the doctoral program and may be dismissed.