The EE prelim exam should be taken in the area most related to your intended field of research. If there is any question about the appropriateness of the choice, you should consult with your Faculty Advisor. If the EE Graduate Office sees an apparent discrepancy between your choice of exam and your research area, you and your advisor will be asked for justification. Under certain circumstances, your advisor may require that the exam be retaken in a more appropriate area.

You may select an exam in any one of the following areas

This list may continue to be revised; an updated list can be obtained from the EE Graduate Office in 217 Cory.

Structure and Syllabus

The scope of the exam, intended to be the equivalent of about one graduate course plus supporting undergraduate material, is defined by an examination syllabus which is available from the EE Graduate Office or on the EECS Prelim Preparation website. Three faculty members meet with you for one hour, and each poses one or more questions in the field of the exam, based on the syllabus. The graduate students’ association often schedules review sessions. It is also useful to talk to students who have previously taken the exam.

Scheduling and Sign-up

The exam is offered prior to the beginning of instruction each semester. All students are expected to take the exam no later than their third semester. If a repeat exam is necessary, it must be done at the next prelim offering. If you think you are exceptionally well prepared, you may petition to take the exam a semester early with the approval of your advisor. If you wish to delay taking the exam, you must submit a petition prior to the application deadline for the scheduled offering of the exam. The petition must explain the circumstances behind your desire to delay and be supported by your advisor. Students apply for prelims late in the semester preceding the exam; the EE Graduate Office will announce the sign-up dates by e-mail. Applications are submitted on-line via MY EECS INFO. Students who do not meet the 3.5 minimum GPA requirement will be notified, and they may file a petition to be permitted to take prelims.

The intended set of examiners, date, and time for each student’s prelim will be announced by the end of the semester before your exam; however, a change in the composition of the examination committee may occur, which is not an excuse to cancel a scheduled exam. Withdrawing from the exam once you have signed up requires you to submit a petition, at least 2 weeks before the exam, approved by your advisor and the prelim committee chair, explaining the extenuating circumstances (e.g. medical or family emergencies). Please be aware that research obligations, dissolution of study groups, employment off campus, etc., are not legitimate reasons for withdrawing. If you sign up and then drop out of the exam within 2 weeks of the exam date, you will be considered to have failed that exam. If you sign up for a time slot and do not show for the exam, you will also automatically fail and be required to retake the exam the following semester.


The 3 examiners make a collective recommendation on whether you have passed or failed the oral portion of the prelim requirement. The examining committee awards a score in the range of 0-10. The minimum passing score is 6.0. A review committee consisting of the chairs of each of the exam groups then evaluates examinees who score below 6.0. The committee considers the student’s entire record, including exam scores and any letters of support, particularly from the student’s research advisor. The EECS Graduate Office staff will only solicit support letters for 2nd-attempt students who receive failing scores. You will receive a letter confirming the results of your exam and stating any remaining requirements (e.g. breadth courses not completed).

EE Prelim Breadth Courses

You must complete, with a grade of A- or better, a graduate or advanced undergraduate course of at least 3 units in 2 different areas in the EECS Department, outside the area of your oral exam. These same rules apply for an EE student who takes a CS prelim oral exam. (For example, an EE student who takes a CS oral preliminary exam in Architecture must choose 2 breadth courses from areas other than Architecture, and these areas must differ from each other.) Also, at least one of the 2 breadth courses must be satisfied while in graduate standing at Berkeley. Depending upon your Preliminary Exam area, you MAY NOT use some classes in fulfillment of the requirement.

You must petition to use any EE290 or CS294 courses in fulfillment of the EE prelim breadth requirement. This list may change when Departmental course offerings are updated. See the EE Grad Office for any updates. For courses taken at other schools, you may complete a petition form available in the EE Grad Office and have it approved by the instructor of the equivalent course here at UC Berkeley. You must provide the instructor with as much information as possible, so that they can make an informed evaluation. This form and accompanying information will then be sent to the Chair of the Prelim Committee for final approval.Students must inform the EE Grad Office when they believe they have completed both classes in fulfillment of the prelim breadth requirement. A “pass” can then be issued–this is a necessary step for the student to progress toward the Qualifying Examination.