The EECS Preliminary Requirement (Prelim) consists of 2 components: 1) the oral examination and 2) breadth courses. The purpose of the prelim requirements is to ensure that students have competence in several fields of EECS, not just one specialization. Previously, the department preliminary exam covered multiple areas to require breadth. In the current version of the preliminary examination requirement, the breadth course requirement is used in combination with a narrower exam to ensure adequate subject matter depth and breadth. In the past, the department offered one broad oral exam. You will have fulfilled the Prelim Requirement only after you pass the exam and meet the course breadth requirements. All Ph.D. students are expected to complete the preliminary breadth requirements by the end of their fourth semester. The Qualifying Examination may not be taken until the “pass” for the Preliminary Requirement is issued.

As a reminder, the prelim oral exam is for students enrolled in the Ph.D. program; students enrolled in the M.S.-only program are not permitted to sign up for the exam. For both the EE and CS oral exams, you must be registered for the semester the exam is taken, and you must have a minimum cumulative 3.5 GPA in courses taken at Berkeley while in graduate standing. Graded units of 299 and 298 are not included in this computation.  If the GPA on record in the EECS Graduate Office is below 3.5, you will need to submit a petition, including an explanation, supported by a memo from a faculty member, about your research progress or any extenuating circumstances. These petitions are judged on a case-by-case basis by the Vice Chair for Graduate Matters.

The prelim oral exam serves an advisory role in a student’s graduate studies program with official feedback from the exam committee of faculty members. Students need to be able to demonstrate an integrated grasp of the exam area’s body of knowledge in an unstructured format. Students generally have to pass the oral portion of the preliminary exam within their first two attempts. Under special circumstances, a third attempt is possible with a petition of support from the student’s faculty advisor and final approval by the Prelim Committee Chair. Failure to pass the oral portion of the preliminary exam will result in the student being ineligible to continue in the Ph.D. program. 

The breadth courses also ensure that students have an exposure to areas outside of their concentration. It is expected that students achieve high academic standards in these courses.
NOTE: Although CS PhD students are expected to take at least one course from each grouped areas (Group 1 : THY, AI, GR; Group 2:Programming, Systems, and Architecture), students can petition to have an EE class satisfy one of their CS breadth requirements.