EE and CS Prelim Exam Preparation

The oral Preliminary exam is a requirement of every Ph.D. student's program that provides official feedback from an exam committee composed of faculty members. Students must be able to demonstrate an integrated grasp of the exam area's body of knowledge in an unstructured framework. Students must pass the oral portion of the preliminary exam within their first two attempts. 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 complete the Ph.D. program.


Fall 2018 Preliminary Exam Applications are due on March 9, 2018.

PLEASE NOTE: You must submit the application (online ONLY) through MY EECS INFO.  If you do not meet one of the requirements for eligibility to take the preliminary oral exam (see below), then you must submit a PDF icongeneral petition to Heather Levien ( in 253 Cory.


The EECS Preliminary Requirement consists of two components: the oral examination and breadth courses. You will have fulfilled the Prelim Requirement only after you pass the oral exam and meet the breadth course requirement.

  • Only students admitted to the Ph.D. program are permitted to take for the oral prelim exam.
  • All students are expected to take the oral exam by their third semester.
  • You must be registered the semester the oral prelim exam is taken.
  • You must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 in courses taken at Berkeley while in graduate standing to take the prelim (Graded units of 299 and 298 are not included in this computation).
  • You need a score of at least 6.0 out of a possible 10.0 to pass.
  • The prelim oral exams are usually scheduled:
    • EE: during the week preceding the start of instruction each semester.
    • CS: over a 3  week period beginning the week in which classes start. Further details will be emailed to those who sign up.
  • PDF iconpetition for an exception must be submitted in hard copy to Heather Levien, the Prelims Coordinator, in 253 Cory at the time you apply for prelims if you:
    • want to delay the prelim oral exam for ANY reason
    • want to take the prelim oral exam early
    • want to take the prelim oral exam in spite of your having a GPA below 3.5
    • want to take a CS prelim if you're an EE student or an EE prelim if you're a CS student
    • have deviated or will deviate from the usual procedure or policy in any way.
  • The GSAs have developed a page of advice about how to approach prelims if this is not your first time taking them.
  • Once you have completed your oral exam you must complete a Tentative Program of Study Card (Blue Card).
  • Students who are not able to pass the preliminary oral exam will be ineligible to continue in the Ph.D. program.

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