Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

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 he or she 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.


  • 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 four Academic Senate Faculty members
    • your advisor cannot be the Chair
    • 1 member must be from outside the EECS Department
  • 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.
  • 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.