To be formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree, students must pass a qualifying exam (Qual) to demonstrate knowledge of computer science fundamentals and a potential for research.
The Qual consists of 2 steps: a course requirement and an oral exam.
1. Course Requirement
Students must satisfy the course requirements within 2 years of starting the PhD program. A student who fails the course requirement may elect to transfer to the MS program.
- Students must take CS 8050 (Design and Analysis of Algorithm II) and at least two graduate-only CS regular courses, including all 8000-level CS regular courses and CS 7010 (Computational Methods for Bioinformatics).
- Students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.4 from all graduate-only courses, including CS 8050.
- For students who have taken courses equivalent to CS 8050 at other institutions, they are required to take at least three graduate-only CS courses and obtain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.4 from all graduate-only courses.
2. Oral Exam
The oral exam must be passed within 1 year after satisfying the course requirement. A student may take the oral exam twice. A student who fails the oral exam may elect to transfer to the MS program.
Goals of the Exam
- To motivate students to review and synthesize course work and research material
- To determine students’ ability to understand and apply fundamental concepts
- To develop and test students’ ability to communicate orally and to respond to questions and comments
- To evaluate the student’s potential to pursue doctoral research
- To identify areas that need to be strengthened for the student to be successful as a PhD student, independent scholar, researcher and teacher
Before the Exam
- Select an academic advisor.
- Consult with your advisor at least one month before the oral exam to submit a Qual Exam form, which inclues
- A 1-page statement outlining your research areas and foci
- 5 to 10 research papers
- 5 recommended exam committee members (excluding your advisor) to the CS Graduate Office
- The Graduate Committee will select 3 of your 5 recommended members and decide the chair of the committee.
- 2 out of the 3 committee members must be CS regular faculty, including faculty with joint CS appointments. The advisor of the student should not be on the committee.
- The qualifying exam committee selects 2-3 papers from papers from the student’s submitted papers and other related papers.
- The student will give a presentation in the oral exam based on these papers.
- The qualifying exam committee schedules the exam time, which will be announced to the public.
During the Exam
The oral exam lasts up to 2 hours and consists of the following steps:
- 15 minutes (closed session): The oral exam committee meets before the exam to discuss the research statement, potential questions and criteria for pass/fail.
- 45 minutes (open to all faculty and students): The student gives a presentation based on the selected 2-3 papers and also about his/her research directions, including Q&A from the audience.
- Up to 45 minutes (closed session): The student answers additional questions from the committee.
- 15 minutes (closed session): A committee members discuss the exam and make a pass/fail decision by a majority vote. The chair of the exam committee writes a letter to the student explaining the decision and suggesting ways for improvement.
- Copied on the letter the director of graduate studies and the graduate advisor