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To be officially admitted to the PhD program, the student must pass a qualifying examination/process. The student is given 2 opportunities to pass the Qualifying Examination with a score of 70% or above.

Qualifying Exam Rules

  1. To be eligible to take the Qualifying Examination, graduate students must be accepted for advisement in the Ph.D. program. The examination must be passed before the end of his or her second year of advisement as a Ph.D. student.  Each student may take the exam twice.  Students who have been accepted into the PhD program with a BS degree can take the exam after completing the 24 hours of coursework that satisfy the MS course requirements (within the first 2 years after acceptance).
  2. All eligible students who intend to take the exam must complete the REQUEST FOR QUALIFYING EXAMINATION form and submit it to the ECE Graduate Office within 4 weeks after the start of the semester. At this time the student will be asked to select 2 of the 7 topic areas over which he or she wishes to be examined. Only students on the approved lists will be allowed to take the exam. When a student submits the REQUEST FOR QUALIFYING EXAMINATION form, the Graduate Office will provide:
    • a. The date, time and place of the examination;
    • b. A reminder to bring their ID card to the exam.
    • c. A copy of the Qualifying Examination Rules.
    • d. A copy of the Guidelines For Qualifying Exam Committee.
  3. The examination shall be prepared and administered during the 12th week of both the fall and winter semesters by the Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee. The ECE Graduate Committee currently serves as the QE Committee since it contains a representative from each of the 6 focus areas in the department.  The Graduate Director will select the specific date, time and place of the exam at the beginning of each semester.
  4. It shall be a written examination taken by all students desiring to qualify during the given semester.
  5. The exam will contain 5 questions from each of the 2 areas selected by the student.  Each student must select and answer 5 questions from this set, with no more than 3 questions from one area.  The exam will be closed book, with 2 standard pages of notes, front and back, allowed.  A book of mathematical tables will be provided by the department.  The exam will last 4 hours.
  6. The QE committee shall administer the examination and identify passing candidates. The ECE faculty as a whole have the responsibility to approve that action.

Qualifying Examination Guidelines

These guidelines have been prepared to help maintain consistency in the form and difficulty of the Department’s qualifying examination.

  1. 1. The QE Committee shall consist of one faculty representative from each of the following topic areas, except Foundations:
    • a. Communications and Signal Processing Area;
    • b.Intelligent Systems Area;
    • c.Physical Electronics Area;
    • d. System Modeling and Control;
    • e. Micro/Nano Electronics;
    • f.Digital/Computer Systems; and
    • g.Foundations
    • The ECE graduate Committee serves as the QE Committee since it contains a representative from each research area.  The ECE department chair appoints the Graduate Committee with input from the Graduate Director.
  2. The faculty from each topic area will be responsible for maintaining a list of topics which constitute the core material an MS graduate should be expected to have mastered.  The members of each group will be responsible for preparing questions for the exam covering topics from the list.  For the major core focus area, questions will come from 4000/7000 – 8000 level courses.  Questions for the topics in the Foundation area will be from 3000 level courses.
  3. The QE Committee will solicit questions from the faculty group, but the Committee will have the responsibility of combining these questions into a fair, comprehensive exam.  The QE Committee member for each group will be responsible for coordinating his or her group.  The representatives of each topic group shall call a meeting of all faculty from that group for the purpose of reviewing the exam questions to be submitted to the Qualifying Exam Committee.  The group’s submission must be approved by a majority vote of those present.
  4. Solutions will be graded by faculty members who prepared the questions.      The grading must be completed within 2 weeks after the exam.  A guideline is that each question should be doable by a strong MS graduate in 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Solutions will be graded on a 100 point scale with 70 points as a minimum passing grade.
  6. Each student’s performance will be reviewed by the QE Committee and a majority vote of the QE Committee is required for passing.
  7. The QE Committee must report the results of the exam to the ECE Faculty within 4 weeks of the exam.


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