Academics > Masters and Ph.D. > Ph.D.

Ph.D. General Examination

The Ph.D. General Examination

After passing the the Qualifying Examination, completing 60 credits at UW (a master's degree from the UW or another institution may be used as a substitute for 30 of these credits), and completing your breadth requirements, Ph.D. students may take the General Examination of the Graduate School.  Passage of the General Exam admits students to Candidacy for the Ph.D.

Note: 18 credits of coursework taken at UW must be graded credits.

Note: Students must be registered for a minimum of two credits in order to take the exam in the current quarter.

The Department expects students to take the General Examination within one year of passing the Qualifying Examination. An extension will be allowed in unusual circumstances by approval of the Graduate Studies Committee upon petition by the student's advisor.

Dissertation Credits and the General Exam

Students may enroll for dissertation credits the quarter that the General Exam is scheduled or earlier with the understanding that the Candidate must register for a minimum of 27 credits of dissertation over a period of at least three quarters. At least one quarter must come after the student passes the General Examination. With the exception of summer quarter, students are limited to a maximum of 10 credits per quarter of dissertation (800). If the student does not pass the General Exam, those dissertation credits taken prior to the exam would not later count toward the degree.

Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

Graduate School Memo No. 13

The student's first step toward the General Examination is to consult with the faculty advisor to determine membership of the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee.

TIMING: The UW Graduate School reccomends that the committee should be appointed no later than four months before the General Examination. EE Advising reccomends that students consititue their committees between two and four months prior to their exam.

The doctoral supervisory committee consists of a minimum of four members, at least three of whom (including the Chair and the GSR) must be members of the Graduate Faculty with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees. A majority of the members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.

EXAM ATTENDANCE: The mimimum committee membership attendance at the General and Final Exams is four members; the committee may be larger, but at least four members, including the Chairperson and the GSR, must attend exams. Video-conferencing is sometimes allowable for committee members. Please check with advising to see what your options are.

APPOINTING THE COMMITTEE: Students should provide the names of the at least four committee members who have agreed to serve, including the Chair and the Graduate School Representative (GSR), to the EE Graduate Advising Office via email or in person 1 to 3 months prior to the quarter in which the exam is to be taken. Once the committee is constituted, you may begin the process of scheduling your General Exam.

Students will notify the Advising Office of committee appointments, who will then constitiute the committee in MyGrad which notifies the Graduate School. Students will then apply for the General Exam via MyGrad. The Graduate School will then notify the student and all committee members via email when the committee has been confirmed and the exam has been requested.

Students are responsibile for keeping in contact with the full committee, and informing them of ongoing progress and projections for General and Final Exam dates.

To change the committee membership at a later date, students should notify the Grad Advising Office of member names to add or delete.

EE General Exam Format

The purpose of the Electrical Engineering General Examination is two-fold: (1) to test a graduate student's capability to do independent research (2) to evaluate the technical merits and feasibility of the student's proposal for his/her Ph.D. dissertation. The examination format is as follows:

The student MUST submit a dissertation proposal to his/her Supervisory Committee 4-6 weeks before the exam to assure sufficient time for the committee to review the proposal before they agree to schedule the exam.

The Request to Schedule Exam form MUST be submitted to the Graduate School Office 3 weeks in advance of the exam date.

The proposal must contain a discussion of the background literature on the problem area, formulation or description of the specific topic of research, proposed approach or methodology, feasibility arguments, the objective of the research project, and a list of references. The total length of the proposal is normally about 20 pages.

The student will then make an oral presentation of the proposal. The presentation should include a critical review of the most relevant literature in his/her specific area. The student will be examined by the Supervisory Committee during a question-answer period. The Supervisory Committee will make the pass/fail decision based on the quality of the proposal, the presentation, and answers to the questions. Comments and suggestions from the Supervisory Committee concerning the proposal will be given to the student after the exam.

Scheduling the General Exam

After the Supervisory Committee has been appointed and the Supervisory Committee determines the student is prepared to present the dissertation proposal, the student may formally schedule the General Examination.

The General Exam request should be submitted thourgh MyGrad at least 3 weeks in advance of the exam date.


  1. SUBMIT breadth course approval form to faculty advisor prior to constituing doctoral supervisory committee.
  2. SUBMIT a complete draft of the exam to the committee 4-6 weeks before the exam so that they will have sufficient time to review it before agreeing to schedule the exam.

  3. CONFER with advisor and other committee members to determine when exam can be scheduled, and select a date, time and location.

  4. RESERVE a room for the exam via EE Departmental Calendars.

  5. REQUEST the exam through the Graduate School using MyGrad

  6. NOTIFY all committee members via email of the exam date/time/location, and ask that they confirm via the Faculty Exam Approval Form at least 3 weeks prior to the date of the exam.
  7. ALL members of the Supervisory Committee including the GSR, regardless of whether or not they intend to attend, must agree to the scheduling and will need to confirm their agreement via the Faculty Exam Approval Form. A minimum of four members are required to attend: the chairperson, the GSR, and two other committee members.

Once requested through MyGrad and all Faculty Exam Approval Forms have been received, Advising will approve the exam and send an exam announcement to you and the members of your committee. 

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