Academics

Ph.D Qualifying Examination Requirements and Procedures

Date of Effect:

Spring Quarter 2001  (approved by EE Faculty 21 November 2000)

Autumn Quarter 2010 (modifications approved by EE Faculty 07 October 2010)

Purpose

The Ph.D. qualifying evaluation is a review process intended to provide an early assessment of a student's preparation and aptitude for completing a Ph.D. degree.

Administration

The evaluation process is administered by the Graduate Program Coordinator and Advising Staff.

Timing

The exam is given twice yearly during autumn and spring quarters, during the 7th week of the quarter.   Students must be registered for a minimum of 2 credits in order to take the exam.

Students should submit the Application for Ph.D. Qualifying Depth Examination to the Advising Office by 5 p.m. on the second Friday of the quarter. The application must include a faculty recommendation for the student to take the exam (see following section).

The syllabi will be posted a full 2 weeks ahead of the exam week.

The exam time/date/place and the examining committee names will be posted a full week ahead of the exam week.

The time limitations and number of attempts are set by the satisfactory progress policy for the Department. Extensions of time or additional attempts beyond these guidelines may only be granted by means of petition to the Curriculum Committee.

Advisor Recommendation

In order to initiate a qualifying evaluation, the student's advisor must first submit a written recommendation to the Graduate Program Coordinator, indicating the advisor's impression of the student's strengths, weaknesses, and preparation level for continued Ph.D. study. The statement from the advisor should make a convincing case of why a qualifying evaluation panel should be convened for the student, and the advisor's present degree of willingness to advise the student. This recommendation letter is the primary means through which the advisor's opinions are expressed to the panel, and any unusual or extenuating circumstances should be cited in this letter.

Depth and Breadth Criteria

A student must designate one of the Departmental curriculum groups as a specialty, major, or depth area. This will be the depth area in which the Qualifying Examination will be given.

Because a Ph.D. degree is not given specifically for a curriculum depth area, rather the degree is awarded for broader field of electrical engineering, it is required that students show competency in at least two other areas of the field. To meet this requirement, students must designate two of the remaining Departmental curriculum groups as minor areas for the breadth requirement, and must complete 2 courses in one of the minor areas and 1 course in a second minor area. It is preferable that all three breadth courses be completed before taking the qualifying examination, but it will in most cases be acceptable if at least two breadth courses have been completed and the third breadth course will be completed soon after taking the depth exam.

    DEPTH REQUIREMENT

  1. The student must demonstrate proficiency in his/her specialty area by the completion of at least 3 courses in the student's specialty area. Each of these three courses must be at least 3 credit hours and must be at the 5XX level. The student's performance in each of these three courses must be 3.5 grade point level or higher. Course substitutions always require a recommendation from the instructor of the equivalent UW course.
  2. Students wishing to petition to count a course with a grade less than 3.5 towards a depth course requirement must complete the required petition and submit it with the Qualifying Examination application forms. The petition form may be found at http://ee.washington.edu/academics/graduate/qual/lowgrade.pdf.
  3. List Of Approved Depth Courses
    BREADTH REQUIREMENT

  1. The student must demonstrate breadth in electrical engineering by the completion of a total of at least 3 courses in 2 areas outside of the student's specialty area. The student must have completed two out of three of the breadth courses before taking the qualifying examination. To meet the course breadth requirement, the student must complete 2 courses in one breadth area, and 1 course in a second breadth area. Each of the 3 breadth courses must be at least 3 credit hours and at either the 4XX or 5XX level. At least 2 of the 3 courses must be at the graduate (5XX) level. The courses must be chosen from a set specified by the (out-of-area) curriculum group as acceptable for satisfying the breadth requirement.
  2. Courses listed within a student's chosen specialty area (major area) may not count for breadth.
  3. The student's performance in each of the three breadth courses is expected to be at a 3.5 grade point level or higher. Courses taken at other universities may be counted toward the breadth requirement. The student shall provide the Graduate Program Coordinator with documentation substantiating the equivalence, which will be validated. Course substitutions always require a recommendation from the instructor of the equivalent UW course.
  4. Students wishing to petition to count a course with a grade less than 3.5 towards a breadth course requirement must complete the required petition and submit it with the Qualifying Examination application forms. The petition form may be found at http://ee.washington.edu/academics/graduate/qual/lowgrade.pdf.
    Upon completion of the breadth requirement, the student shall submit the documentation for evaluation by the Graduate Program Coordinator. The Graduate Program Coordinator will return with a decision of PASS or NOT-YET-QUALIFIED.
  5. List Of Approved Breadth Courses

Depth Examination:

The depth examination will be given twice a year, once in the autumn quarter and once in the spring Quarter. Before applying for the depth examination, the student must:
  1. Obtain a favorable recommendation from his/her advisor
  2. Complete the course requirement in the specialty area
  3. Complete two out of three of the breadth courses (The student can apply for the depth examination without  having completed the entire breadth requirement)
  4. File an application before the end of the second week of the quarter that he/she is planning to take the depth examination
The depth examination will be administered by each of the Curriculum Groups.
  1. Each Curriculum Group will form a panel of at least faculty for each student.  The student's advisor is excluded from the evaluation panel and from the oral part of the depth examination.
  2. The depth examination is an oral examination that will last approximately an hour. The student will be questioned on the fundamentals of the specialty area.  At least two weeks before the depth examination, the faculty panel will provide a syllabus. The syllabus will provide a concise description of the format and content of the student's depth examination.  This may include an assignment for the student to complete prior to the oral part of the depth examination, and will be given to the student at least 2 weeks before the oral exam takes place.

Faculty Panel Responsibilities:

An evaluation panel of at least 3 faculty is assigned to each student by the Curriculum Group.  The faculty evaluation panel is responsible for probing the student's preparation and fundamental knowledge in his/her chosen specialty area and for recommending a result for the evaluation.  This is to be accomplished by:
  1. Reviewing the student's records of coursework and experience and noting any deficiencies which would hinder the student's research work.
  2. Working together to prepare a cohesive syllabus and conducting the depth examination as described above.
  3. Formulating recommendations of PASS, PASS WITH CONTINGENCY, NOT-YET-QUALIFIED, or FAIL for the student's depth requirement. The recommendation may also include additional remedial work for the student if such deficiencies in the student's background are identified.

Decisions

The chair of the faculty evaluation panel shall provide a written report of the depth examination and the evaluation recommendation of the depth requirement to the Graduate Program Coordinator.  Possible outcomes:
  1. decision of PASS on the Depth requirement will allow a student to continue forward with his/her program of study;
  2. a decision of PASS "with contingencies" will permit the student to address minor failings with the guidance of the panel and Graduate Program Coordinator.
  3. a decision of NOT YET QUALIFIED will allow the student an opportunity to correct any deficiencies in his/her background and will allow one more chance to take the Depth Examination;
  4. and a decision of FAIL in the Second Attempt will initiate procedures to drop the Post Master's student from the Ph.D. program.
A student must satisfy both the Depth Requirement and the Breadth Requirement before he/she is considered to have passed the Qualifying Examination.

The Graduate Program Coordinator will review and certify all examining committee decisions, with special attention to the instances of contingencies. Committee members will be consulted if questions about the decisions arise. The official department decision will be confirmed by letter from the department to the student, and will be copied to the student's faculty advisor.

Notification to Student

After the examination, the examining committee may choose to notify the student of the exam decision, being careful to clarify that the GPC will need to confirm the decision. One of the committee may notify the student, or the committee may ask the student's faculty advisor to relay the decision to the student. Alternatively, the committee may leave the notification process to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Record Keeping

The advisor's letter of recommendation and the faculty panel chair's report will both be added to the student's permanent file.

Appeals and Grievances

Any challenge to the decision of the Faculty Panel should be taken directly to the Graduate Program Coordinator.  If an appeal is made formally, a subcommittee appointed by the Curriculum Committee will review the appeal, and direct an appropriate response.


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Updates or corrections to this page should be sent to bryantc@uw.edu.

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