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

Ph.D. General Examination

The Ph.D. General Examination

After passing the Qualifying Examination and 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), the Ph.D. student may take the General Examination of the Graduate School which admits the student 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 2 credits in order to take the exam.

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 After the General Exam

After the department notifies the Graduate School that the student has passed the Ph.D. General Examination, the Graduate School will award the student a Ph.C., Candidacy Certificate. The quarter following the passing of the exam, the student may begin to register for dissertation credits (EE 800). The student must earn 30 credits of EE 800 for graduation. 

Students may enroll for dissertatation credits the quarter that the exam is scheduled only if a) they and their advisor expect them to schedule the Final Exam within 3 quarters, and b) with the understanding that if the student does not pass the General Exam, those dissertation credits would not later count toward the degree.   A petition to the Graduate Advisor is required for approval.

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 official UW Graduate School policy is that the committee should be appointed no later than four months before the General Examination.   EE Department policy states that in extenuating circumstances beyond the student/advisor control, the graduate student and advisor may request a waiver of this requirement from the Graduate Program Coordinator; appointments may be approved for no later than two months before the exam.

MEMBERSHIP: The Supervisory Committee for an Electrical Engineering student must consist of a total committee membership of a minimum of 4 members including the GSR (see details below), of which 2 members must be EE faculty (tenure track or research faculty) whose primary appointment is UW Electrical Engineering. It is possible to appoint members from outside the department and university; consult the Advising Office for details.

EXAM ATTENDANCE: The mimimum committee membership attendance at the General and Final Exams is 4 members; the committee may be larger, but at least 4 members, including the Chairperson and the GSR, must attend exams.

APPOINTING THE COMMITTEE: Students should provide the names of the committee members who have agreed to serve to the Graduate Advising Office via email or in person. This begins the 4-month clock, and the General Exam may then be scheduled for 4 months hence.

The Advising Office will notify the Graduate School of the committee appointments. The Graduate School will then notify the student and all committee members via email when the committee has been confirmed.

It is the student's responsibility to keep in contact with the full committee, informing them of ongoing progress and projections for General and Final Exam dates.

To reconstitute 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 in place for 4 months (for exceptions see above section 'Ph.D. Supervisory Committee') and the Supervisory Committee determines the student is prepared to present the dissertation proposal, the student may formally schedule the General Examination.

The Request to Schedule Exam form should be submitted 3 weeks in advance of the exam date.


  1. 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.

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

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

  4. REQUEST the exam through the Graduate School using MyGrad

  5. NOTIFY all committee members of the exam date/time/location, and ask that they confirm via the Faculty Exam Approval Form 3 weeks prior to the date of the exam.
  6. 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 4 members are required to attend: the chairperson, the GSR, and 2 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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