The written comprehensive examination is given twice a year and tests your breadth of knowledge in the following four core areas and in two application areas of your choice.
Automata, formal languages, and computability
Design and analysis of algorithms and data structures
Programming languages and compilers
Operating systems and computer architecture
Computer graphics and image processing
Computer simulation and networks
Software engineering and reliability
The level of the examination is that of 600-level and 700-level courses in each area. A syllabus will be published well in advance of the exams listing the topics to be covered in each exam. You are expected to take the comprehensive examination within two years of entering the Ph.D program.
We urge you to take this examination as early as possible, and you are given only two chances to pass the test. If you fail the exam after two attempts, you are subject to being dismissed from our program. Preference is given in the allocation of student financial support to those who have passed the comprehensive exam. If you do not pass the exam the first time, you will need to retake the exam at the next scheduled offering.
After passing the comprehensive examination, a research topic of mutual interest to the student and his or her proposed committee is selected. At this point, the student formally begins research study.
The Oral Qualifying Exam
The qualifying exam is an oral exam designed to test the depth of your knowledge in your area of research specialization. It must be taken either two years after passing the comprehensive examination or four years after entering the Ph.D program. The exam:
Focuses on your dissertation proposal.
Evaluates the technical merits and feasibility of your dissertation proposal.
Must be conducted by your Ph.D committee, which consists of five faculty members. One of the members must be from outside the school and be selected by the Graduate College from three faculty members suggested by you after consulting with your advisor, who is the chairperson of this committee.
You must prepare a dissertation proposal prior to taking this exam and have it approved by your advisor. Your dissertation:
Should represent a significant original research contribution to the field of informatics.
Must be given to the Ph.D Advisory Committee members at least two weeks before the date of the qualifying exam.
Must contain a discussion of the background literature on the problem area, description of the specific topic of research proposal approach, feasibility arguments, the objective of the research project, and a list of references.
The exam begins with your dissertation proposal. The remaining time is used for discussion and asking questions to determine if you have sufficient depth of knowledge to carry out the proposed research. The examination cannot be taken more than twice. After successful completion of the qualifying examination, you will advance to candidacy for the degree.
After completion of the dissertation, you must pass a final oral examination in defense of your dissertation. You must make the final changes, if any, in the dissertation within three months of the date of the oral defense. You can defend your dissertation no more than twice, and it must be approved by each member of the student’s Ph.D Advisory Committee.
To maintain satisfactory progress in the Ph.D program, you are required to:
Pass the comprehensive exam within 2.5 years of entering the Ph.D program.
Maintain a minimum grade point average required by the College of Engineering.
Pass the qualifying exam within four years of entering the Ph.D program.
Maintain satisfactory progress toward research.
Complete all requirements for the Ph.D degree within six years if you entered with a master’s degree, eight years if you entered with a bachelor’s degree.