Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is designed to assess a PhD student’s readiness to undertake dissertation research in electrical and computer engineering.

This page is designed to provide specific information about the qualifying exam for current ECE doctoral students. If you have any questions about the exam that are not answered by the content on this page, please contact your faculty advisor or the student affairs office.

About the Qualifying Examination

PhD students must pass two topic areas on the qualifying examination to complete this requirement. (See the accordions below for information on each topic area.) Students have two hours to complete each area of the exam, which are based on material from upper-level undergraduate and beginning graduate coursework. The area-specific questions on the exam are based on a publicly announced list of required topics and suggested reading materials, rather than on specific ECE courses.

Requirements and Registration for the Qualifying Exam

student taking an examination

The registration form for the qualifying examination is available for download.

Students seeking to take the qualifying examination must have full-standing status with the UIC Graduate College in the ECE master’s or doctoral program. They must be registered for coursework during the semester in which the exam is taken.

Students who are pursuing a PhD full-time must make their first attempt at the qualifying examination in the first April after their initial semester of enrollment.

Students who are pursuing a PhD part-time are required to take the qualifying exam in the semester following registration for a total of 24 PhD semester credit hours, including independent-study courses and ECE 599. In other words, they will take the exam after completing the equivalent of two semesters of full-time coursework.

Master’s students in ECE may petition to take the qualifying examination if they have completed at least one calendar year of residence and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Students must register for the examination in Room 1020 SEO by the registration deadline, which is communicated in each semester by the student affairs office.

When students register for the exam, they must specify the areas in which they plan to take the exam.

First and Second Attempts

Students may sit for the qualifying exam a maximum of two times. Second attempts must be made at the time of the next consecutive offering of the examination. Students who pass any area of the examination during the first attempt are not required to re-take that area in the subsequent examination.

Students may elect to take one or two area examinations during the first attempt. Students who require a second attempt are not allowed to register for extra areas beyond the number required. (In other words, students who pass one area and fail one area on the first attempt may only take one area on the second attempt.)

Students who fail to pass two areas after their second attempt at the qualifying exam will be expelled from the graduate program. Full-time PhD students who fail to appear for the exam in the first April after their initial semester of enrollment will be expelled from the program.

Examination Procedure and Rules

Each student is assigned a code number for the qualifying examination. Students must not write their names or social security numbers anywhere on the examination papers, answer books, or other papers used in the examination. The code number is the only form of identification that should appear on any testing materials.

Students must remain in the examination room during the 15-minute intervals between examination periods. Before the start of the examination, students must leave their notes and other reading material in a place in the examination room designated by the proctor. Students will not have access to this material during breaks. Any student who leaves the examination room unescorted will not be allowed to return and complete the remainder of the examination.

Qualifying examinations are closed-book. Students may bring a scientific calculator, but no programmable calculators are allowed. Cell phone use in the examination room is not allowed.

Students are required to return their examination papers, answer books, and scratch paper at the end of each examination period.

Appeals related to the grading or results of the exam should be made by the student’s advisor to the director of graduate studies. The director of graduate studies will present the appeal to the Graduate Committee for reconsideration and possible re-evaluation.

Qualifying Examination Topic Areas