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

Ph.D. General Examination

Overview and Eligibility

After passing 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.  Passing the General Exam admits students to Candidacy for the Ph.D.

The Department expects students to take the General Examination within one to two years 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 faculty advisor.

Dissertation Credits and the General Exam

Students may enroll for dissertation credits in 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.


NOTE: Per UW policy, students are no longer allowed to provide food or drinks for meetings with faculty members including qualifying, general and final PhD examinations.


Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter that a General Examination is taken.  When the Graduate School approves candidacy, a student is identified and designated as a candidate for the doctoral degree and is awarded a candidate certificate. After achieving candidate status, a student ordinarily devotes his or her time primarily to the completion of research, writing the dissertation, and preparation for the Final Examination. A candidate certificate and the doctoral degree may not be awarded the same quarter.

Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

Graduate School Memo No. 13

Exam Attendance

The minimum 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. NOTE: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all members of the committee and the student examinee may participate via zoom meeting. 

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 ECE Graduate Academic 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.

CRITERIA FOR GSR : GSRs cannot be from the home department of the student or the faculty advisor. GSRs cannot be from any department in which the faculty advisor holds an adjunct appointment (both GSR and faculty advisor can hold adjunct appointments in the same department). GSRs may have no research association or other conflict of interest with the faculty advisor or graduate student. Faculty members with primary, joint, or affiliate appointments in the student's degree-offering unit or the committee chair's department are not eligible to serve as the GSR.

Students will notify the Graduate Academic Advising Office of committee appointments, who will then constitute 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 responsible 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 Graduate Academic Advising Office of member names to add or delete.

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 through MyGrad at least 3 weeks in advance of the exam date.


  1. CONSTITUTE the doctoral supervisory committee and confirm breadth course approval with faculty advisor. Email Graduate Academic Advising who will then add all committee members in MyGrad.  
  2. CONFER with faculty advisor and other committee members to determine when exam can be scheduled, and select a date, time and location. Exam must be scheduled no later that the Wednesday before the last day of the quarter.
  3. SUBMIT a complete draft of the research proposal to the committee 3-4 weeks before the exam so that they will have sufficient time to review it before agreeing to schedule the exam. Be sure to include the date, time, and location or zoom link and the link to the Faculty Exam Approval Form and request that faculty complete if they approve at least 3 weeks prior to the date of the exam.
  4. RESERVE a room for the exam via ECE Departmental Calendars. NOTE: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all members of the committee and the student examinee may participate via Zoom meeting. Student examinee or committee chair to provide meeting link to committee members and to graduate academic advising staff. Make sure to confirm with committee chair who will be responsible for creating the zoom link and providing to all committee members and Graduate Academic Advising. Please refer to Additional Guidelines for SCheduling Onlne Exams below for more detailed information. 
  5. REQUEST the exam through the Graduate School using MyGrad after you have sent the research proposal to the committee.


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. Two ECE Graduate Faculty Members (which may include one adjunct ECE Graduate Faculty Member) must be included. 

Once requested through MyGrad and all Faculty Exam Approval Forms have been received, Graduate Academic Advising will approve the exam, place on the exam calendar, and send an exam announcement to the ECE community. 

Additional Guidelines for Scheduling Online Exams:

Typically, either the chair of the committee or the student may create a Zoom meeting link using the UW Zoom Account. They will then share this link with to include in the exam announcement and in the calendar posting. The Graduate Academic Advisor will send the warrant and instructions to all committee members the day prior to the exam. Usually, the Chair downloads and signs the warrant after the exam, and asks the committee members to email their confirmation of attendance and decision (do they concur and what the decision was). Then the Chair should email the warrant back to

When creating the Zoom meeting, there are certain options that should be selected to protect the integrity of the exam:

  1. The Zoom meeting should be set up so that participants (guests) should be asked to "Register". Do not select the passcode option as this is a public exam (for General and Final Exams). 
  2. All Committee Members and the student being examined should be made "Alternative-hosts" so that they may properly participate.
  3. The committee always has the option to "Record" the exam in Zoom, to review discussion and student's answers. This recording will only be available after the Zoom Mtg is over and the recording downloaded. 
  4. All other "Guest" participants should be muted upon entry and their video disabled.
  5. Guests will automatically enter via the "Waiting Room", then the committee can bring them into the meeting when they are ready to begin the public portion of the exam. This allows the committee to have a private discussion as to the procedures prior to the exam, as well as allow both the examinee and the participants to be placed back into the waiting room when the public portion of the exam is completed. 
  6. The Chair should indicate when participants may begin asking questions - "by raising their hand" in Zoom or typing a question into the Chat portion of Zoom. Then a committee member or the Chair can monitor the 'Chat" for their question, or may unmute the participant to ask the question themselves.
  7. For the private portion of the exam (where committee members discuss the exam among themselves and come to a decision), the examinee can be placed into the waiting room too.
    • After the committee has had time to discuss the outcome, then they may invite the examinee back into the meeting, and when they are ready, the rest of the participants may also be allowed to be moved back into the meeting for the announcement of the outcome. 

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