Student Info

Ph.D Qualifying Examination Requirements and Procedures

Date of Effect:

Autumn Quarter 2016 (approved by EE Faculty 02 June 2016, modifications approved June 2017)


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.



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



Well before the quarter in which the exam is taken, the student and their advisor(s) will identify a research project in their area of interest and develop a study plan to assure the student understands the relevant fundamentals related to their area of research (e.g. undergraduate textbooks, related literature, graduate courses).

After the student has completed at least three courses in their specialty area (at the 5XY level, with grades of 3.5 or higher, with at least two EE or EE cross-listed courses) and the advisor agrees that sufficient progress has been made on the research project, the student may apply to take the exam. The advisor(s) should identify faculty members with expertise related to the project to serve as the examination panel. The exam will be based on:

The examination panel will assess the student according to the following rubrics:

Students will be notified of the results of their exam by the end of the quarter after the department-level Qualifying Exam committee has discussed the recommendations for all students.



Students are expected to take the Qualifying Exam by the end of their second year. The exam is given twice yearly during autumn and spring quarters, during the 6-8th week of the quarter. Students must be registered for a minimum of 2 credits in order to take the exam.

The steps for applying to take the qualifying exam are:

Note that depth courses are listed on both the student and advisor forms to indicate approval.

After the panel is approved by the GPC, the student will be responsible for scheduling the exam sometime during weeks 6-8 of the quarter. The exam time/date/place will be provided by the student to Advising by the third Friday of the quarter.

The student should deliver their research report to the examination panel and to Graduate Advising at at least three weeks prior to the exam. If the student is taking the exam for the second time, the report should include an addendum that explains how the new report differs from the previous attempt.

The oral exam will be 1-1.5 hours followed by a 15-30 minute meeting of the committee to discuss the results. Each committee member will provide an individual assessment of the student. The chair will write a brief summary of recommendations and provide all documents to the EE Advising staff.

A department-level Qualifying Exam committee will meet to review all student exam results and will determine exam outcomes by the end of the 9th week of the quarter. Possible outcomes for each student are: pass, pass with contingencies, not yet qualified, and fail. All students and their advisors will be notified of the results at this time. Students with an outcome of "not yet qualified" on their first attempt are allowed to take the examination a second time and must do so at the next offering.


Advisor Recommendation

In order to initiate a qualifying evaluation, the student's advisor must submit a written recommendation online via the Faculty Advisor Letter of Recommendation, 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 and describe their 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. If the student has co-advisors, a separate letter of support can be emailed to Advising at, but it is not required.


Panel and Committee Composition and Responsibilities

An examination panel of three faculty members is identified by the faculty advisor(s) optionally in consultation with the student. The chair of the committee should be a voting EE faculty member in the student's research area, preferably at the level of Associate or Full Professor. The other members of the committee can be any UW Seattle faculty member with an appointment in the graduate school and with the expertise relevant to the research project (Assistant, Adjunct or Research professors may be on panel, but Affiliate Professors are not eligible). If this is a second attempt  for the student, one of the members must be selected from the previous panel.

Faculty advisor(s) may not serve on the panel. Advisors may be present for the student presentation, but they cannot participate in the panel questioning.

The examination panel is responsible for probing the student's preparation and fundamental knowledge in his/her chosen specialty area and providing feedback to the student on the presentation of their work. This is to be accomplished by:

The panel chair will be responsible for communicating the exam duration and question areas to the student, ensuring that all panel members have an opportunity to ask questions during the exam, and writing a brief summary of the exam process and panel recommendations.

The Graduate Program Coordinator will appoint a department-level Qualifying Exam Committee composed of chairs of examination panels and optionally additional EE voting faculty in areas where there are borderline cases. This committee will consider input from all panel members and the faculty advisor's letter of recommendation in determining exam outcomes.

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.

Petitions, Appeals and Grievances

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 to the Graduate Advising Office before applying to take the Qualifying Exam.

Students wishing to petition to count a course taken at another university toward a depth or breadth requirement should complete the Quals Course Substitution Form, provide documentation substantiating the equivalence, and obtain approval from either the faculty chairperson of the appropriate curriculum group or the faculty who most often teaches the course. The Advising Office can provide the names of the curriculum group chairs and faculty who most often teach the courses. Petitions must be submitted to the Graduate Advising Office before applying to take the Qualifying Exam.

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 Graduate Program Coordinator including a letter of support from the faculty advisor. Any challenge to the decision of the Qualifying Exam Committee should be taken directly to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Challenges to the decision of the Graduate Program Coordinator will be handled by a subcommittee appointed by the Curriculum Committee. This subcommittee will review the appeal and direct an appropriate response.

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