The PhD Qualifier Examination
Effective for students entering PhD program for the Fall 2012 semester and beyond, all Doctoral students are required to pass The PhD Qualifier Examination
[as described below] before the end of their 4th semester (31 March or 31 October). Current students who matriculated prior to the Fall 2012 semester may switch to this new qualifier examination. Of those who switch, if they have completed 3 or more semesters by the end of the Spring 2012 semester they must complete the new qualifier examination before the end of 1+ additional semesters (completion date: 31 March 2013). All other pre-qualifier students who switch must complete the new qualifier examination before the end of 3+ additional semesters (completion date: 31 March 2014).
The Qualifier Examination consists of 2 parts:
- A PhD Course Requirement which is designed to evaluate the student’s basic proficiency in core areas of computer science.
- A Written Critique and Presentation [WCP] which is an exam testing the candidate's analytical and presentational abilities in a particular area of computer science, completed in their 3rd or 4th semester
In their 4th semester PhD students will be evaluated by the faculty to determine their continued standing in PhD program. Prior to this evaluation, the student must submit a self-assessment report of 2 or more pages consisting: evaluation of previous performance, plans for the upcoming year, research plan, publication plan and deadlines for milestones in the completion of the degree.
The decision of the faculty that a student must leave the program is final and there is no petitioning of this decision.
PhD Qualifier Course Requirements
Take 4 Classes or their Final Exam
- All Students must show competency in CS 401 and 3 additional classes by either enrolling in the class (potential PhD Degree coursework credit) or taking the in-class final exam.
- A 400 or 500 level CS class that has an in-class comprehensive final exam with a comprehensive syllabus available at the beginning of the class is an eligible class. We have a list of Pre-Approved Classes at the bottom of the page.
- All classes must be passed with at least a “B” and at least two of the 4 classes must be passed with an “A”.
- The Course Requirements must be completed by the end of the students 3rd semester in the program.
Written Critique and Presentation: Framework and Guidelines
The purpose of the Written Critique and Presentation [WCP] is to demonstrate the candidate's ability to analyze, evaluate, and present an existing body of research, normally (but not necessarily) in the area in which they intend to carry out their dissertation work.
The WCP should be completed in the student's second year in the program. The first step in the process is submitting the WCP approval form
The deliverables of the exam are:
- Critical review - a significant (15-25 pages; ~7000words=20pages) piece of scholarly expository writing based on a coherent selection of 2-4 papers from the research literature in the chosen area.
- Presentation - a 45-minute oral presentation, followed by questioning by a panel of 3 faculty.
The logistics are organized as follows:
- The student identifies a topic and selects a WCP chair, who agrees to administer the exam. The student and the chair agree upon two other committee members and the chair picks two to four technical papers to be critiqued. A student's advisor may be a member of the WCP Committee, but cannot be the WCP Chair. All members of the committee (including the chair) should be from CS. One committee member (not the chair) should be a non-specialist in the chosen topic.
- A short written proposal on the WCP approval form, naming the committee, describing the area and listing the technical papers is submitted to the DGS (via the CS Student Affairs Office) for immediate consideration and approval (1 week maximum delay).
- From the date of this approval, the student has exactly 60 days to prepare a critical review of the selected papers in the chosen area.
- The faculty including the WCP committee members may answer specific questions about the selected work but should not assist in analyzing the content, the significance, or the accuracy of the selected work.
- Copies of the finished critique should be delivered to each of the WCP committee members on or before the end of the 60 day period.
- A date should be set for the formal Oral exam to be held within three weeks (but not less than one week) after the critique is to be handed in. (Given that at least three faculty schedules need to be coordinated, negotiations for the date of the oral exam should begin at least three weeks before the written critique is handed in!) Scheduling the oral exam is the student's responsibility.
- At the Oral Exam, the candidate is expected to present the content of the critique as though presenting a technical paper at a conference. Thus, visual aids etc. are expected to be used and the performance evaluation is to be based on technical sharpness, presentation style, command of the area, and effectiveness of visual aids. The presentation should be roughly 45 minutes in length. Note that while fluency in English is desirable, the most important criteria will relate to the candidate's ability to `get the material across' to their audience.
- The presentation is open to the general public and is followed by a question and answer period (covering both the critique and the general area). The WCP committee may elect to continue with a closed question and answer period followed by a discussion.
- As with all talks and oral examinations in the CS Department, WCP talk announcement (with abstract, committee members, location, time, etc.) should be submitted for announcement to the Student Affairs Office (905 SEO) at least two weeks prior to the event.
- The WCP is graded with a numerical score 1-5 (with 1 being best performance) and a short evaluation of the student’s performance.
- This exam cannot be repeated.
In cases where the WCP topic falls in the student's main research area, there may be substantial overlap between the written critique and the Related Work section of the thesis proposal and/or thesis. This is acceptable.
A conference paper, master’s thesis, etc. cannot simply be submitted verbatim as a substitute for the WCP. However, parts of prior written work on which the student is the sole author may be re-used as the basis for part or all of a WCP paper. Details should be negotiated between the student and their WCP committee chair.
List if 'Pre-Approved' classes
This list of classes is pre-approved to satisfy the 'PhD Qualifier Course Requirements'. Classes not on the list has to be petitioned by the first week of classes along with a syllabus for consideration.
- CS 401 (with CS instructor), CS 411, CS 421, CS 422, CS 440, CS 441, CS 442, CS 450, CS 466, CS 473, CS 474, CS 476, CS 480, CS 487, CS 488, CS 511, CS 583, CS 586
Sample Written Critique and Presentation papers