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Less QII

I am halfway through my QII (a.k.a. PhD Qualifying Exams). These exams are the first step towards getting a PhD. If I pass, I will be awarded Advanced Graduate Standing, which basically means they won’t kick me out of school as soon as my Masters is done. Essentially, it is to determine if you are ‘PhD material’.

The QII works differently in every department and at every school. In Electrical & Computer Engineering it goes like this: You are assigned 7 professors from the department to evaluate you in person. Of these, 3 will be from your specific area of specialization and 4 will be from other areas. The four out-of-area professors will individually assess you on your skill in their particular field, usually through some sort of oral interview or written exam. The out-of-area exams are particularly challenging because they are on the topics you are not actively studying and possibly have not studied for years. It is especially rough for us on the Computer side, because there is comparatively little overlap with other fields. The in-area examination consists of two parts, a short formal paper on your research goals and field of study and a half-hour presentation on the same topic. Additionally, your advisor must submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf.

Each of the 7 examiners may rate you as Qualified, Semi-Qualified, or Unqualified. Based on these ratings and your letter of recommendation, the entire faculty meet and discuss whether or not to grant you AGS. You are allowed to fail the QII once; if you fail a 2nd time, you can never advance beyond a Masters degree in that department.

So far, I’ve taken two of the out-of-area exams (Solidstate devices and Signals & Systems) and submitted my in-area paper. Tomorrow I take the remaining two exams (Electromagnetic Fields and Electric Power). On Saturday, I give my research presentation (which I haven’t begun preparing yet). My advisor said he would write a ’strong’ recommendation for me. When the exam period ends on March 11th, there will be a two week period in which the professors will make their decision, and I will be notified of the result after that.

All-in-all, it has been a fairly tiring process just to reach the halfway point. I’m really looking forward to Spring Break, even though I’m not going anywhere.

collapse Michael Says:

Yikes - much different than our department. For us, you take your prelims after your 3rd year (and thus, with master’s degree already in hand). You ask 4 people to write questions for you, which you complete (4 hours per question). Then, a couple weeks later, you have an oral defense, which allows you to clarify areas that you might have missed or not explained adequately. The questions themselves can come from the area of study of the question writer (which you should study for), classes you’ve had with the question writer, and areas of your own study. Not sure what happens if you don’t pass, which either means it doesn’t happen frequently, or the consequences are so terrible, no one ever speaks of them again.

collapse Jesse Says:

congrats. I don’t know if I posted in the last post, I thought I did but I didn’t see it. Anyways I am really interested in seeing your FPGA DSP work, that seems really interesting to me, and you being upper level means you rarely work on stuff that I would understand :-/


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