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Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Requirements

Qualifying Exam Area Survey Evaluation

The exam uses a survey covering the literature of an area in computing. This could be in the student’s dissertation area or a general area of computing. The student, advisor, and the student's Ph.D. committee members determine (and approve) the set of papers. The external Ph.D. committee member is not required to participate in this process. The student should be aware that merely summarizing a set of papers is not enough to count as a Ph.D. survey. Rather, the write-up should include clear identification of the main research problems in the field and the main suggested solutions (with their advantages and disadvantages). In the process, the student needs to also compare/contrast his/her survey with existing surveys in the field (if such surveys exist in a similar format).   

**Please see link for Qualifying Exam Supervisory Committee Form**

Steps to Completing Qualifying Exam Report Form:

Note: This is a writable PDF - Please type all information

  1. Student needs to complete: Last Name, First Name, M.I., UFID and Term of First Enrollment
  2. Student enters the faculty information; Chair, Co-Chair, Members, etc.

** For Term of First Enrollment, if you are unsure review your profile in GIMS or contact Adrienne Cook at**

Process Details:

1.The student must get the approval of the advisor and the advisory committee to take the exam. Once that is done, the student must inform the graduate affairs committee of the intent to take the qualifiers exam no later than one month before the actual proposed survey submission date. This is to give the committee adequate time to discuss the list of papers, and other procedures. Please refer to the Qualifying Exam Flowchart

2. The student will be assigned a list of papers and topics for the area survey paper under the direction of the student's advisor. The advisor may construct the list, or may require the student to propose the list. The list must be approved (in writing or via email) by all participating members of the committee. The list cannot include papers by the student (such papers can be included as supporting documents along with the student’s CV).

The number of papers can vary depending on the student's research area. The vast majority (if not all) of the papers must be peer-reviewed reputable publications (e.g., IEEE or ACM conferences or journals, or similar quality). Suggested number of papers is between 30 – 100.

3. The student will write an original area survey paper under the direction of their advisor and Ph.D. committee..

a. None of the advising committee members (including the advisor) can add text. They can only recommend modifications/edits.

b. The survey should be prepared in IEEE Journal format.

c. The suggested length of the paper, not including references, is 15 to 20 pages. The decision as to appropriate length is left up to each committee 

d. Unless direct quotations of cited sources are used and properly attributed, the entire paper must be in the student's own words. Plagiarism will be grounds for dismissal from the Ph.D. program. 

4. Submission of materials: The following materials must be submitted to the CISE committee members for review/evaluation, during (and no later than) the time window agreed upon earlier (as explained above in the first step):

a. Area survey paper

b. Student's CV. Optionally, additional supporting documents can be provided, such as published or submitted papers by the student. 

c. Student's Academic Transcripts

5. Evaluation Process

a. The student’s Ph.D. supervisory committee will serve as the committee for the exam (without requiring the external member to serve). The supervisory committee chair will also serve as the student's qualifying exam chair.

b. From the submission date (in step 3 above), the committee has 2 weeks to evaluate the survey. The committee will then decide to: I. compile a list of questions, II. ask for a ‘major revision’ (which may also be accompanied by a set of questions), or III. fail.

The committee will send any questions back to the student via email at or before the end of this 2 week period. Any participating committee member can request a meeting with the student to discuss any issues at this time. Any meeting minutes should be kept and used later to aid evaluation

In case of I (questions): The student has 1 week to respond to these questions. The committee then has 1 week to review the submitted answers and reach a pass/fail decision. The committee may request minor revisions to the answers or another round of questions if needed. Only two total rounds of questions/answers are permitted. If the committee does not feel that the student’s survey paper and answers are passing after two rounds of questions then the student must submit a substantially revised paper (and updated materials) in a subsequent semester.

In case of II (major revision): The student has 2 weeks to address the committee’s questions and resubmit the revised survey paper. The committee then has two weeks to review the revised paper and reach a pass/fail decision. Only one round of major revision is permitted. If the committee does not feel that the student’s survey paper is passing after one round of revisions then the student must submit a substantially revised paper (and updated materials) in a subsequent semester.

The student should setup a meeting with the committee members (as a group or in individual meetings). The committee should use such meeting(s) to validate the originality of the work and clarify any issues, before making their decisions.

The committee members make their decisions to of pass, fail, or major revision, using the submitted material (i.e., area survey, CV, and transcripts), the answers to the committee’s questions, and revised survey (if requested).

c. A majority of committee members (two out of three, or three out of four) must agree to pass in order to pass the student.

d. The grades and comments (if any) given by the committee members shall be kept anonymous. The student can see the overall grade and individual comments. The student however cannot see individual pass/fail grades or the mapping of the questions to the specific committee members.

Note: The student has 2 attempts to pass the qualifying exam:

a. After 2 failures, the student will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program.

b. The student can appeal dismissal in the event of a second failure through the Graduate Affairs Committee.