Core and Qualifying Examinations
All PhD students, including students who have earned an MS from another department or university, must pass, or be exempted from, a written core examination before taking the MSE qualifying examination. The content of the core examination is based on the four MSE core courses.
The purpose of the core examination is for students to demonstrate knowledge of the material presented in the core courses.
The core examination:
- Is typically taken by PhD students in May/June of the first year following completion of the four-course core.
- Is waived for students with a combined GPA of at least 3.5 in the four MSE core courses and having no core-course grade below a B.
In preparation for the core examination, students may study independently or in groups, may use former qualifying/core exam questions, and may use material from their core courses, in addition to any other reference materials. The core examination is closed-book, closed-notes. A student who fails the core exam on the first attempt may retake the exam once at the following offering. If a student fails the core exam twice, the student will not be allowed to continue in the PhD program.
Each PhD student must pass, or be exempted from, the core examination before taking the MSE qualifying examination
The purpose of the qualifying examination is twofold. First, the student is to demonstrate, through both written and oral presentation, the integration of a core body of knowledge in Materials Science and Engineering. Core knowledge is understood to encompass undergraduate-level principles in MSE as relevant to the topic chosen for the qualifying examination. Core knowledge is not constrained to material covered in the four core courses. The second purpose is for students to demonstrate the ability to apply MSE core knowledge to a research problem, including the ability to state a problem clearly, to propose a solution, to utilize the scientific literature as a means of self-learning, and to recognize the limitations and implications of the proposed work.
The PhD qualifying examination:
- Is taken by students in August, no later than two years after enrolling with the BS
- Contains written and oral components.
- Is given over a four-week period usually commencing in August; prior preparation for the exam is not expected.
- Emphasizes MSE knowledge synthesis and research practice including literature usage.
- Is broad, open-ended, and appropriate for a range of GRA research experience and interest.
Students enrolling with a MS degree typically take the qualifying examination within one year of beginning their PhD studies.Students are not allowed to consult with or speak to other students or individuals during the qualifying examination. Students who have questions may consult the faculty member chairing the qualifying examination. A student who fails the qualifying exam on the first attempt may retake the exam once. If a student fails the qualifying exam twice, the student will not be allowed to continue in the PhD program.