Graduate Comprehensive Exams

MSE Qualifying Requirements

The school qualification to candidacy is essentially in 2 parts.

(1) Core Courses – The first is to take the required major courses and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or greater.. Ph.D. students must complete both core courses with a minimum grade of B in each course. Students will be dropped from Ph.D. program having either 2 ‘C’s or a combination of a ‘W’ and a ‘C’ in core courses. A maximum of one course can be repeated. A second grade below B will result in being dropped from the Ph.D. program.

(2) Written exam – Students will be provided with research papers supplied by faculty involved in graduate courses (or by selection from graduate committee). A written exam will be taken by the students 4 weeks after receiving papers students will have to answer 6 out of 18 questions, each based on the research papers. The written exam will last 3 hours and will test the ability to read, understand and critically analyze the pre-supplied research papers, but will require knowledge of the core courses and related science discussed in the papers. Students are not allowed to discuss the research papers with their supervisors, but  are encouraged to discuss them with their colleagues. 

It is permissible to receive only one ‘C’ or ‘W’ in any of the core courses. Receiving two ‘C’s’ or two ‘W’s’ or any combination of a ‘C’ and a ‘W’ will cause the student to be terminated from the PhD program. In addition to the GPA requirement, at the end of the first year (unless in exceptional circumstances students have been put on a 2 year cycle) the students will take a written comprehensive exam.


Comprehensive Written Exam

All full-time Ph.D. students enrolled in the Fall semester without any course deficiency are required to take the Comprehensive Exam scheduled on a day in the early summer of the first year (at end of May). Candidates will be given a set of papers from the research literature (articles from published scientific journals) 4 weeks before the Comprehensive Exam.  The papers could cover all aspects of materials science. A single 3-hour written exam will be based on the supplied research papers, and will require answering 6 questions. The exam will test the ability to read, understand and critically analyze the supplied research papers, and will be based on a thorough knowledge of the core courses. Candidates are not allowed to discuss these research papers with any faculty members, but are actively encouraged to discuss the papers with their peers.

Students who fail this Comprehensive Exam will be offered a repeat examination scheduled sometime in September of the same year on a new set of supplied literature.  In total, only 2 chances will be allowed to pass the Comprehensive Exam. (See Dismissal Policy, Section J, Grad Student Handbook).

For additional information on about the MSE Graduate Program complete the request form or contact:

Professor & Associate Chair Graduate Studies
Academic Advising Manager