PhD Area Exam

The Area Exam Study Plan: In consultation with the DAC, the student further defines the research area. This is described in a written study plan, which defines the area and contains a reading list. The depth of the information in the study plan may vary greatly, depending on what the committee requires. The student should obtain the APPROVAL FOR THE AREA EXAM STUDY PLAN FORM from the Graduate Program Coordinator, have it signed by all members of the DAC, the Chair of GEC, and return it and a copy of the study plan to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The study plan should contain a target date for completion of the area exam. Target timeline for the filing of the study plan is six (6) months after completion of the DRP.

The Position Paper: During the preparation period, the student should consult their advisor periodically to monitor progress. As an end result, the student writes a position paper. This paper should describe the research area, its main methodology and results, as well as the sub-area of the student's future research. This will include a broad coverage of the research area (as determined from the reading list), what problems have been solved in that area, which ones haven't been solved, and a detailed summary of the issues covered in the reading list. The student may or may not have arrived at the particular research problem within the area that he or she intends to investigate for the final dissertation. This paper must be approved by the DAC, but does not have to be approved by GEC.

The Area Exam: After the paper is approved by the DAC, the student gives a public presentation covering the area as presented in the student's research paper, after which they will be quizzed by the DAC members. Target timeline for the position paper and talk is six (6) months after acceptance of the study plan. Before the talk, the student should obtain the RESULTS OF THE AREA EXAM FORM from the Graduate Program Coordinator. Upon completion of the talk, have form signed by all DAC members and the head of GEC, and return it to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The student then must submit their Area Exam to CS archives.

Possible Outcomes: (Must be unanimous agreement among the committee)

  1. Pass (or pass with distinction) and advancement to candidacy. The student is ready for independent research work.
  2. Pass with condition. The student must perform some remedial work pertinent to the project with a specific deadline. When the condition has been satisfied, the student should get the RESULTS OF THE AREA EXAM FORM back from the Graduate Program Coordinator, ask the chair of the committee to indicate that the condition has been fulfilled on the form and return it to the Graduate Program Coordinator.
  3. Fail. The exam can be retaken at most once. (In the rare instance when a student has changed his research area but has passed the comprehensive exam once, a new exam should not be required.)

Advancement to Candidacy: The Graduate Program Coordinator submits an online advancement form to the Division of Graduate Studies within two weeks after the Area Exam.

Area Exam Timeline:

APPROVAL FOR THE AREA EXAM PLAN FORM must be submitted approximately six (6) months after the completion of the DRP.

RESULTS OF THE AREA EXAM FORM indicating completion of the Area Exam must be submitted approximately six (6) months after submission of the study plan.

The following schedule gives maximum time limits for successful completion of the Area Exam. Students falling behind this schedule may be considered as demonstrating unsatisfactory performance in the Ph.D. program. If this determination is made, the GEC will notify the student and the advisor in order to assess the situation.

Student's academic background at admission Time limit
M.S. in computer science Seventh quarter
All others Ninth quarter