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Doctoral Degree Requirements

WPE I Exam Information



Doctoral WPE I Exam Regulations

Doctoral students are required to pass the Written Preliminary Examination, which consists of two parts:

  1. The WPE I is the exam testing basic proficiency in core areas of computer science.
  2. The WPE II is the special area exam testing the candidate's analytical and presentational abilities, and it is taken in the semester following the student's passing of the WPE I.

WPE I Policy and Procedures

The purpose of the WPE-I is to ensure that students pursuing the Ph.D. degree have a graduate level of competence in the fundamentals of computer science. We call this level of competence a doctoral foundation. The doctoral foundation is defined by the syllabi in the following six graduate courses:

CIS 501 - Architecture
CIS 505 - Software systems

CIS 502 - Analysis of Algorithms
CIS 511 - Theory of Computation

CIS 500 - Software Foundations
CIS 520 - Machine Learning (formerly Intro to Artificial Intelligence)

A student passes the WPE I by passing four of the six WPE I exams. Two exams must be passed in the first year; four must be passed by the end of the second year. The four exams must include either 501 or 505, and either 502 or 511.

The Department will appoint a three-member committee for each of the courses, with the instructor for the current year acting as head of the committee. Each committee will finalize and publicly announce the course syllabus by the second week of the semester. These syllabi will serve both as plans for the courses and as reading lists for the corresponding sections of the WPE I. Decisions concerning the WPE I as a whole will be made by a six-member joint committee comprising the chairs of each of the area committees. All six courses will have written in-class final exams, taking place during the usual university final examination period. Only the results of these final exams will determine whether students have passed the WPE I.

The final exams will be set and graded by the assigned three-member faculty committee who also set the syllabus. The same committee will determine precisely the minimum performance on each specific exam that would constitute a WPE I pass. As a general guideline, the committee will ensure that the students that pass have demonstrated mastery taught in the corresponding course. The final exams for courses offered in the Summer will not be used to meet the WPE I requirement.

The WPE I results are separate from the grade in the course; i.e., the complete courseload (e.g., homeworks, projects, midterms, quizzes) as well as the criteria for obtaining the grade in the course, are set separately from the WPE I passing criteria.

Students submit the WPE I exams anonymously. The identity of the students will not be known to the faculty until after decisions are made about what constitutes passing or failing in a specific WPE I exam.
Click here to access previous Written Preliminary Exams, as available.