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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 eight 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)

CIS 548 - Operating Systems
CIS 555 - Internet and Web Systems

A student passes the WPE I by passing four of the eight 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 at least one each from the following two buckets: Foundations (500, 502, 511, 520), and Systems (501, 505, 548, 555).

WPE I Evaluation Procedure

The passing grade for a WPE I course will be determined by the course instructor based on the
coursework (homeworks, projects, exams, etc) during the entire semester. The weights assigned to
different components will be the same as the ones used for determining the letter grades of all the
students. The exact cut-off for passing WPE I score will be determined by the instructor, but a
suggested guideline is the cut-off score between the grades of B+ and B. The instructor should
review the scores and cut-off with the Graduate Group Chair before announcing the results.
A student should declare in advance that she/he intends to take the course for WPE I. For such
students, when the coursework is graded by teaching assistants, the instructor should review the
scores. When a group project contributes to the cumulative score, the instructor should take extra
precaution to ensure individual evaluations (for example, based on meeting with students for
project presentations, or peer feedback).
Foundations courses (CIS 500, 502, 511, and 520) also offer an alternative option to pass WPE I
exam based solely on the performance in the final exam (exception: to accommodate current
students, CIS 501 and 505 will offer this option during the academic year 2019-20). The exact set
of topics covered by the final exam will be announced at the beginning of the course to allow
students to prepare for the exam. In this option, 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
the pass-fail cut-off. In this case also, the instructor should review the scores and cut-off with the
Graduate Group Chair before announcing the results.

When both coursework-based and final-exam-only options are available, a student can choose
between the two. It is acceptable to switch between the two options in the middle of the semester.
In both options, the courses taught during the summer session cannot be used for WPE I.

Click here to access previous Written Preliminary Exams, as available.