Description: The qualifying examination (i.e., qualifier) is used to evaluate whether a student has the breadth of knowledge in computer science necessary to demonstrate that he or she has the potential to undertake the research to complete the Ph.D.  It is administered by the student's Ph.D. committee.

Requirements: To pass the qualifier, the student must satisfy the following requirements. Note that there is flexibility in the order in which these requirements may be satisfied; however, it is expected that 1-5 be completed before sitting for the actual exam.

  1. Be fully admitted to the Ph.D. program and satisfactorily complete any foundational courses.
  2. Be in good academic standing with the department, the college, and the university.
  3. Form their Ph.D. committee and submit the associated Graduate Program of Study & Committee Form to the Graduate School.
  4. Complete at least four 500-level computer science courses at MSU, including CSCI 532 (Algorithms) and CSCI 538 (Computability).
  5. Prepare a written bibliography report covering recent research on an area of potential interest. Guidelines for preparing this report can be found here: phd-biblio.html
  6. Present a public seminar on the research area covered by the bibliography report, highlighting key results and open research questions.
  7. Take a closed oral examination with their Ph.D. committee, covering topics related to the bibliography report and items arising from the MS comprehensive examination (if the student took the MS comprehensive).

Timeline: The qualifier must be passed within two years of being fully admitted into the Ph.D. program, regardless of the student's course load. The faculty strongly advises that the qualifier be taken at the end of the first year following being fully admitted into the Ph.D. program.

Outcomes: There are four possible outcomes for the qualifier:

  1. The student passes and continues with his or her studies.
  2. The student passes conditionally, but must satisfy provisions specified by his or her Ph.D. committee (such as completing certain courses with a satisfactory grade).
  3. The student doesn't pass and is given a second chance to retake the exam within 12 months. The student will be provided with feedback regarding what needs to be improved.  The qualifier may be taken at most twice.

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