Information on the Modified Research Exam Effective Spring 1998 (Prior to Fall 2001)

Effective Spring 1998

Effective immediately, what is known as the "Qualifying Exam" or the "Advancement to Candidacy" has been moved to coincide with the Research Exam, rather than the Thesis Proposal. This means that students have to constitute a full, official doctoral committee for the research exam. Before the exam, the committee should be made aware of the expectations for the research exam--it is not a thesis proposal.

The reason for this change is primarily financial. Students who have advanced and are on normative time cost the graduate block grant significantly less. This change will permit us to support more graduate students and graduate student needs and activities.

Please realize that students wishing to receive a MS must complete and file for the MS the quarter before they Advance to Candidacy (take research exam). The exam timing guidelines below allow for this.

Timing of the Exam

The research exam must be taken (and the paperwork filed) by all Ph.D. students by the earliest of the following dates after passing the comprehensive exam:

  • The end of the student's third year.
  • The first day of the fourth academic quarter after passing the comps. If the student passes the comprehensive exam in the Spring, this is first day of Fall quarter. If the student passes the comprehensive exam in the Fall, this is the first day of Winter quarter.

Talking to External Committee Members

Students and their committee chairs will find it necessary to explain the exam structure to the external committee members, since many departments at UCSD associate the UQE with the thesis proposal. The following may be used as a guideline for explaining the exam's rationale to these committee members.

The purpose of the UQE exam is to assess the student's preparedness in continuing in the program for a PhD. Traditionally, in CSE, the thesis proposal has occurred too late for such an assessment: many students are 1/3 done with their thesis at the time of thesis proposal, some even farther. In moving the UQE to correspond to the research exam this assessment is now better timed. In particular, the research exam permits the student to demonstrate an ability to reason about a research area in terms of comprehension, synthesis, presentation, and directions for future research (i.e., the Ph.D. thesis research). Note that the prior comprehensive exam has assessed breadth, hence the depth focus for this exam. Because the UQE now corresponds with the research exam, we expect that the criteria for passing will become more stringent, but it is in no way to be considered a thesis proposal, which is a separate exam to be passed by the end of the fourth year. However, when the committee passes a student on the UQE, the student's advisor has made a good-faith commitment to advise the student for the Ph.D. thesis.

Any questions should be directed to Julie Conner ( or the graduate committee chair, Keith Marzullo (