General Exams

For both areas of concentration in Electrical Engineering, Master’s comprehensive and Doctoral general exams (written part) are each given twice yearly, generally in January and May. Except for where noted below under a track, the exams are to be of the open-book/open-notes variety, and one hour per question is allotted. An oral exam is mandatory for Ph.D. students, and usually takes place shortly after the written exam; for Master’s students an oral exam may follow the written exam at the discretion of the student’s advisory committee. The written exams are structured as follows:

Information, Communication, Decision, and Biosystems Track (Dr. Shalabh Gupta)

The Master’s exam consists of a question in each of the required core courses [ECE 5101, ECE 6111, ECE 6122, ECE 6151, ECE 6439]. Questions from each of these areas, plus from two other areas, as designated by the student’s committee, comprise the Ph.D. exam, which takes place on two successive days. The exam structure is summarized below.

Day 1

1. ECE 5101:  Introduction to Systems Theory
2. ECE 6111:  Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
3. ECE 6122:  Digital Signal Processing
4. ECE 6439:  Estimation and Filtering Theory
5a. ECE 6151:  Communication Theory (M.S students only)

Day 2 (Ph.D. only)

5b. ECE 6151:  Communication Theory (Ph.D. students only)
6-7. Two questions on any two advanced courses chosen by the student in the student’s area of specialization within the Information, Communication, Decision, and Biosystems program [e.g., ECE 6123, ECE 6435, ECE 6126].

In the interest of uniformity and of fairness in grading, questions written by Information, Communication, Decision, and Biosystems Group faculty members for students in other areas will follow the same procedures as above; that is, these students will answer their questions alongside those Systems students taking the same exam. In practice, students from other areas will generally have only one or two Systems questions, and hence they shall be allotted a one or two hour period for their answers.

Electronics/Photonics/Biophotonics Track (Dr. Helena Silva)

Approved by the Electronics/Photonics/Biophotonics division in Spring 2014

  1. The general exams will be given twice per year (January and May), in general, during the same week as the Systems general exams.
  2. Written Exams will be required on 6 courses (PhD) or 3 courses (MS-Plan B) from the courses/areas listed below. General Exams may not be taken on independent study courses.
  3. Exams will be closed books / closed notes / no computers, phones, etc.
  4. There will be an oral component of the general exam (typically as part of the prospectus defense).
  5. An average score of at least 70% will be required for passing the written exams taken by a student (exact passing score is instructor’s decision depending upon exam difficulty).
  6. Ph.D. Students will be required to finish their exams in their first 4 -6 semesters.
  7. Students will have only 2 attempts to pass their exams. The student needs to repeat only the failed exams.
  8. Students will have to take the exams either all at the same time or in blocks of three courses at a time.

Courses/Areas for non-track-specific Electronics/Photonics/Biophotonics Exams

A student will select the 3 (MS) or 6 (PhD) courses for the written exams in consultation with his/her advisory committee. For both MS and PhD exams, at least one course each should be chosen from each area.

AREA ONE: EM/Photonics (choose at least one course)

  1. ECE 5201: Electromagnetic Wave Propagation / Bansal
  2. ECE 5231: Fundamentals of Photonics / Taylor

AREA TWO: Semiconductor/Optoelectronic devices (choose at least one course)

GROUP 2.A (intended primarily for electronics/photonics students)

  1. ECE 5211: Semiconductor Devices and Models / Ayers, Anwar
  2. ECE 6222: Advanced Semiconductor Devices / Donkor
  3. ECE 5225 Electron Device Design and Characterization / Gokirmak
  4. ECE 5212: Fundamentals of Optoelectronic Devices / Jain
  5. ECE 5232: Optoelectronic Devices/ Taylor

OR GROUP 2.B (intended primarily for Bio-Photonics students: exam format determined by the instructor)

  1. ECE5101: Introductions to Systems Theory/ Luh
  2. ECE6111: Applied Probability and Stochastic Process/ Pattipati
  3. ECE6122: Digital Signal Processing/ Willett
  4. ECE6439: Estimation and Filter Theory/ Bar-Shalom
  5. ECE6121: Advanced Signal Processing/ Willett
  6. ECE 6125: Digital Image Processing/Javidi
  7. ECE/BME 6143: Image Recognition/Javidi
  8. BME 5210: Biomedical Optics/ Zhu

AREA THREE: Applications (choose at least one course)

  1. ECE 6243: Nanotechnology/ Jain
  2. ECE 5223: Nanophotonics/ Donkor
  3. ECE 6242: VLSI Fabrication Principles/ Ayerr
  4. ECE 6211: Antenna Theory and Applications / Bansal
  5. ECE 6212: Microwave Techniques / Bansal
  6. ECE/BME 6126: Optics for Biomedical Engineers/ Javidi
  7. BME 6420  Medical Imaging Systems/ Zhu
  8. ECE 6421 Advanced VLSI Design / Wang
  9. ECE 6095 Special Topics: Memory Devices and Technology / Silva
  10. ECE 6095 Special Topics: Solar Photovoltaic Energy Conversion / Bazzi
  11. ECE 6095 Special Topics: Metamaterials/Tonn

Biophotonics Track

For students pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in the Biophotonics track, grades of B and above are required in the following courses:

BME 5100: Physiological Modeling (life science course required for BME Major)
BME 5210: Biomedical Optics: Tissue optics, instruments, and imaging
BME 6450: Optical Microscopy and Bio-imaging
BME 6500/ECE 6301: Biomedical Instrumentation I
ECE 5101: Introduction to System Theory
ECE 5201: Electromagnetic Wave Propagation
ECE 5231: Fundamentals of Photonics
ECE/BME 6125: Digital Image Processing
ECE/BME 6126: Opticcs for Biomedical Engineers
ECE/BME 6143: Image Recognition

Computer Engineering Track (Dr. John Chandy)

The computer engineering exams is four hours long and consists of four questions listed below. Corresponding courses in which the subject matter is tested are also listed. The problems are at the level of advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate courses in the area, but are not necessarily restricted to the material covered in these specific courses. Both Ph.D. and M.S. Plan B students are required to pass this section.

Computer Architecture

  1. CSE 4302 Computer Organization and Architecture
  2. ECE 5302 Computer Architecture

VLSI Design and Digital Logic Design

  1. ECE 3421 VLSI Design and Simulation 

  2. ECE 3401 Digital Systems Design 

  3. ECE 6421 Advanced Digital VLSI Design


  1. CSE 4300 Operating Systems
  2. CSE 5300 Advanced Computer Networks
  3. CSE 5306 Advanced Operating Systems
  4. ECE 6095 Advanced Storage Systems


  1. CSE 3500 Algorithms and Complexity
  2. CSE 5500 Algorithms


Power and Energy Track (Dr. Shalabh Gupta)

The general exams for the power and energy track will be administered over a 2 day period at 4-hour blocks.  All Ph.D. students must pass 7 exams among listed courses.  They must take at least 3 exams or can take up to 4 exams from day one courses.  After that, they need to take either 3 or 4 exams to fulfill 7 exams from day two courses.  M.S. plan B students must pass 4 exams (2 exams in day one and 2 exams in day two).  An entire block of exams should be taken together.  The exam courses are listed below:

Day One: M.S. & Ph.D. Exams on Core Courses

  1. ECE 5101: Introduction to Systems Theory
  2. ECE 6111: Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
  3. ECE 6122: Digital Signal Processing
  4. ECE 6439: Estimation and Filtering Theory

Day Two: Ph.D. Exams on Power and Energy Courses

  1. ECE 3211: Power Electronics
  2. ECE 3231: Introduction to Modern Power Systems
  3. ECE 6437: Computational Methods for Optimization
  4. ECE 6095: Renewable Energy Power Conversion Systems
  5. ECE 6095: Electromagnetic Transients in Power and Energy Systems
  6. ECE 4095/6095: Solar Photovoltaic Energy Conversion
  7. ECE 4095/6095: Electric Machines and Drives
  8. ECE 6095: Modeling and Control of Electric Machines and Drives
  9. ECE 6095: Converter Modeling and Control
  10. ECE 6095: Inverter Modeling and Control
  11. ECE 6095: Power Conditioning Systems
  12. ECE 6095: Advanced Smart Grid Technologies

Note: The “Power and Energy Track” general exam requirements will be revised by the end of April of each year.  Courses and requirements are subject to change.