Amended Rules for Incoming Fall 09 and after Ph.D. Studnets


The Ph.D. written qualifier exams in Computer Science are designed to test knowledge at the undergraduate level.  We expect our graduate students to possess the same level of understanding of basic computer science as Lehigh undergraduates who major in computer science.


For CS Ph.D. students entering in the Fall 2009 or later, the following rules amend the existing policies:

1.  Students must take and pass four written qualifier exams in Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, Algorithms, and Theory.  Course credit may no longer be used to substitute for taking a written exam.

2.  Students have two opportunities to take and pass each exam.  After failing any of the exams for a second time, the student will not be permitted to continue in the Ph.D. program.  In addition to passing all four exams, the student must achieve a score of "High Competence" in at least two of the exams.

3.  The written qualifier exams will be offered in the Spring of each year, no sooner than one week after the date of the last final exam in regular Lehigh courses.  The date(s) of the written qualifiers will be announced no later than December 1st of the preceding year.  The formats (open/closed book) and reading lists for the exams will also be announced by December 1st.  Sample qualifier exams will be made available for all four topic areas on the CSE Department website.

4.  Students must take all four written qualifier exams for the first time at the end of their first Spring semester at Lehigh.  This requirement includes students who enter Lehigh during the Spring semster.  The second, and final, attempt to pass an exam, if needed, must take place at the end of the student's second Spring semester at Lehigh.

5.  Not taking the exam shall be regarded as equivalent to failing the exam.


Advice for Ph.D. students concerning written qualifiers:

1.  Student petitions to override the formal rules will be considered only in extraordinary circumstances.  Heavy workloads or lack of understanding of the rules are not considered extraordinary circumstances.  Petitions will be reviewed by the CSE Qualifier Committee and, upon the committee's recommendation, must be approved by the Director of Computer Science Graduate Students, the Chair of the CSE Department, and the Associate Dean of the College.

2.  Sample questions for the qualifiers will be provided online at the CSE Department website.

3.  Students are encouraged to consult with an advisor to decide whether taking or sitting in a relevant undergraduate course is a good strategy to prepare for a particular qualifier.

4.  Students are encouraged to study in groups to prepare for the exams.

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