Doctoral Preliminary Oral Examination

The Ph.D. preliminary evaluation process is based on an oral examination and a letter of support from a Major Professor if the result of the oral examination is intermediate. Please refer to the Ph.D. Degree Requirements for a detailed description of the doctoral preliminary evaluation process.

Schedule and Application

If you intend to take the oral examination, please attend the Preparing for the Prelims workshop on Monday, November 6, 2017 at 11:00 am in 1127 Kemper Hall for instructions on how to register for the exams as well as suggestions on how to prepare. Please note that, as students taking the exam, you should not discuss the prelim problems with the examiners before or after the exams. Specific dates and times will be announced later once we complete the signup process.

Applications for the preliminary exam are due to the graduate coordinator by 4pm on the first Monday of December. The application can be downloaded here: Preliminary Exam Application


The oral Examination will be offered in the six areas listed below. Students are required to take the examination in at least two and no more than three areas. Scores of two areas leading to the best outcome will be used. One of these two areas should be a research area of their Major Professor.

1. Electromagnetics
This material is typically covered in courses EEC130A and EEC130B. Specific topics include:

  • Electrostatics and magnetostatics. Solutions of simple boundary value problems of Maxwell’s equations in free space and in dielectrics
  • Plane electromagnetic waves in lossfree and lossy media. Reflection and transmission of waves at boundaries (normal and oblique incidence)
  • Transmission lines (impedance, reflection, transmission, matching, power)
  • Guided waves in hollow rectangular metal guides

2. Physical Electronics
This material is typically covered in courses EEC140A-B and EEC145A. Specific topics include:

  • Solid-state basics: crystal structure, electronic states, vibrational states, optical properties, electronic and heat transport properties of solids (insulators, metals, and semiconductors)
  • Semiconductor technology: contacts, heterojunctions, pn junctions, bipolar transistors, and FETs
  • Optical devices: LEDs, photodiodes, and photoconductors

3. Active and Passive Circuits
This material is typically covered in courses E17, EEC100, and EEC110A-B. Specific topics include:

  • Complete time domain response of RLC circuits.
  • Analysis of RLC circuits in complex frequency domain and with phasors.
  • Analysis of Operational Amplifier circuits.
  • Large- and small-signal device models for MOSFET, JFET, and BJT
  • Large- and small-signal analysis of circuits containing active devices

4. Signals and Systems
This material is typically covered in courses EEC100, EEC150A, EEC150B, EEC157A, and EEC160. Specific topics include:

  • Discrete- and continuous-time linear time-invariant systems and their difference- and differential equation descriptions (EEC150A, EEC150B)
  • Discrete and continuous convolution (EEC150A, EEC150B)
  • Laplace transform, Z transform, and transfer functions (EEC100, EEC150A, EEC150B)
  • Fourier series and transform analysis of continuous-time signals (EEC150A, EEC160)
    • The discrete-time Fourier transform (DTFT) and discrete Fourier transform (DFT) for discrete-time signals (EEC150B)
    • Filtered signals (EEC150A, EEC150B), time-sampled signals (EEC150B), and amplitude-modulated signals (EEC160)
    • Sampling theorem for bandlimited signals (EEC150A, EEC160)
  • Bode plots (EEC100, EEC157A)
    • Block diagram representation of transfer functions, signal flow graphs, feedback, stability, root loci (EEC150A, EEC150B, EEC157A)

5. Computer Systems and Software
This material is typically covered in courses EEC70, EEC170, ECS60, ECS122, and ECS150. Specific topics include:

  • Assembly Language
  • Instruction Set Design
  • Instruction Pipelining
  • Memory Hierarchy
  • Data Structures: Arrays, Linked Lists, Graphs, Trees.
  • Algorithms: Sorting, Searching, Hashing, Optimization.
  • Basics of algorithm analysis
  • Process Management
  • File Systems

6. Digital System Design
This material is typically covered in courses EEC180A, EEC180B, and EEC172. Specific topics include:

  • Boolean Algebra
  • Combinational Logic
  • Sequential Logic: Flip-flops, Clocking
  • Programmable Logic
  • Finite State Machines: Implementation & Optimization
  • Memory Organization
  • Computer Arithmetic
  • Microprocessor-based System Design