General Examination

The General Examination (GE) takes place annually after the conclusion of the Spring semester. Exact dates differ every year but will be communicated to students during the Spring semester. If you enter the Ph.D. program in the Fall semester, you are required to take the GE during your first year of study. If you enter the program in the Spring semester, you are required to take the GE during your second year of study. If you enter the Ph.D. program in the Fall semester with a Bachelor’s degree only, you may petition the Graduate Committee to take the GE in your second year of study. These petitions should be addressed to the Ph.D. program coordinator before the end of the Fall semester, and will be either approved or rejected based on the recommendation of the graduate committee.

Content of the exam

The General Examination seeks to determine whether students have working knowledge and understanding of (i) Deterministic Modeling and Optimization and (ii) Probability and Stochastic Processes. In particular, GE questions will rely heavily on the material covered in the following four first year courses (ESI 6420 – Fundamentals of Mathematical Programming, ESI 6417 – Linear Programming and Network Optimization, ESI 6321 – Applied Probability Methods in Engineering, and ESI 6546 – Stochastic Modeling and Analysis), along with any material that constitutes prerequisite knowledge for those courses. Students are expected to have assimilated concepts of these classes to answer exam questions, thus showing that they have truly mastered the courses material. While mastery of the courses materials is essential, several problems on the exam will require students to display creativity by applying the knowledge gained in first year classes to applications/problems they might not be familiar with. Further, some optimization questions might be set in the context of stochastic systems and some stochastic questions might require students to solve optimization problems. For this reason, students are expected to have a thorough understanding of the courses material and are recommended to read related reference books to master the subject material. The Graduate Committee will communicate to students a list of relevant topics as well as a list of reference materials to prepare for the GE.

Organization & Outcomes

The General Examination is administered through two four-hours written exams (with recourse to an additional oral exam in situations described below). The first written exam is centered on Deterministic Modeling and Optimization, while the second revolves around Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes. These exams are typically held on consecutive mornings. The Graduate Committee will determine the result of this examination, with input from faculty members who assisted in grading the GE questions, based primarily on the written answers to the GE. The committee may also factor in (to a far lesser extent) a student’s performance in the GE classes, or research activities performed at the University of Florida. This deliberation results in one of three outcomes: (i) Pass, (ii) Fail, or (iii) Fail with Retake. Students who receive a Pass, are allowed to continue with their PhD studies. Students who receive a Fail are dismissed from the Ph.D. program. Students who receive a Fail with Retake are required to take an additional oral examination (AOE). Students are notified of this outcome by letter/e-mail. This notification contains information about how students can review their graded exams and the appeal procedure that is available to them.

The additional oral exam is administered between 5 to 15 days after the student has been notified of the GE written exam results. This oral exam can only result in a Pass or Fail outcome. It is administered by a subcommittee of faculty members appointed by the graduate committee. This subcommittee asks questions to the student in an interactive manner. This exam gives the committee an opportunity to examine the student’s mastery of the GE material, including those topics where the written exam pointed to students deficiencies. Students should expect the examination to last roughly 90 minutes, though shorter and longer examinations are possible. Following the conclusion of all additional oral examinations, the Graduate Committee deliberates one last time, taking into account its previous discussion, the performance of the student during the exam, and the input from the faculty members who administered it. Students are notified by letter/e-mail as to whether they passed or failed the GE. This notification also contains information regarding the appeal procedure available to them.

The funding of students who receive a Fail (following either the written exam, or the additional oral exam) is no longer guaranteed past the point at which they receive it.