Qualifying Exam

Qualifying Exam

Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam (QE) has a twofold defined purpose of evaluating a student’s advanced knowledge of industrial and systems engineering (ISE) through graduate coursework and assessing a student’s research propensity through a scholarly literature review. The QE is the first step for Ph.D. students to complete before they can form a dissertation committee and proceed in the program.

The exam takes place at the end of the first year of Ph.D. student study. Students entering the Ph.D. program in the Fall semester will complete the QE at the conclusion of the following Summer term, while students entering the Ph.D. program in the Spring semester will complete the QE two Summer terms after starting the program.

All students who enter the Ph.D. program directly from a Bachelor’s degree program may elect to defer their Qualifying Exam to their second year, but all students may only take the Qualifying Exam once. Eligible students who wish to defer the QE must formally request approval from the Graduate Program Committee before the second semester of their Ph.D. program. Please email grad-advisors@ise.ufl.edu, ISE Graduate Advisor, for more information.

Examination Dates (for 2024)

Literature Review Proposal Due: February 16, 2024
Literature Review Paper Due: August 1, 2024
Literature Review Presentation Deadline: August 15 & 16, 2024 (Tentative)

Content and Organization of the Exam

The QE consists of two distinct parts: a Coursework Assessment and a Literature Review. Students must pass both parts of the exam in order to continue their Ph.D. program.

Coursework Assessment

This part of the QE is intended to assess advanced knowledge of ISE acquired through graduate coursework during the first year of study. With the help of the faculty advisor, a student selects three courses from the following pool of 5000- or 6000-level courses, with the minimum requirements of two A- grades and one B+ grade or higher in their selected courses, to pass the coursework assessment. Some courses may not be offered every year; students must fulfil the coursework requirements with courses that are available during the year of their QE.

Currently available courses:

  • Data Analytics for Systems Monitoring (DASM)
  • High-Dimensional Data Analytics (HDDA)
  • Stochastic Modeling and Analysis (SMA)
  • Linear Programming and Network Optimization (LPNO)
  • Human Factors in Systems Design (HFSD)
  • Systems Safety (SS)

Additional courses starting from Fall 2023:

  • Fundamentals of Mathematical Programming (FMP)
  • Discrete Optimization Theory (DOT)
  • Applied Probability Methods in Engineering (APME)

If the above minimum grade is not achieved, a ​written examination (considered as a makeup exam to pass the coursework assessment) is required for each unsatisfied course. If a student does not earn the required grade(s) in a QE course, they may consult with the faculty member responsible for teaching the course to identify any shortcomings and to discuss how performance could be enhanced for the makeup examination. Makeup written exams are administered in the middle of August within one week of the student’s Literature Review presentation date. If a student does not pass the makeup written exam, the student will receive a fail for the Coursework Assessment and be dismissed from the Ph.D. program.

Any native MS/ME student who is admitted to the UF ISE PhD program must address the QE coursework assessment in one of two ways:

  1. Completing 3 PhD-level courses from the above QE course list while in the first year of the PhD program, or
  2. Passing a written examination of course content for any QE course(s) taken previously as a native MS/ME student

Any student who is accepted to the UF ISE PhD program, who completed an ME/MS at another University, and who is seeking to apply transferred credits for courses included in the QE coursework assessment, must pass a written examination of course content as an alternative to address the QE coursework assessment.

Literature Review

This part of the QE is intended to assess research potential through a literature review.Students will take a research course (i.e., an independent study course with two to three credits, as an optional approach) during the Spring or Summer term of the first year of study, under the supervision of an advisor/mentor. The student, with help from the advisor/mentor, will select a topic for the Literature Review, and the student will submit a proposal to the QE committee, formed by the Graduate Program Committee Chair with input from the committee membership. The proposal will be evaluated by the QE committee, and initial feedback will be provided, after which the student will prepare both a written literature review on the proposed topic and an oral presentation for the QE committee. Requirements for these documents are outlined below:

Proposals should be one page in length and include the following information: student and advisor/mentor names; title, abstract, a clear and concise research question; an initial set of references for the research (10-12 papers).

The final literature review report should be 6-12 pages in length (1.5 spacing, 12-point font, 1” margins) and represent a stand-alone, readable document. Appendices are allowed but may not be reviewed by the QE committee.

Instructions on the Literature Review Presentation are as follows:

  1. All presentations will be held in person.
  2. Students may show up 5 minutes before their assigned presentation time to set up for their presentation, and presentations should begin at precisely the assigned time.
  3. The maximum length of oral presentations is 45 minutes (suggested a 30–45-minute presentation), students will be cut off after this time.
  4. A Question-and-Answer session lasting approximately 30 minutes will immediately follow the oral presentation.

During the presentation, the advisor should not answer any questions for the students but can ask questions to the students. The student’s advisor will be released from the committee discussion and vote. To determine whether a student passes or fails the literature review portion of the QE, the GPC, in consultation with the Department Chair, sets a threshold level of performance yielding a passing grade. This threshold is dependent upon faculty expectation of necessary and sufficient performance as well as the overall performance of the class during any given examination year. The QE committee will assess the student’s research potential and render an outcome of a pass or conditional pass. Any student who receives a conditional pass will be required to provide a written response to the QE committee within one week, satisfying the enumerated condition(s), to receive a pass. If a conditional pass is not satisfied, the student will be dismissed from the PhD program.

Evaluation of the Literature Review

  • Purpose – Assess a student’s research propensity/potential.
  • Standard criteria to be applied in the evaluation of the review:
    1. student’s method for identification of papers;
    2. Student’s general knowledge of the topic area;
    3. Student understanding of specific aspects of various studies:
      • the research question/problem being addressed
      • the research methodology
      • limitations of the study
    4.   Student understanding of strengths and weaknesses of each study;
    5. Student understanding of the relationship among studies;
    6. Student identification of gaps in existing knowledge and potential research topics; and
    7. Student capability to accurately answer questions on the content of the review and research.

After Passing the QE

After a student has successfully passed both parts of the Qualifying Exam, the ISE Graduate Advising Team will enter the completed milestone in the student’s academic record. The student can then begin forming the doctoral dissertation committee. A student who passes the QE but does not have a current dissertation advisor must secure an advisor within one academic term of having passed the QE. Please email grad-advisors@ise.ufl.edu for assistance with this process.