Carnegie Mellon University

Quaifying Exams

The Qualifying Examinations are conducted once a year, in January, and must be taken after students have been in the program for three semesters. The objective is to assess the student's ability to do interdisciplinary research, based on sound knowledge of technical and social processes, good analytical methods, and the ability to structure and analyze problems inengineering and policy in a way that appropriately integrates the required knowledge, methods,and judgment. The levels of synthesis and evaluation to be demonstrated in these examinationsgo beyond those expected in most courses, although the core sequence (19-701 through 19-705)are aimed at developing and exercising this level of problem solving.

The Qualifiers consist of two parts discussed below: a research paper (Part A) and an extended take-home examination on an applied problem in policy analysis (Part B). All students will be expected to take both Part A and B of the exam at the regular time unless they have successfully petitioned the Graduate Education Committee for an exception by the end of the first month of their third semester.

The Part A Reserach Paper

For the EPP Part A , the student must prepare an original research paper that addresses a problem in technology and policy in which the issues of technology play a central role. This paper is expected to demonstrate the student's ability to structure and perform research on problems in engineering and policy, including the ability to apply formal analytical tools insuch research. The typical paper requires approximately one year of preparation, in parallel with regular course work. In preparing this paper, students are expected to seek the assistance and supervision of their faculty advisor and other members of the faculty. Considerable studentinitiative is expected in this process. The paper may be based on a joint M.S. project preparedunder the supervision of faculty members from EPP and other departments.

Students who have prepared such a piece of work prior to joining EPP may elect to use this work with the approval of the Graduate Education Committee. However, the student mustdemonstrate that the work is his or hers and not the product of a group effort in which he or sheplayed primarily a supervisory role, and that the work was done after he or she had obtained anundergraduate degree.

Students must have the topic of their paper and draft abstract approved in the summer, at the end of their second semester, and give a preliminary oral presentation of their paper to thefaculty in early fall. To obtain the preliminary approval in the summer, the student prepares aone-page prospectus that must be approved by three members of the EPP faculty, reviewed bythe Graduate Education Committee, and then distributed to all members of the EPP faculty. The final paper must be less than 5,000 words in length, and must be submitted to the department for distribution to the faculty on a prescribed date in January, a few weeks prior to the oral examination date. At the examination, the student makes a 15- to 20-minute oral presentation of the paper and is then questioned by the faculty. Faculty questions may relate to the specifics of the paper, as well as to related but more fundamental material that forms the basis of the paper topic or the methods used.

The Part B Take Home Exam

Part B of the Qualifying Examinations occurs soon after the Part A paper is submitted in early January. The objective of Part B is to examine a student’s ability to structure an unstructured policy problem on their own, and to select and apply appropriate problem-solving techniques. All students appearing for the Qualifier are presented with a problem in technology and policy, and given five days to prepare a written response. Examination problems are carefully constructed so as not to give a significant topic area advantage to any particular student.

Several outcomes of the Qualifying Examinations are possible. These are:

1. The student passes both parts of the examinations at the Ph.D. level.

2. The student passes one or both parts at the M.S. level, but not at the Ph.D. level. In this case,the student can take an M.S. degree. However, the option is also open to retake theexamination(s) one more time when next offered. Students receive individual guidance onwhether they should plan to retake the examination or leave the program with an M.S.  Students leaving with an MS degree must have a final version of the Part A examination paper approved by their advisor or the department head.

3. The student fails one or both parts. Such students are almost always advised to withdraw from graduate studies in EPP. They may, however, elect to retake the failed examination(s) onemore time when next offered.

Students who retake the Qualifiers must do so the year after the first attempt. Students who have failed one or more parts of the Qualifying Examination normally do not receive graduateassistantship support while waiting to retake the examination.