The University of Arizona

Graduate Info

The Qualifying Exam (Portfolio)

The Qualifying Exam takes the form of submitting a student portfolio to the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) for review at the end of your 5th semester. The Computer Science Faculty review portfolios for PhD students to ensure that students are capable of completing the rigorous work of doctoral study in a timely fashion.

To provide guidance on your progress, you will work with your faculty advisor to produce a portfolio in your 3rd semester. This will allow the faculty to review your progress in advance of the 5th semester portfolio, and give you time to shore up your portfolio and address any concerns the faculty might have.

You will submit a complete portfolio by the end of your 5th semester. The Faculty will check that you have continued to make progress and dealt with any shortcomings identified at the 3rd semester review. A satisfactory review means you have passed your qualifying exam and are eligible to continue in the program subject to continuing satisfactory progress evaluations. The department reserves the right to remove from the program students who fail to achieve a positive review at the 5th semester.

What to submit

The Portfolio Check Sheet (linked below) provides details on the components of the porfolio. Please complete the check sheet and include the applicable components listed in the table below.

Portfolio Check Sheet

Portfolio Component 3rd Semester Students 5th Semester Students
Statement of purpose Required Required
Curriculum checksheet (part of portfolio check sheet) Required Required
Curriculum vita Required Required
Evidence of Research Ability/Achievement   Required
Two letters of recommendation from CSC faculty   Required
Other letters of recommendation   Optional
Other Materials   Optional

When to submit

By April 7 or November 15 (Nov 7, starting Fall 2012) of the end of the 3rd semester, students should submit their current portfolio for preview. The GAC will comment on student progress and, if needed, make recommendations on what is needed to improve.

The portfolio should be submitted by April 15 or November 15 of the 5th semester after the student enters the program. The GAC may grant extensions of up to two semesters for students who have many deficiencies when entering the program or in cases where extenuating circumstances make it impossible to complete the portfolio requirements on time. Extensions will not be granted simply because a student has not completed his or her portfolio requirements.

Portfolio Evaluation

Portfolios will be considered twice a year. The GAC will review portfolio materials and solicit opinion from the Faculty, then make the recommendation of pass or fail to the faculty. The Faculty will then discuss and vote on the committee's recommendation. The decision is final and no appeal will be allowed. The student will receive a written report that explains the decision.

Well-prepared students are allowed to submit their portfolio before the 5th semester or prior to any extension deadlines. If the portfolio is rejected, and the student's extension deadline has not expired, the GAC can send the portfolio back without going through the faculty vote, with written instructions to improve it in particular ways. The GAC will exercise this option at most once for a student. Students are discouraged from submitting portfolios early to "test the waters." This is a bad strategy because the GAC is apt to send the portfolio back with fairly stringent written instructions.