Qualifying Exam

Qualifying exam (QE) is an inherent part of the Skoltech PhD programs that normally takes place about 2 (3) years after the student is admitted to the Program. QE is conducted by the PhD Program Committee for each student individually. QE for Materials and Engineering PhD program consists of two parts:

  • Research presentation, 15 min (part ‘R’)
  • Homework report, 15 min (part ‘H’),

both accompanied/followed by the questions and answers up to 30 min (part ‘A’), so that overall duration is up to one hour.

Homework presentation means the report on the knowledge of two sections of the QE program. Typical sections cannot be fully reported in 15 min. In this case a single topic per each section must be delivered thoroughly, whereas for the rest of topics the student must be ready to give a concise answer if being explicitly asked during exam. If student cannot give immediate answer to up to three questions during the exam, he/she has one extra hour to provide those answers in written. Slides can be presented to show equations, graphs and other relevant information. Particular sections are selected, for each PhD student, by his/her research advisor and communicated to the student a week before the exam through the Chair of the PhD Program Committee. Delay in this communication gives the student the right to reschedule the QE.

Grading takes into consideration three components:

(R), where methodology, workability, and research communication skills are assessed, as relevant to the PhD project;

(H), where the theoretical knowledge of the subject, technical skills, and educational communication skills are assessed, as relevant to the program;

(A), where the overall background in the field, cross-disciplinary knowledge in theory and methodology are assessed, as relevant to the PhD project and program.

QE is graded within the standard Skoltech A-F grading system. Each component, R, H and A, is graded by the Committee as good, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory. The total grade is initially set to ‘A’, but then each “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” downgrades it by 1 point or 2 points, respectively. According to the Skoltech PhD Policy, failure at QE does not permit the student to continue doctoral studies.

Qualifying exam program