DAIS PhD Qualifying Exam Process (Revised Aug. 2022)

Revision on the DAIS PhD Qualification Process (Effective on Sept. 1, 2022)

As all the students and faculty have returned to campus in Fall 2022, the DAIS qual written exam will no longer be virtual starting from Fall 2022 and will be given in a classroom. The exam would otherwise be similar to those exams given in the previous two years as detailed below.

Written exam (Four hours):

  1. Professors who participate in this Fall’s DAIS exam will be responsible to give questions.  There will be more than 10 long questions from the following four research fields: DB (database systems), DM (data mining), IR (information retrieval), and IE (information extraction) & Text Mining.  There will be a reading list of research papers available to you approximately four weeks before the written exam.
  2. Each examinee is expected to answer 4 long questions, with each worth 10 points (40 points in total).   (Note: If more than 4 questions are answered, the committee will randomly choose 4 to grade.)
  3. Each long question is expected to be answered in approximately 60 minutes.  Long questions are designed to test the mastery of in-depth knowledge on specific topics and the capability of solving some open problems.
  4. The written exam will take 4 hours (i.e., 240 minutes) in Open Book, Open Notes, Open Web style and will be given in a classroom. The examinee should answer the questions independently without communicating with anyone else. If an examinee finds any question ambiguous, the examinee should interpret it in any reasonable way, write down the assumed interpretation, and proceed to answer the question based on the assumed interpretation.
  5. Double-blind grading rules are enforced for the written exam. The DAIS Qual Exam Coordinator would assign each examinee a unique numerical identifier, which the examinee should write down on every answer sheet to enable anonymous grading. The identities of the examinees would not be disclosed until all the exam questions have been graded when the DAIS faculty would meet to discuss the qual exam results.

Oral interview (up-to-one-hour one-on-one meeting with non-advisor):

  1. Each examinee needs to send by e-mail of his/her CV, unofficial UIUC transcripts, research plan, and a set of presentation slides to the interview professor at least two days before the scheduled interview time. At the interview, each examinee needs to present his/her research interest, progress so-far and research plan.  Each examiner needs to raise questions and make a judgement on the capability of research, research potential, and thinking on-feet of the candidate.   The interview time is expected to be 20 minutes to one hour, depending on the need and the progress of the interview.

Decision process: Pass, additional oral exam, conditional pass, and fail:

  1. The DAIS Faculty will meet to discuss and determine the result of a qual exam after finishing the grading of all the examinees.
  2. The result can be (1) Pass, (2) Conditional Pass, or (3) Fail. In the case of Conditional Pass, the condition can vary, including, e.g., taking a particular course with a satisfactory grade or submitting a first-author research paper by a particular deadline.
  3. Occasionally, the DAIS Faculty may request a candidate to take an additional oral exam to further examine the candidate’s knowledge about a topic. In such a case, the candidate should be informed at least three days before the additional oral exam. The oral exam should be conducted with a Special Oral Exam Committee consisting of at least three DAIS faculty members closer to the candidate’s research area, excluding the candidate’s thesis advisor.  The Time, duration (expected to be one to two-hours), and contents of the oral exam should be determined by the Special Oral Exam Committee and made known to the candidate beforehand.  After the exam, the Special Oral Exam Committee should decide one of the following: (1) pass, (2) conditional pass (and what the condition is), and (3) fail.  
  4. The decision made by the DAIS Faculty will be submitted to the Office of Graduate Study in the Department of Computer Science, which will then decide whether to approve the decision and pass it to the candidate.