Rice University logoGeorge R. Brown School of Engineering
 
Civil and Environmental Engineering
 

Preliminary Exam

All Ph.D. students must take the preliminary examination after completing the core course requirement, usually at the end of the first year in the graduate program. Because the courses provide a basic level of preparation and breadth, the preliminary exam has broader latitude to probe synthesis and high-level thinking skills, rather than serving as a check on coursework. 

Civil engineering graduate students will be required to take their written preliminary exam on Friday before the classes of the spring semester, 1.5 years from the fall semester they enter into the program, and take the oral exam on Friday the first week of classes.

For the CE sub-track, the format of the Preliminary Exam is as follows:
Day 1: Written Exam (closed book)
    2 hours - Applied Mathematics
    2 hours - Structures/Mechanics/FEM/Related Areas
    2 hours - Structural Dynamic Systems
   2 hours  - Optional Area:  Mechanics/System Reliability/Bridge Eng./Earthquake Eng/ Nonlinear continuum mechanics and Nonlinear FEM/ Struc.Control & Identification/Computational Nanoscience
                   (Optional area can be chosen by the student) 

Day 2: Oral Exam 1 hour per student

Civil Engineering faculty examine/question the student about the written exam and additional broad set of topics to assess the students thinking ability, comprehension, problem solving skills and overall aptitude in the field of structural engineering, structural mechanics, and system reliability.

For the EES sub-track, the examination consists of three parts:

Day 1: Written Exam
Part I: A three-hour exam on fundamentals of environmental engineering covered in the core courses. This exam does not necessarily test understanding of the specific materials covered in these courses, but knowledge in physical, chemical and biological principles of environmental engineering, as well as mathematics skills that are necessary to solve problems discussed in the courses above. Recognizing that students taking the exam may not have taken all core courses, students will have the flexibility to answer four (4) out of all sets of questions posed by the professors of the environmental engineering and science program. Unless otherwise stated, Part I is closed-book.

Part II: A 3-hour open-book exam in specialized areas of environmental engineering. The purpose of this exam is to evaluate the student’s depth of knowledge in subjects relevant to his or her research topic. The student will be given one comprehensive, in-depth question by the thesis advisor. The graduate committee will exercise quality control of the exam questions to ensure that these questions are not a simple extension of those in Part I.

Day 2: Oral Exam
Part III: The oral examination takes 30-45 minutes per student. It is a general exam on common topics of environmental engineering, with the intent to probe for high-level thinking across broad themes. A faculty committee will preside over the exam and each committee member may ask questions. The questions may or may not be related to those in the written exam.

Students will be informed of the results after all students have finished the oral exam. Students who fail the exam either fully or partially can petition for retaking the exam. Petitions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the department chair, who will consider the advice of both the Preliminary Exam and Graduate Studies committees. Students who fail the preliminary exam twice will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program.