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EE Prelim Q&A. Laurent El Ghaoui Chair, EE Graduate Study/Prelim Committee Dept. of Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences University of California, Berkeley , California 94720 E-mail : Fall 2012 EE Prelim Orientation August 14, 2012. The Prelim Oral Exam.

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ee prelim q a
EE Prelim Q&A

Laurent El Ghaoui

Chair, EE Graduate Study/Prelim Committee

Dept. of Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences

University of California, Berkeley, California 94720


Fall 2012 EE Prelim Orientation

August 14, 2012

the prelim oral exam
The Prelim Oral Exam

Statement of Purpose:

  • An advisory role in a student’s graduate studies program
  • Students must be able to demonstrate an integrated grasp of the exam area's body of knowledge in an unstructured framework


  • Offered the first week of every semester
  • Admits with B.S. must take by 3rd semester or earlier
  • Admits with M.S. must take by 2nd semester or earlier


  • 60-min. oral exam w/ a committee of 3 faculty examiners
ee prelim oral exam areas
EE Prelim Oral Exam Areas

Communications (Comm)

Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

Digital Signal Processing (DSP)


Integrated Circuits (IC)

Linear Systems (LS)

Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)

Optoelectronics and Photonics (Opto)

Semiconductor Devices (SD)

Semiconductor Processing (SP)

  • For syllabi and old exam questions, go to:

gpa distribution as of fall 2011
GPA Distribution As of Fall 2011
  • For students in the Ph.D. program, GPA must be >3.5 to take prelims

EECS Threshold (3.5)


Threshold (3.0)

the prelim decision process
The Prelim Decision Process


 6.0



Prelim Breadth


Attempt #1

Exam Comm


 6.0


 6.0

Attempt 1 + Attempt 2

Pass Rates

~ 90 - 95%

for the last 20 years

Attempt #2

Exam Comm


Advisor Input


 6.0



Department Goal

(100-  )%

Not Pass




tips to ease prelim anxiety
Tips to Ease Prelim Anxiety

Before the Exam:

  • Get plenty of white board Q/A practice, especially with old exam questions
  • If you do not know an examiner at all, ask for a 10 min. appointment to introduce yourself before the exam
  • If you need clarification with the syllabus, contact the exam group chair

During the Exam:

  • Browse over the exam questions before you start answering
  • It is ok to ask for clarification and hints during the exam
    • the examiner may streamline the question for you
  • Your answers don’t have to be perfect to get a pass
feedback is important
Feedback Is Important
  • In the unfortunate event of not passing the first attempt, take it as a wakeup call
    • the world doesn’t end
    • read the exam report in your student file
    • take steps to improve your understanding of the material, your ability to answer questions on a white board, your English skills, …
  • Inform EEGSA reps your exam feedback and complaints
    • faculty do listen to your suggestions
  • For petitions, start with the EE Graduate Office, 205 Cory Hall, (510) 643-8347
prelim pass fail stats overall
Prelim Pass/Fail Stats Overall
  • More students taking prelims in the fall
prelim pass fail stats per semester
Prelim Pass/Fail Stats Per Semester
  • More students taking prelims in the fall