Design Q Exam

This document is not field policy and has not been subject to field vote. It is a working document provided by the ME DGS as a good-faith attempt to describe the current shared viewpoint of the DSC faculty. Per field rules, the exam committee decides the scope of the exam and questions are at the discretion of the committee.


Q exam name: Design

Field(s) to which it applies: AE, ME

Faculty that contribute to administration; approximate fraction of students that take this Q: Shepherd (100%) Selva (50%) Hoffman (50%)

Core physical principles covered: the DSC Q exam tests examinees in the sub-disciplines of applied mathematics, dynamics, and controls, exemplified by the content in MAE4735/5735 and MAE4780/5780. Courses such as MAE6700, 6740, 6760, 6770, and 6780 build on these principles, and students may find that taking a subset of these courses helps in preparing for the exam.

The exam committee decides the scope of the exam and questions are at the discretion of the committee; however, this list is provided as a good-faith outline of topics covered as a way to frame student’s broad study of dynamics, systems, and controls as a discipline.

Recommended textbooks for study: no textbooks are currently specified by the DSC faculty.

Classes required before Q exam: none

Classes strongly recommended before Q exam: MAE 4735/5735 and MAE4780/5780

Classes deemed helpful but not always taken before Q exam: MAE6700, 6740, 6760, 6770, and 6780

Typical Format: Field rules specify a format (see Q exam rules on this website) but afford the committee flexibility with many details within that format.¬† Students are urged to inquire with their exam committee with questions about format, because the DGS can enforce field rules only, he/she cannot control whether an individual committee structures a Q exam in a manner similar to the way it has in the past.¬† ASK THE DGS TO TELL YOU THE COMMITTEE CHAIR’S NAME AND TALK TO THAT PERSON IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE FORMAT WILL BE.

With these caveats, the committee conducting the Q-Exam for Dynamics and Controls has typically used a format as follows: Each student prepares a 10-minute presentation about a topic of his/her choice involving either:

  1. Current research at Cornell or
  2. A topic from a graduate class the student has taken or is taking


The goal of the presentation is to give the student the opportunity to demonstrate clarity, correctness and depth of understanding for an engineering topic. The presentations should have no more than 8 technical slides (overheads or computer projection), require no handouts, and be presented in a professional style. Its content must be at the level of a project for an advanced class, an expanded version of a difficult homework problem in an advanced class, or the student’s own research results.


After the initial presentation, the committee will take another few minutes to ask questions on the topic of the student’s presentation, followed by questions from each committee member within the general area of dynamics and controls. The examination will take approximately one hour. Generally, the questioning following the presentation is 13 minutes each for 3 examiners. Ahead of the exam, the chairperson of the committee divvies out sub-disciplines, e.g., applied math, dynamics, or controls, in which each examiner will formulate his or her questions. The examiner is asked to give the same question or sequence of questions to each of the examinees.