Qualifying Exams

Every PhD student must complete a Qualifying Exam sometime during their first year. Students who enter the program with a Masters degree are traditionally required to take their qualifying exam in January of their first year. Students who enter with only a Bachelors degree may take their exam in January, but traditionally take their qualifying exam in May of their first year.

In the MAE Ph.D. program at Cornell the specific format of the exam can change from year to year, but in general the Q-exam is an oral examination of your basic knowledge in your field of interest given by a committee of three MAE professors.

Current exam choices are as follows:

  • Solid Mechanics
  • Biomedical Mechanics
  • Dynamics and Control
  • Thermal Sciences
  • Fluid Dynamics

If you are unsure what exam best fits your research area, you should talk to your advisor, or to any of the professors you are interested in working with.

Because the specifics of the exam can vary between years and between fields, we encourage you to talk to directly to Professor Kirby and to visit his blog (link below).


SIGMA Mock Q Exams

Before each Q-exam the Sigma committee organizes mock Q-exams to help first year students prepare. The mock exams are given by senior graduate students in each field, and attempt to simulate the actual exam as best as possible. This should not be the only time or the first time you study, but instead should be considered as a dry run late in your studying to help you get comfortable presenting an to help you realize any final gaps in your knowledge.

To help you prepare Sigma collects study material from every student immediately after they have taken the Q-exam. This includes general resources, as well as a list of the questions that students were asked during their actual exam. You can find this, and more up-to-date detailed information about the Q-exam at the links below.


Useful Information