Research Proficiency Examination

Every Ph.D. student needs to take the RPE (also called the Comprehensive Exam) by the end of their second year at PSU.

  • Years are counted from the term in which the student enters the Ph.D. program.
  • Extensions to the two-year period may be granted by the student's advisory committee in consultation with the CS director of graduate studies. In particular, part time students may routinely obtain an extension to three years. (Note: University limit is 5 years if entering with MS degree and 7 years otherwise.)

The exam consists of a written research paper and an oral presentation:

  • The student is assigned a 3-person committee created by her/his advisor, and approved by the CS director of graduate studies.
  • The committee members are knowledgeable in the research area. If appropriate, one member of the committee may be a faculty member from a different department or institution.
  • The student conducts research on a problem and writes a paper that is in a form appropriate for publication at a conference or workshop in that research area.  Standard formatting can be used as appropriate for that area.
  • The student schedules the RPE presentation with the 3-person sub-committee.  Presentations can take place at any time during the academic year, and need not be coordinated with each other.
    • The presentation is open to all and the paper is circulated to the faculty a week ahead of the presentation
  • The presentation is 45 minutes for the talk followed by 15 minutes for questions. The format is typical technical talk that first motivates the problem, then describes related work, followed by the research contributions.
  • The 3-person committee decides on a Pass/Fail/Retake:
    • A pass needs to be agreed upon unanimously by the committee.
    • In case of a retake, the student needs to address criticism and retake the exam within six months.
    • The exam can only be taken twice.

Relevant Documents

  • RPE Checklist - To be filled out at the time of application to the RPE. 
  • RPE Result Report - Used by the Committee to report the result of an RPE Examination.