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Graduate Degree Examinations

M.S. Plan I Thesis and Defense

The student will prepare a written thesis under supervision of their faculty advisor until the work is judged ready for review by the faculty committee. The student must provide a copy of the thesis to each member of the faculty committee and allow each committee member at least two weeks to read and comment on it.If one or more committee members believe that there are significant errors or shortcomings in the thesis or that the scope or nature of the work is not adequate, the student must address these shortcomings before scheduling a defense. Once the committee members are in agreement that the thesis is ready to be defended, the defense may be scheduled by the student in consultation with the committee. Once the date of the thesis defense is determined, this information must be reported to the Graduate Dean, and one copy of the thesis must be filed with the Graduate Division no later than two weeks before the scheduled date of the thesis defense.

The thesis defense consists of an open seminar followed by a closed-door examination by the thesis committee. During the examination, the student is expected to explain the significance of the research, justify the methods employed, and defend the conclusions reached.

At the conclusion of the examination, the committee shall vote on whether the thesis and the student’s performance on the exam are of satisfactory quality to earn a University of California M.S. degree. A simple majority is required for a pass. Members of the committee may vote to make passing the exam contingent on corrections and/or revisions to the thesis. In this case, the committee will select one member, normally the graduate research advisor, who will be responsible for approving the final version of the thesis that is submitted to the Graduate Division. All members of the thesis committee must sign the final thesis.

M.S. Plan II Comprehensive Examination

Fulfillment of the Comprehensive Examination is the last requirement of the M.S. Plan II. A student may take the comprehensive examination once they have advanced to candidacy. However, it is important that the capstone requirement be completed at or near the end of the coursework for the Master’s degree; for most students, the exam is taken at the end of the fourth semester.

The M.S. comprehensive examination is an examination of graduate level Mechanical Engineering curriculum. The content of the exam will be specific to the courses taken by each student. The exam will comprise problems from tests or assignments given to the student while taking ME graduate courses towards the unit requirement. As such, exam problems will be graded by instructors of the graduate courses. The ME Graduate Group Chair will compile all available grades and, in collaboration with two ME faculty committee members, determine the outcome. Students must be registered or in current filing fee status to take the examination.

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination

All students in the ME Ph.D. program are required to pass a preliminary examination before submitting the Research Proposal and taking the Qualifying Examination. Students are encouraged to take the examination at the end of their first year of study, but are required to take it within the first two years of graduate study unless they successfully petition the graduate group chair. The preliminary examination will be offered and administered by the ME Graduate Group during the spring break each spring semester. A student wanting to take the exam must sign up for it with the ME Graduate Group no later than 4 weeks before the final day of classes of the semester before the exams will be taken.

The preliminary examination will cover undergraduate core material from three out of six ME focus areas:

  • Thermodynamics
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Heat Transfer
  • Dynamics
  • Controls
  • Solid Mechanics

The candidate may choose any three of the focus areas in the preliminary examination. The examination will consist of open-ended questions (with a minimum of two questions in each of the three chosen focus areas) to be posed and graded by a committee of ME faculty members familiar with the field (Preliminary Examination Committee). The format will be a 6-hour examination. The examination will be followed by a ME group faculty meeting to evaluate the performance of the candidate.

A complete list of rules and guidlines for students taking the exam is available here: Preliminary Exam Student Guidelines.

The official form used to document exam results is available here: Preliminary Exam Results Form.

Ph.D. Research Proposal and Qualifying Examination

After a student has completed all coursework and passed the ME Preliminary Examination, they are ready to prepare for the research proposal and qualifying examination. Before the qualifying examination, the student will provide to the degree committee a written dissertation proposal that describes his or her research topic, summarizes progress to date, and outlines what he or she proposes to do, why it is relevant, and what will be learned. The dissertation committee will receive this document no later than 2 weeks before the scheduled qualifying examination, which will include two parts: presentation of the proposal related to thesis research, and a structured oral examination. The student must be registered the semester of the exam.

Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy

After successful completion of the research proposal and qualifying examination, the student is given an application for advancement to candidacy. When it is filled out and signed by the graduate research advisor, the student pays a candidacy fee and submits the form to Graduate Studies. Upon advancement to candidacy for the degree, the faculty committee is then charged to guide the student in research and in the preparation of the dissertation.

Grad Student Handbook

For more information on any of the examinations or other processes, refer to the Mechanical Engineering Policies and Procedures


The following rubrics are available for each of the deliverables associated with the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, as well as for students' annual progress review. All documents except the annual review form are fillable electronically. On completion, the forms can be submitted to the engineering grad office.

M.S. Plan I Thesis and Defense Rubric

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Rubric

Ph.D. Reserach Proposal and Oral Qualifying Exam Rubric

Ph.D. Dissertation and Defense Rubric

Annual Progress Review and Report