The Technical Qualifying Evaluation
The TQE is a departmental exam which involves proving competence in the fundamentals based on performance in four subjects drawn from three groups in the EECS TQE subject grid. Two of the subjects must be from one group in the grid; this constitutes the depth component. The remaining two subjects must be from two different groups; this constitutes the breadth component. Note that most (but, perhaps paradoxically, not all) of the core Area I graduate subjects listed in the previous section can be used to satisfy the graduate portion of the TQE. The TQE is passed immediately and no oral exam component is required if a student gets either 4 A's, or 3 A's and a B.
If a student does not meet this grade threshold, they proceed to the next portion of the evaluation, in which follow-up oral exam(s) are taken in the area(s) of identified weakness until adequate competence is demonstrated. It should be emphasized that there is no shame in taking an oral exam; until relatively recently in our department's history all graduate students took an oral exam. The current TQE format simply removes this component of the exam for the subset of students for whom there is already evidence that their backgrounds are sufficiently sound to proceed.
For details on specific subjects, please see the EECS Department TQE grid (pdf).