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Graduate Program

Core Qualifying Exam

During the first few semesters, the student focuses on obtaining a breadth of knowledge in computer science. Full-time students must complete all requirements for the core qualifying examination by the end of their third semester. Part-time students may take up to six semesters to complete the core qualifying exam requirements. The timing is measured from the student's semester of PhD program entry, regardless of whether the student is concurrently enrolled in another degree program. The only exception is that students in the accelerated BS-PhD program may begin the timing when they complete 128 credits.

In order to pass the exam, students must meet the grading criteria in a course in each of five areas. The grading criteria are:

  • Courses with a grade of B or greater may be counted.
  • Students must earn a total of at least 18.5 points in qualifying exam courses.
  • Points are awarded as follows:
    4.0 A
    3.67 A-
    3.33 B+
    3.0 B
  • Courses will be weighted equally, whether they are 4 credits or 3 credits.

Students who do not meet the grading criteria may take additional courses until the required grade is achieved. That is, of all the courses you have taken in a given area, we count the one course which has the highest grade. If you take multiple courses in an area, we do not sum the points for all courses.

Courses which may be used for the core qualifying exam are listed below. All students must pass Area 1, Area 2, and Area 3. Students may, in consultation with their advisors, choose any two additional areas from Areas 4-8. In general, when courses are offered at both the 4000-level and the 6000-level, only the 6000-level course is included on the list of eligible courses. In some cases, students who were enrolled at Rensselaer prior to joining the PhD program may have already taken 4000-level versions of courses whose 6000-level counterpart is a qualifying exam course. In this circumstance, up to two of the 4000-level versions of core qualifying exam courses may be counted toward the core qualifying exam.

Students who wish to count courses taken at other institutions toward the core qualifying exam should provide documentation about those courses (such as syllabi) to Terry Hayden. Terry will consult with faculty in the relevant areas, who will decide on the equivalency of the course and the grade.

Courses counted toward the core qualifying exam may not be counted toward the research qualifying exam.

Area 1: Theory (required)

Catalog courses

CSCI-6050 Computability and Complexity
CSCI-6210 Design and Analysis of Algorithms
CSCI-6220 Randomized Algorithms
CSCI-6963 Distributed Systems

Area 2: Operating Systems / Architecture / Network Systems (required)

Catalog courses

CSCI-4250 Computer Architecture
CSCI-6140 Computer Operating Systems

Note: CSCI-4250 is rarely offered. Students who get too low a grade in CSCI-6140 may contact Terry Hayden to arrange an oral exam.

Area 3: Programming Languages / Parallel Computing (required)

Catalog courses

CSCI-6360 Parallel Computing
CSCI-6430 Programming Languages
CSCI-6480 Theory of Compiler Design
CSCI-6500 Distributed Computing Over The Internet

Area 4: Robotics / Vision / Graphics (option)

Catalog courses

CSCI-4480 Robotics I
CSCI-6270 Computational Vision
CSCI-6490 Robotics II
CSCI-6530 Advanced Computer Graphics

Area 5: Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence / Database Systems (option)

Catalog courses

CSCI-4150 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
CSCI-4380 Database Systems
CSCI-6100 Machine and Computational Learning
CSCI-6390 Database Mining

Special topics courses (Last digit of course number is "x" because it is subject to change each semester)

CSCI-6962 Natural Language Processing

Area 6: Numerical Computing and Mathematics (option)

Catalog courses

CSCI-4800 Numerical Computing
CSCI-6800 Computational Linear Algebra
CSCI-6820 Numerical Solution of Ordinary Differential Equations
CSCI-6840 Numerical Solution of Partial Differential Equations
CSCI-6860 Finite Element Analysis
MANE-6660 Fundamentals of Finite Elements
MATP-4600 Probability Theory and Applications
MATP-4620 Mathematical Statistics
MATP-6600 Nonlinear Programming
MATP-6610 Computational Optimization
MATP-6620 Combinatorial Optimization and Integer Programming
MATP-6640 Linear Programming

Area 7: Applied Computer Science (option)

Warning: Many courses in this area require background knowledge in areas other than computer science. Do not enroll in these classes unless you have the necessary pre-requisities.

Catalog courses

BCBP-6310 Genetic Engineering
BIOL-4620 Molecular Biology
BIOL-4760 Molecular Biochemistry I
BIOL-4770 Molecular Biochemistry II
BIOL-6260 Advanced Cell Biology
BIOL-6640 Proteomics
BIOL-6690 Advanced Molecular Biology

Special topics courses (Last digit of course number is "x" because it is subject to change each semester)

CSCI-696x Introduction to Computational Finance
CSCI-696x Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

Area 8: Web and Data Science (option)

Special topics courses (Last digit of course number is "x" because it is subject to change each semester)

CSCI-696x Xinformatics
CSCI-696x Data Science
CSCI-696x Semantic eScience
CSCI-696x Internet Economics
CSCI-696x Foundations of Data Science

Area 9: Cryptography and Network Security (option)

Catalog courses

CSCI-6230 Cryptography and Network Security I
CSCI-6240 Cryptography and Network Security II

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