MSME Comprehensive Exam Information

MSME Comprehensive Exam


What is the Comprehensive Exam?


The Comprehensive Exam in one of three options available to MSME candidates, for satisfying the Culminating Experience requirement for MS degree.  It is an alternative to the thesis (ME 299) or project (ME 295 A/B) option for satisfying the Culminating Experience option under "Plan B".   More details about graduation requirements are provided by Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations (GAPE) at


When is the Comprehensive Exam offered?


Every fall and spring semester, typically on the second Friday in February and the second Friday in September, unless otherwise announced.  Exact date and time are identified on the (online) application form.


How and when do I apply for an exam?


The deadline for applying for an upcoming exam is the last day of instruction in the immediately preceding fall or spring semester.  For example, one must apply in early May for an exam scheduled in September, and one must apply in early December for an exam scheduled in February.  The application form with exact deadline and date for the next available exam is online at


What are the eligibility requirements for taking the exam?


The student must have APPROVED Candidacy status before taking the exam, and 24 program units should have been completed before taking Comprehensive Exam.  Students on academic probation or disqualification are not eligible for the exam.  However, a student may apply for an upcoming exam after submitting his/her Candidacy Form and while some course units are still in progress.


How does the Comprehensive Exam option affect coursework units?


All MSME candidates must complete at least 30 program units.  Students who complete a project or thesis earn 6 units for those activities, so choosing the Comprehensive Exam option means that the student would be taking 6 units of other program coursework (approved by the Graduate Program Advisor) instead of project or thesis.


What is the scope of the exam?


The Comprehensive Exam is comprised of three components: one common component and two specialization components. The common component involves broad knowledge and skills in mechanical engineering analysis (as covered in ME 230). The specialization components assess knowledge and skills from specific mechanical engineering subjects.  In addition to the common component (from ME 230), the student chooses two subjects from the following list: ME 210, ME 211, ME 240, ME 250, ME 260, ME 273, ME 280.  Selections are made on the application form.


What is the format of the exam?


Each subject has unique stipulations and learning objectives, and examinees must thoroughly understand these in order to prepare properly for success on each exam component.  This information is provided at the following web page:


Whom should I see for guidance in preparing for the exam?


Each subject has a specific coordinator (identified below), who is responsible for working with the respective course instructors while preparing exam questions.  For each subject to be taken (ME 230 plus two elective choices), examinees are very strongly encouraged to visit the respective coordinator several weeks before the exam--even in the prior semester--to clarify exact scope and to solicit help with subject-specific studying.  Office hours are posted on the ME Department website, and students are also welcome to request meeting by appointment.



ME 210  Advanced Thermodynamics (Dr. Okamoto)


ME 211  Advanced Heat Transfer (Dr. Okamoto)


ME 230  Advanced Mechanical Engineering Analysis (Dr. Hsu)


ME 240  Rigid Body Dynamics (Dr. Lee)


ME 250  Precision Machine Design (Dr. Furman)


ME 260  Applied Stress Analysis (Dr. Yee)


ME 273  Finite Element Methods in Engineering (Dr. Agarwal)


ME 280  Automatic Control Engineering (Dr. Barez)



How long is the exam?


Each component of the exam is one hour long.  Typically a 4-hour block is designated (e.g. 9 AM to 1 PM) such that the different components can be coordinated appropriately for the respective examinees and proctors.


What is the threshold for passing?


For the Comprehensive Exam, the scores from all three exam components are pooled before determining pass/fail outcome.  A minimum level of proficiency is expected on each component, but exceptional performance in one component can help to offset lesser performance in another.  


How many times may I take the exam if I do not pass the first time?


In case of not passing upon first attempt, the exam may be repeated up to 2 times thereafter.  If after 3 attempts a student is unable to pass the exam, he or she is no longer eligible for using the Comprehensive Exam to satisfy the Culminating Experience requirement.  Plans thereafter would be discussed with the Graduate Program Advisor.  Students are also reminded that there is a 7-year time limit on all MS degrees, explained at:



What happens if I sign up for an exam but do not show up to take it?


Failure to appear for an exam counts as one of the allowed attempts, unless pre-approved for compelling reasons by the Graduate Program Advisor.



Must I pay tuition if I have completed all of my coursework but have not yet passed the exam?


No.  If all of the courses on one's approved Candidacy Form have been completed, a student is not required to register for subsequent classes in order to take the Comprehensive Exam, as long as he or she is still operating within the 7-year time limit for MS degrees.


Last Updated 2014 Dec 02