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Graduate Study Guidelines

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Selection of committees

A committee chair (thesis advisor) must be selected by each Ph.D. student before the end of the second semester (i.e., before the end of Academic Year 1). While this is a latest date, it is expected that most students will match with an advisor within their first semester.

The committee chair will aid the graduate student in selecting a Special Committee, which shall consist of a minimum of three faculty members and which will directly supervise the graduate study and research of a student. The committee chair, who is also usually the thesis advisor, represents the major field of Systems. The other faculty members represent two minor fields. This committee must be formed before the end of the third semester. Exceptions to the above requirements must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Failure to comply with the above requirement may result in a hold being placed on your registration by the Graduate School. A Special Committee Selection and Change form must be submitted to the Graduate School to establish a committee or change/add committee members. Forms can be printed from the Graduate School web site. A copy of all forms must be given to the Systems Graduate Field Assistant ( in Systems before submission to the grad school.

Selection of a Special Committee (including the thesis advisor) is a mutual agreement between a student, the chosen faculty members and the DGS. During the pursuit of the degree, changes in circumstances may cause the student and/or faculty members to desire the termination of this commitment.


The qualifying exam, or Q exam, is required for Systems Ph.D students. This exam helps the Special Committee determine your ability to pursue doctoral studies, continue in a program, and tailor an appropriate program of study. The Q Exam is taken between Aug and Jan of Year 2.

A-Exam and Residence Units

The A-Exam must be scheduled before the beginning of the seventh semester unless a special petition is filed. The A-Exam should be scheduled well in advance of the exam and the appropriate form (Schedule of Examination form) MUST be submitted to the Graduate School at least seven (7) calendar days ahead.  After the A-Exam, the Committee Chair must check the relevant box on the Results of Examination Form. The form must be turned into the Graduate School within three (3) days after the exam.

A registration (residence) unit is typically awarded to a student who has been registered and enrolled for the full semester. Six registration units, two of them after the A-Exam, are the minimum requirement for the Ph.D. degree. At least four registration units are required for a non-thesis master requirements must be earned from full-time, academic-year study on the Ithaca campus.


The B-Exam (thesis defense) is scheduled with the same form as the A-Exam and must be submitted to the Grad School at least seven (7) calendar days ahead.