Qualifying Exams

The following is an extract from the AAE Graduate Program Rules and Guidelines.

To demonstrate to the faculty that a student is qualified to pursue the PhD program in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the student is required to take and pass qualifying examinations. These qualifying examinations are offered once each semester (except Summer) approximately 2-3 weeks after the start of the term. The student must take the qualifying examination during the first two to three semesters after his/her admission to the PhD program. Students who earned their MS in AAE at Purdue must take the PhD qualifying exam within the first two semesters. Other students must take the exam within the first three semesters.  A student earning their MS in AAE but switching major discipline areas for their PhD may take the qualifying exam within the first three semesters.

These examinations are prepared and graded by the appropriate area committee of the School. The scores and a recommendation are forwarded to the student's major professor, and to the Graduate Committee for further action. The results of the Graduate Committee action are passed on to the faculty.

Examinations are offered in each of the following areas:

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The student shall be required to take the examination in their major area of interest and another in one of the remaining five areas (“minor” area). As an option, a student may elect, with the approval of his/her advisory committee, to replace the minor area qualifying examination with two graduate courses, in one of the minor areas indicated above, using an approved list (see below) from the minor area committee. These substitute courses must be taken following satisfaction of the requirements for the MS degree, and the student must receive a grade of B or better (a B- is not sufficient) in both courses. In a case where the student is in the last semester of MS study and takes more credits than required for the MS plan of study, these minor area courses will be accepted. Selection of the two-course option, or the examination for the minor area, must be made at the time the student originally schedules the major area exam. Switching from one option to another will not be permitted after this time.
In the event that a student fails one or more of the examinations, he/she must repeat that examination or examinations the next time they are offered. If, on the repeat examination, the student still fails to achieve acceptable scores, he/she will be required to terminate his/her studies in this school at the end of that semester.

Math course policy:

As of Fall 2020, there is no longer a Mathematics qualifying exam. PhD and D-PhD students must take a total of three math courses (9 credit hours) as a replacement to the previous Mathematics qualifying exam:

  • Two courses (6 credit hours) may be taken during the MS degree.  (Students earning an MS degree at another university may count 6 credit hours of graduate level math or statistics courses; mathematics courses offered by engineering departments will be considered on a case by case basis and must be approved by the Chair of the Graduate Program, who may consult the Math Committee as needed.)
  • One math course (3 credit hours) must be taken beyond the courses required for the MS degree and must be on the list of approved math courses for PhD students. This course must be taken while the student is a PhD student
  • The grade earned in the one math course that must be taken as a PhD student must be a B or better (a B- is not sufficient)
  • Petitions to add courses to the lists may be submitted to the Math Committee. The following are initial lists of acceptable courses:
    • MS math courses:  Any 50000 or 60000 level MA or STAT course, or PHYS 60000/60100, or CHE 63000/63200, ME 58100, or ME 53900
      • (MA 59800 and STAT 59XXX “Topics,” “Seminar,” “Reading,” “Independent Study” or similar courses must be approved on a case by case basis)
    • PhD math courses: Same as the list of MS courses, except MA 52700/52800, STAT 51100, and ME 58100 are not allowed, because they provide an insufficient level of depth.



(updated 11/2022)

(Ph.D. Students)

The following is the list of approved courses from which the student must select to be used in lieu of the minor area exam.


AAE 511, 512, 514, 517, 518, 519, 520, 521, 556, 590 (Plasma and Electric Discharges), 590 (Molecular Gas Dynamics), 590 (Nonequilibrium Hypersonic Flows), 613, 624, 626, AAE 69000/ME 69700 (Numerical Methods for High-Speed Flows)

ME 509, 510, 513, 515, 517, 526, 533, 597 (Fluid Dynamic Stability), 597 (Applied Engineering Acoustics), 608, 610, 611, 613, 614, 615


AAE 550, 551, 560, 561, 590 (Air Transportation System), 668*

ME 553, 571


AAE 507, 508, 532, 575, 590 (Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics), 590 (Space Traffic Management), 590 (Applied Control in Astronautics), 590 (Saltellite Constellation and Formation), 607, 632, 690G (Astrodynamics Navigation and Guidance), 690S (Adv. Signals and Systems Satellite Navigation), 690X (Orbital Perturbations)


AAE 561, 564, 567, 568, 590 (Multi-Agent Systems and Control), 590 (Aerospace Eng Probability and Est), 590 (Estimation, Control and Optimization Laboratory), 590 (Modern Avionics), 666, 668


AAE 535, 537, 538, 539, 590 (Electric Propulsion), 590 (Rocket Propulsion), 590C (Advanced Energy Solutions), 690 (Computational Combustion)

ME 500, 501, 505, 506, 525, 526, 533, 538, 585, 625, 697

NE 563

(In addition, we require at least one of the courses taken in lieu of the Propulsion Qualifying Exam be taken from AAE).


AAE 546, 547, 550, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 558, 590 (Mechanic Behavior of Materials), 590 (Dynamic Behavior of Materials), 590 (Mesoscale Failure of Aerospace Materials), 590 (Manufacturing Advanced Composite Materials), 590 (Experimental Characterization of Advanced Composite Materials), 590 (Data Science in Mechanics of Materials), 646, 654, 690 (Modeling Damage & Strengthening Mechanisms in Materials), 690 (Multiscale Structural Mechanics)

ME 559, 563, 569, 612