Comprehensive Core Exam

Note: The Comprehensive Core Exam is only available for students graduating under the following catalog years: 2003-2005, 2005-2007, 2007-2009

Scope and Purpose

The Comprehensive Core Exam (CCE) Plan is an alternative for the culminating activity of the MS degree in Computer Science. The Examination Plan requires successful completion of 30-units of in-class course work, and passing the Comprehensive Core Exam (CCE), a written exam covering material from the following four graduate core courses:

CSCI 620 - Computer Architecture

  • Syllabus

CSCI 630 - Software Engineering

CSCI 640 - Operating Systems

CSCI 650 - Design & Analysis of Algorithms

The CCE is based on the published OFFICIAL syllabi of the courses, not on any particular offering of them.

The CCE demands that a candidate be able to assimilate, synthesize and apply a formidable body of knowledge across the scope of the degree.  The CCE tests mastery of definitions, concepts, and approaches covered in the graduate core courses and in supporting undergraduate material. It may have questions integrating material across courses.

Preparing to Take the Exam

The decision to follow the Examination Plan should be made as early in the M.S. student's program as possible. Students planning to take the CCE should abide by the following procedure:

  • Twelve (12) of the 30-units of in-class work required in the Examination Plan consist of the four graduate core courses listed above. Students are expected to have passed each of the four core courses prior to taking the CCE.
  • Fill out the CCE Registration Form. Sign up for the CCE with the department office. See the Important Dates page for deadlines.
  • Review for the CCE.
  • Take the CCE. See the Important Dates page for the exam date in a given semester.
  • Receive CCE results. The CCE will be graded in a timely manner.

A student must be enrolled during the semester in which the CCE is taken. Questions on the CCE will be at the level of difficulty of a final exam in a course. While some questions may ask for material from multiple courses to be integrated, testing the student's ability to perform such integration is not a major goal of this exam. Students should thoroughly review notes from the core courses to ensure that the student is in command of important definitions, formulas, relationships, and methods, but a major study program should not be necessary.


The CCE is given twice each academic year. Administration of the exam is coordinated by the department's Graduate Committee. The CCE is a written, closed-notes, closed-book exam. The total time students spend taking the exam is normally not more than five hours.

Evaluation of Results

Students must pass all exam segments that cover the four graduate core courses in order to pass the exam. Faculty who contribute segments of the CCE typically grade the exams they wrote. The Graduate Committee is informed whether a student passed or failed each segment and the committee compiles these results. The Graduate Committee presents the results to the assembled faculty in the next department meeting. The department notifies students whether they have passed or failed the CCE. CCE materials remain property of the department and will not be returned to the students.


Passing the CCE partially satisfies the requirements of the Examination Plan of the M.S. degree in Computer Science.

If a student fails the CCE on their first attempt, they have the option of retaking it one final time. Failure of the CCE on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the Graduate Program in Computer Science.