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Placement Exams

Dear Electrical Engineering Graduate Students,
First, I want to welcome you all to the next semester. If you are planning to take an upper division course in Electrical Engineering, we ask that you please carefully read the information on this page and the next concerning placement exams.
As many of you know, our department has a very diverse student population. Because of this, students come to USC to take our courses having very dissimilar backgrounds and preparation. The net result of this is that many students sign up to take classes for which they are not adequately prepared, even though they may have taken a course elsewhere that “sounded” like it was the equivalent of one of our pre-requisite classes. The consequences of such action often results in a student either receiving a low grade in a class, or having to revise his or her schedule the following semester. To avoid such unfortunate incidences, we have now instituted a new placement testing process, which will allow us to more correctly direct students to the proper classes in their area of interests, and for which they are properly prepared to take.
All new and continuing MS and PhD students wishing to take certain upper division (i.e., 500-level and above) courses are required to demonstrate their proficiency in the corresponding pre-requisite 400-level course(s). This will be done by a placement examination procedure in which basic and essential concepts will be tested at an appropriate level to determine one's preparedness for the follow-on course. You are not required to know many details of a given subject; rather you should be familiar with the fundamentals concepts. These exams should be taken by those students who have already taken a class or classes elsewhere that they believe covers most of the material in the corresponding USC pre-requisite class. All others should take the pre-requisite course here at USC.
To take a particular 500 level course, a student must either (1) take and pass the corresponding 400 level pre-requisite at USC, or (2) pass the corresponding placement exam in the corresponding course. In particular, for courses in the computer architecture area, proficiency in the corresponding 400-level courses in programming and computer systems organization (EE 457) is required; for courses in the networks area, proficiency in the corresponding 400-level courses in computer networks (EE450) and probabilistic methods (EE464 & EE465) is required; for courses in the VLSI area, proficiency in the corresponding 400-level course in MOS VLSI circuit design (EE477) is required; for Applied Linear Algebra(EE441).
Information about each placement exam, which course it is required for, and a list of the dates of when the exams are given can be found below. This should help you to prepare for an exam or to determine that you need to take pre-requisite courses at USC. You are allowed to take placement exams for as many or as few courses as you would like, depending on the 500-level courses you wish to take, without taking the 400 level pre-requisite courses. However, you may take the exam a maximum of two times but only once per semester for each pre-requisite course. If you do not pass after that, you must take the 400 level pre-requisite for that class.
To avoid late fees, you must register for at least one course and settle the fees. The results of the placement exam will be available and will be posted outside EEB. Once the results of the exam are available, you will be able to adjust your registration accordingly.
Passing a placement exam fulfills pre-reqs for taking graduate classes, but it does not automatticaly satisfy course requirements for specific degree programs, if any. Contact a faculty member for waivers and substitutions of these required courses for specific programs.
No exception will be given when a placement exam is given for a prerequisite course. All students must pass the placement exam or take the prerequisite course before taking more advanced courses.

Feel free to call us at 213-740-4447 if your questions have not been answered. We are looking forward to seeing you.