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Home > Graduate Ph.D. Programs >

Graduate Ph.D. Preliminary Exam

Preliminary Examination Topics

Passing the Exam

All doctoral students must pass a written preliminary exam.

Students entering our Ph.D. program must pass the prelim within three semesters. Students entering into our M.S. program and then switching to the Ph.D. program must pass the prelim within one year of the program change.

Exam Schedule

This exam is offered twice annually, in mid January and in late August, before or just after the start of classes.

Exam Description

The purpose of the exam is to certify background in the conceptual bases for a few critical areas of undergraduate mathematics. The preliminary exam tests fundamental understanding of calculus and linear algebra.

The exam consists of twelve questions, about four from linear algebra and eight from basic calculus. Students must choose ten questions to be graded. The passing score will be approximately 75 percent and students are given four hours to complete the exam.


If a student submits a score on this GRE test that is at the 80th percentile or higher for that examination, he or she will be excused from having to take the preliminary examination.

The level of difficulty of questions is similar to that of the GRE mathematics subject test, but the topic emphasis is quite different.

Sample Preliminary Exam

Previous Exams

Spring 2016

Spring 2015

Fall 2014

Spring 2014

Fall 2013

Spring 2013

Fall 2012

Spring 2012

Fall 2011

Spring 2011


Fall 2010

Spring 2010

Fall 2009

Fall 2008

Spring 2008

Fall 2007

Spring 2007

Fall 2006

Spring 2006


Fall 2005

Spring 2005

Fall 2004

Spring 2004

Fall 2003

Spring 2003

Fall 2002

Spring 2002



Fall 2001

Spring 2001

Fall 2000

Spring 2000

Fall 1999

Fall 1998

Spring 1998


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