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Home > Graduate Ph.D. Programs >

Ph.D. Oral Qualifying Exam

After passing the preliminary examination, each student must pass an oral qualifying examination. The qualifying examination covers graduate level material in mathematics, so students should plan their coursework in preparation for this exam.

Exam Topics

Topics are based on three four-credit graduate level math courses (MATH-6XXX or MATP-6XXX where XXX is not 990) and their prerequisites. At most one of these courses can be a special topics or readings course, unless a permission of the Graduate Committee is obtained to include more than one such a course.

The specific courses should be selected by the student in consultation with his or her academic advisor.

Ad Hoc Committee

The exam is administered by an ad hoc committee of three Math Sciences faculty, who adjudicate a passing performance. Normally these are the instructors of the three courses when the student took them. If any of these faculty are unavailable, or if more than one of the selected courses were taught by the same faculty member, then the academic advisor in consultation with the student will propose replacement faculty. The proposed replacement(s) must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

The ad hoc committee will have a chair, to be selected by the academic advisor in consultation with the student. The chair will report the result of the exam to the Graduate Committee and provide a summary record of the principal questions asked. The student’s academic advisor is encouraged to attend the exam as a non-voting observer, if he or she is not already a member of the ad hoc committee.


A student may appeal a decision made by an ad hoc committee. This must be made in writing to the Graduate Committee.

The Graduate Committee will adjudicate any appeals, based on information from the student and the chair of the ad hoc committee.

Students must pass the qualifier before the end of their fourth semester in the Ph.D. program. Two chances are given for passing the qualifier.


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