The Qualifying Exams
The qualifying exam is part of the process used by the Mathematics
Department to satisfy the
Graduate School requirements
for the Master of Arts degree.
This examination consists of two components:
- Written exams in basic analysis
and linear algebra
Oral exams on two graduate-level topics
The written qualifying exams
on basic analysis and linear algebra (at undergraduate level)
are administered in August (just before fall term begin),
January (just before spring term begin) and
May (after the end of the spring term).
The topics covered by the exams are given in the syllabus lists:
Recent written qualifying exams
Students who do not pass the exam should work to become more prepared to retake
the exam or remedy their deficiencies through coursework and faculty mentoring.
Students are normally expected to pass both the basic analysis and
linear algebra written exams by May of their first year.
A Pre-qual Prep (PQP) program is offered to help students review and
prepare before the written exams.
2. The oral qualifying exam is a two-hour examination on two
graduate-level topics given by a
committee of two members of the graduate faculty.
The two graduate level topics for the oral qualifying exam
are chosen from the following list of seven:
These links describe syllabus topics and suggested reading for each.
The amount of material covered on each topic corresponds roughly to the
content of a one semester introductory graduate level course.
Many of the typical oral exam questions probe the student's ability to
apply the general theory to specific examples.
The oral qualifying examination may not be taken before the student has
passed the written qualifying examinations.
- The oral qual is usually.or in the summer
It must be passed before the beginning of the spring semester
of the second year of study.
The process for setting up the oral qual exam:
- Select two topics from the list of seven.
to have the DGS appoint an exam committee. You may list any preferences or
requests for Profs. for the exam.
- You will be informed by the DGS on the Profs for the exam. You can
then contact the Profs to work out the date and time for the exam. The exam
usually takes place in a faculty office.
When you talk to the professors who will give you the exam, make sure you understand
what they expect you to know.
When you are agreed on a date and time for the exam, contact the
DGS-Assistant to give them the date and time, AT LEAST ONE WEEK before the
It is good to email your examiners a day or two before the exam to make sure they
Students that do not ultimately pass the oral qualifying exams at Ph.D. level
will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
The purpose of the oral qualifying examination is to determine if the
student has mastered relevant beginning-graduate coursework at a level
needed to continue on to advanced-level coursework and research leading to
the Ph.D. (with the preliminary exam coming at that stage).
There are several possible outcomes of the oral qualifying exam:
- Passing both topics at the Ph.D. level - the qualifying exam
requirements are then complete.
- Falling short of passing one or both topics at the Ph.D. level will
be categorized into two levels:
The committee may decide to allow
students who do not pass a topic at the Ph.D. level to retake the
exam (in front of the full committee) once more.
- Passing at the Master's level.
Decisions of the committee will be entered on the
Math Dept Oral Qual Form.