Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam

Important Note: There are two different sets of requirements below labeled “New Requirements” and “Previous Requirements.”  The “New Requirements” must be followed by all students who enter our program on, or after, January 1, 2013.  Students who entered our program before this date have the option of choosing to follow either the “New Requirements” or the “Previous Requirements.”

New Requirements (see important note above):

Read the general requirements in the Graduate Catalog. The student's Ph.D. committee will administer this exam. The comprehensive exam will have two parts:

  1. [Written portion]  A written exam encompassing topics from the Ph.D. candidate’s research area.  This may be an exam covering material from a 6000 level course sequence, if this is appropriate to the candidate’s research area.
  2. [Oral Portion]  A presentation to the students’ Ph.D. committee (and open audience) giving an overview of the proposed Ph.D. research.  If desired, the student’s Ph.D. committee may administer an oral exam at the completion of the presentation, and the committee may require an accompanying written proposal of the Ph.D. research.

Timing requirements for completion of the comprehensive exam:

The comprehensive exam must be completed within a certain time period, which is specified below. In the timing requirements that follow, semesters of enrollment will be counted from the first semester the student enrolls as a full-time student in our master’s or doctoral program but will not cover semesters in which the student was enrolled as a probationary student.  In addition, summer semesters will not be counted towards the semesters of enrollment.  Furthermore, define the “beginning of the semester” as the time period from the start of the semester until the end of the third week of the semester.

  • For students who enter our graduate program without a master’s degree in mathematics or statistics:
    • The Ph.D. comprehensive exam will be administered after the student has completed at least 75% of the coursework required for a doctoral degree (as listed on the student’s approved plan of study), but no later than the beginning of the student’s ninth semester of enrollment.  Upon satisfactory completion of the written portion of the exam, the student’s Ph.D. committee will administer the oral portion of the exam within thirty days.  A student who fails the exam may re-take the exam no sooner than twelve weeks after the student’s first attempt and no later than the beginning of their tenth semester of enrollment.  If the comprehensive exam is not successfully completed by the end of the student’s tenth semester of enrollment, then the student will no longer be eligible to be on the doctoral program in our department.
  • For students who enter our graduate program with a master’s degree in mathematics or statistics:
    • The Ph.D. comprehensive exam will be administered after the student has completed at least 75% of the coursework required for a doctoral degree (as listed on the student’s approved plan of study), but no later than the beginning of the student’s seventh semester of enrollment.  Upon satisfactory completion of the written portion of the exam, the student’s Ph.D. committee will administer the oral portion of the exam within thirty days.  A student who fails the exam may re-take the exam no sooner than twelve weeks after the student’s first attempt and no later than the beginning of their eighth semester of enrollment.  If the comprehensive exam is not successfully completed by the end of the student’s eighth semester of enrollment, then the student will no longer be eligible to be on the doctoral program in our department.

Exceptions to the above exam schedule may be allowed by the department’s graduate policy committee after appeal by the student and due consideration by the graduate policy committee, but such an exception will be allowed only under extenuating circumstances.

The graduate catalog specifies the following: (1) the written portion of the comprehensive exam must be administered first, (2) the candidate’s Ph.D. committee determines if the student successfully completes the written portion of the exam, and (3) the oral portion of the exam is administered by the candidate’s Ph.D. committee after the successful completion of the written portion of the exam.  Besides the timing restrictions above and those mandated by the graduate catalog, the timing of the written and oral exams will not be constrained in any way.

  • Specific examples:  The written exam is not required to be administered in the beginning of a semester; the oral exam is not required to be administered in the beginning of a semester.

Previous Requirements (see important note above):

Read the general requirements in the Graduate Catalog. The student's Ph.D. committee will administer this exam. The written portion usually includes an examination over two one-year sequences at the 6000 level. For the emphasis in computational and applied mathematics, one sequence must be MATH 6601 (Numerical Analysis) and MATH 6602 (Finite Elements). The oral portion may cover any course work in the student's program.

(Revised 9/22/15)