The oral qualifying exam is a two-hour examination covering two graduate-level topics selected from the seven graduate-level topics listed below. It is given by a committee consisting of two members of the graduate faculty (one for each topic). The purpose of the exam is to determine whether a student has mastered the relevant beginning-level graduate coursework to a point where they can continue on to advanced-level coursework and research leading to their Ph.D. (Many students first take the corresponding graduate courses, and then ask the course instructors to administer the exam.)
The oral qualifying exam must be passed before the beginning of the spring semester of the second year of study.
- Select two topics from the seven graduate level topics listed below.
- Officially it is the DGS who appoints an exam committee. Identify the two faculty members that you would like on your committee; confirm your selections with the DGS; then invite the two faculty members to sit on your Qualifying Committee. (If one or both decline, then repeat until you have a committee of two.)
- Discuss the exam syllabus with each committee member: it is important that you understand well what the examiners expect you to know, so that you can prepare well. Many students first take the corresponding graduate courses, and then ask the course instructors to administer the exam. (In this case, the exam topics often align closely with those covered in the course.)
- Let the DGS Assistant know that you are preparing to take the Qualifying Exam, and let him/her know who will sit on the committee.
- Schedule the date, time and location of the exam with your committee. (It is recommended that you do this at least two months before the exam.) Give the DGS Assistant this information AT LEAST ONE WEEK before the exam date.
- A day or two before the scheduled exam, email your committee members a reminder of the date, time and location. (It is appreciated if you cc both the DGS and DGSA (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com).
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:
- Passing at the master's level.
- Failing the exam entirely.
- 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.
- Students who ultimately do not pass the oral qualifying exams at Ph.D. level will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
- Decisions of the committee will be entered on the Math Dept Oral Qual Form.
Each tab below describes the 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 typical oral exam questions probe the student's ability to apply general theory to specific examples.