As part of the Masters and Ph.D. program, students are expected to pass a number of qualifying exams. For the Ph.D. program, students must pass all three of their exams by the fall prior to their third year. At least one exam must be passed at the provisional Ph.D. level by the fall after their first year.
Masters students, on the other hand, need to pass two qualifying exams. Depending on their program, students may take either comprehensive exams (in a sequence for which a qual is not offered) or qualifying exams. (For example, Masters students in Statistics typically take the Statistics Qualifying Exam and a comprehensive exam covering the material in Applied Statistics, Math 282A-B.)
The department currently offers written qualifying examinations in seven (7) subjects. These are grouped into three areas as follows:
- AREA 1: Complex Analysis (Math 220A/B/C), Real Analysis (Math 240A/B/C)
- AREA 2: Algebra (Math 200A/B/C), Applied Algebra (Math 202A/B/C), Topology (Math 290A/B/C)
- AREA 3: Numerical Analysis (Math 270A/B/C), Statistics (Math 281A/B/C)
Exam grades are reported at one of four levels: Ph.D. Pass, Provisional Ph.D. Pass, M.A. Pass, and Fail.
As was stated above, a PhD student needs to complete three exams. However, one cannot just choose three of the above to statisfy the requirement. There are some restrictions.
- At least one qualifying exam must be passed at the Ph.D. level, another at the Provisional Ph.D. level and a third at the M.A. level.
- The Ph.D. level and Provisional Ph.D. level pass must come from different areas (the M.A. pass can come from any area)
- Of the three qualifying exams, there must be at least one from each of Areas 1 and 2.
- Algebra and Applied Algebra do not count as distinct exams in Area 2. That is, credit will only be given for one of those qualifying exams if both are taken.
For example, a Ph.D. pass in Real Analysis, Provisional Ph.D. pass in Complex Analysis, M.A. pass in Algebra would NOT satisfy this requiremen. But, a Ph.D. pass in Real Analysis, M.A. pass in Complex Analysis, Provisional Ph.D. pass in Algebra would, as would a Ph.D. pass in Numerical Analysis, Provisional Ph.D. pass in Complex Analysis, and M.A. pass in Applied Algebra.
Qualifying examination periods are held twice a year: Once in early September before the Fall quarter begins and once in late May of the Spring quarter. During any examination period the student may take as many exams as he or she likes. The qualifying exams are written and graded by the Qualifying Exam Appeals Committee (QEAC). The scores are brought before the QEAC and the grades are discussed. The final decision as to whether the student has failed, passed, or qualified is made by QEAC. This decision is based upon exam performance, and performance in exam cognate coursework, though the QEAC is free to consider additional circumstances in rendering its decision. The QEAC is to inform the candidate, within a period of three weeks from the last day of the exam, of its decision.
Students can request to see their exams after grading in order to find out what they did well/poorly on. Students who wish to see their exam for purpose of contesting the grading should be advised that there will be a very strong burden of proof needed to sustain a grade appeal on a graduate exam because of the nature of the exam writing and grading process. Such an appeal is most likely not going change the exam result.
Sample Qualifying Exams: