Qualifying Exams

The qualifying exams are offered twice a year: once in August, before the beginning of the Fall semester, and once in January, before the beginning of the Spring semester.The student may take the exam in each area twice before the start of the student’s second semester in the PhD program. Thus, students have four opportunities to pass the exams: August (the one immediately on arrival), January in the first academic year; August and January in the second academic year.

The qualifying exams must be completed successfully before the specialty exam may be attempted. Students should let the graduate committee know which exams they intend to take by the middle of the semester preceding the desired exam session.

The qualifying exam in each area is

  • two hours long
  • out of 30 points
  • based on the corresponding graduate core course.

In consultation with his or her advisor, a student selects exams from the following options:

The exams are given on two days during the week preceding the first week of classes each semester. On each of these two days two exams are given, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

The student’s subject score in an area is the highest qualifying exam score he/she gets in that area. The student passes the qualifying exams if the total of any three of his/her subject scores is 50 or above.

For a full-time PhD student, failure to pass the qualifying exams by the start of the fourth semester in the PhD program results in the termination of his or her PhD program. Students who are receiving funding as Graduate Teaching Assistants must pass the qualifying exams by January of their second year to be eligible for funding in their third year.

It is not required that all the exams be taken for the first time during the same exam session.  Consulting one's advisor to develop a sound plan for when to take the exams is recommended.

While the graded exams remain in the department files, a student can ask the department secretary for copies of his or her own graded exams. Getting copies of one's exams and discussing them with the graders is especially important if an exam has to be retaken.

Copies of past exams are available from the department secretary, or can be downloaded here. Note that some older exams may contain problems on subjects no longer required by the current qualifying exam syllabi.

Schedule for the Qual Exam on Spring 2020 (Room 730 Phillips Hall)

01/06/20 (Mon)

01//07/20 (Tue)

01/08/20 (Wed)

01/09/20 (Thu)

01/10/20 (Fri)


Analysis (10:00am-12:00pm)


Aplied Math (10:00am-12:00pm)


Topology (1:00pm-3:00pm)