MATH 701 - Ph.D Preliminary Examination Part B.


(These regulations take effect beginning in September 2007. Students who entered the Ph.D. program prior to that may follow the old rules.)


The Part B Examination is an oral examination whose purpose is to ensure that a student getting a Ph.D. degree from our Department has a good understanding of at least two areas of Mathematics and Statistics that go beyond the basic knowledge required for the Part A Examination and provide background for the intended area of specialization.

Deadline to Pass the Part B Examination

This examination has strict deadlines. Only students who have successfully passed the Part B examinations prior to the completion of their Ph.D. 3 year will be permitted to register at the Ph.D. 4 level. Only in exceptional circumstances will the deadline be relaxed, with a formal letter to this effect from the Graduate Program Director acting in consultation with the Chair of the Department and the Progress Tracking Committee (or at least the advisor) of the student.


A Standing Committee on the Part B Examination shall be set up by the Graduate Affairs Committee and shall consist of a Chair and two other members. This subcommittee will be responsible for approving the choice of examination topics for each candidate, for designating the members of the student's Examining Committee and for arranging the place, date and time of the examination. The Part B Subcommittee will assume total responsibility for informing students of deadlines both impending and expired concerning the Part B Examination.

Students, in consultation with their Progress Tracking Committee, will propose to the Part B Subcommittee two topics and a principal examiner for each one. Each topic should be based on a one-semester 600 or 700 level course, or on similarly advanced material defined by a book, a designated part of a book or a collection of research papers. A reasonably detailed description of each topic, countersigned by its prospective principal examiner, will be submitted in writing to the Part B Subcommittee. This should be done no later than the beginning of the student's second semester at the Ph.D.3 level.

The Part B Subcommittee will inform the student in writing of its approval of the proposals. Later, with at least 6 weeks of advanced notice, the student proposes a range of dates for the examination to take place. The examination should be scheduled at least 3 months before the beginning of the first semester of Ph.D. 4. The Part B Subcommittee will then set up an Examining committee consisting of the 2 principal examiners, two additional examiners, and a member of the Part B Subcommittee who will act as Chair of the Examining Committee. The members of the Progress Tracking Committee will usually serve on the Part B Examining Committee. Principal and additional examiners need not be from the department and can include post-doctoral fellows. The examination will be scheduled in consultation with the participants and with the help of the Graduate Program Secretary.

Examination Format

The oral exam will be open to members of the Department but not to students other than the candidate. The exam will be conducted mainly by the principal examiners, each in turn taking between 20 to 40 minutes to examine the student. The other examiners may seek clarifications. Notes, books, or other materials are not allowed. Questions will largely deal with the specifics of the assigned topic (e.g. statements, ideas of proofs) but may also relate to the broader context (e.g. examples, counter examples, elementary results). In this second respect, questions may be asked whose answers do not specifically lie in the assigned material but are nevertheless considered fundamental by the examiners for a good understanding of that material. After the principal examiners have finished their questioning, the other members of the Examining Committee may pose further questions. The Examining Committee will then meet privately to determine by a majority vote whether or not the student has passed the examination and to record the decision on the departmental form. The principal examiners will meet with the candidate to provide constructive feedback soon after the examination has taken place.

Repeated Examination.

In the case that a student fails in one or both topics presented, he or she may repeat the examination once with the same Examining Committee (or one diverging from the original committee by as few members as possible), and this within the following four months, at a time to be approved by the Part B Subcommittee. Students who fail at the second attempt will be asked to withdraw from the program.

Georg Schmidt, GPD
August 24, 2007
Last edited by on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 15:35