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Comprehensive Exams

Approved by the Mathematics Graduate Faculty on October 11, 2013
Revised and approved by the Mathematics Graduate Faculty on

January 12, 2016

General Description

All graduate students in the Department of Mathematics are required to pass a comprehensive exam before they may be awarded a master’s degree in mathematics. A comprehensive exam consists of four courses, two of which must be a complete sequence of Math 501/502, Math 511/512, 522/523, 538/539, and 543/544; and the other two can be any courses of the rest of sequences and Math 515, 517, 532, 533, 536, 537, 546, 561, 563, and 580. Math 597 needs approval of the Department Head.

Each test is one hour. Thus a comprehensive exam will be from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM with the following schedule:  

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Course I
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM: Break, you may want to refresh for the next exam.
  • 10:30 AM – 11: 30 AM: Course II
  • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM: Lunch and Break. You may want to refresh for the next exam.
  • 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Course III
  • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM: Break, you may want to refresh for the next exam.
  • 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Course IV

Comprehensive exams are given three times per year. In a Fall semester, it will be one week before the deadline for submitting a comprehensive exam to the Graduate School. In a Spring semester, it will be in February; summer in June or July.  

To prepare for a comprehensive exam, a student is encouraged to contact their instructors who taught them the courses that the student chooses for the comprehensive exam.

Passing of the Comprehensive Exam

To ensure a fair grading, comprehensive exams will be graded anonymously, that is the name of a student will be blocked before the exam is graded by a graduate faculty. The grade of a comprehensive exam is either Pass or Fail. Students must make at least 70 points (70%) on each of their four courses to pass the comprehensive exam. Students passing the comprehensive exam will be notified by a congratulation letter from the Department Head. A comprehensive exam report will also be submitted to the Graduate School.

Failing of the Comprehensive Exam

As long as less than 70 points (70%) is earned for one course, the student will receive a grade of Fail for the entire comprehensive exam. The student will be notified by email from the Department Head. A comprehensive exam report will be submitted to the Graduate School and the student will not graduate that semester.

Students who fail the comprehensive exam may request to retake the exam in the subsequent semester (including summer). The student only needs to retake the courses that he/she failed.

If the student still fails the second time, the student may request the third time to retake the comprehensive exam. The third time requires the approval of the Graduate School. If a student requests to take the comprehensive exam third time, in writing, the student needs to explain why he/she should be given the third chance, and the measures that he/she will do to guarantee a success third time. The Department Head may reject the request if he/she believes the explanation and measures given by the student do not warrant a success for the student taking the comprehensive exam third time. If the Department Head believes the explanation and measures are sufficient, he/she may submit a recommendation to the Graduate School along the student’s request.