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Resource: Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Proposal

Doctoral Candidacy Status

Candidacy status is an important attainment for doctoral students. The student must complete at least 10 dissertation hours in candidacy status before graduation. The condition for granting candidacy status by the Graduate College is the approval of a dissertation proposal by the student's advisory committee. The Department of Mathematics requires in addition that the student pass a Qualifying Exam before approval of the dissertation proposal.

Purpose of the Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to test students in their area of specialization in order to determine their readiness to write a dissertation in that particular area.

Schedule and Application Procedures

The Qualifying Exam should be taken when the student has mastered a significant body of material related to the area of specialization. This should be approximately at the beginning of the dissertation work. The exam is scheduled by the student's advisory committee in consultation with the student. The student must complete at least 10 dissertation hours in candidacy status before graduation.

Administration and Evaluation

The Qualifying Exam is given by the student's advisory committee. The chairman of this committee leads the examination process. The advisory committee also determines the result of the exam. The completed Qualifying Exam Report form should be returned to the graduate director.

In decisions resulting from a vote of the advisory committee (e.g., Qualifying Exam, dissertation proposal, dissertation defense, approving a dissertation), a pass requires that the advisor vote in the affirmative and that no more than one member of the committee dissent.

Format and Exam Topics

Part of the Qualifying Exam must be oral. It will cover material previously outlined to the student in the form of a reading list. This reading list will be prepared by the student's advisory committee and will consist of portions of books and research papers applicable to the student's area of specialization. The reading list will be given to the student at least two months prior to the exam.

Failure and Re-examination

If the student fails this exam the advisory committee shall notify the student of the conditions under which a second exam may be taken. If the student fails to meet the conditions imposed by the advisory committee, or if s/he fails the second exam, then the Graduate Committee may dismiss the student from the program. Appeals to such dismissal must be filed in writing with the Graduate Committee within 10 working days of the dismissal.

Dissertation Proposal

After the student has passed the Qualifying Exam and after an outline of the dissertation work has been prepared, the student must formally present the research plans to the advisory committee. A written dissertation proposal should be prepared and distributed to the advisory committee. The committee may require an oral presentation by the student. In any case the student should be present to answer questions. It is the responsibility of the committee to evaluate this proposal and determine whether the research plans will lead to an acceptable dissertation. The committee should discuss the extent to which the student will be permitted to use in the dissertation results of papers published (or to be published) with others. The dissertation proposal should identify any portions of the research project that are planned as joint work with others. Upon approval by the advisory committee of the dissertation proposal, the student should inform the graduate director and submit the Admission to Doctoral Candidacy form to the Graduate College.