Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is granted by the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the MATH Graduate Committee. A student must be admitted to candidacy within five years after admission to the doctoral program and at least six months before the date on which the doctoral degree will be conferred. Before a student applies for admission to candidacy he or she must have:

  • passed two written qualifying exams at the Ph.D. level and completed the four required courses with a grade of B or higher;
  • maintained a 3.00 or better GPA in all formal course work;
  • passed the Oral Candidacy Examination.

Please contact the Office of Graduate Studies to request information on preliminary exams, candidacy forms and the application for candidacy (j and ).

The Oral Candidacy Examination: The candidacy examination serves as an oral test of the detailed preparation of a student in the area of specialization. The candidate should have a deep understanding of relevant research literature in the field and the skills to carry out the research for the dissertation. The examination is taken before a student embarks on serious dissertation research. The examination assumes further advanced course work beyond that required for the qualifying exams. 

Planning the Exam: To plan the examination, the student, with the help and approval of the prospective dissertation advisor, must prepare a prospectus for the examination. This prospectus defines the primary and related areas to be covered in the examination. These areas should be identified by course citations, literature citations, tables of contents, or other appropriate means. The prospectus should be filed with the Graduate Office before the examination is scheduled, and should also record the proposed format for the examination. Typical formats for the examination are either a seminar-type presentation by the student (or possibly two such talks) on one or more recent research papers, followed by questions from the committee on the presentation and related background material, or else a more traditional oral examination on subjects or courses listed in the prospectus.

Examination Committee: The examination committee is appointed by the Graduate Director (or if the Graduate Director is unavailable for an extended period, his or her designated representative) upon recommendation of the student's prospective dissertation advisor. The Graduate Director may if necessary consult with one or more field committee chairs in the area of specialization. The examination committee must consist of at least three members, at least one (usually the prospective dissertation advisor) representing the area in which the student plans to specialize. Usually all three of these will be faculty members from the Mathematics Department, but when there is a good academic reason, the student can petition the Graduate Committee to allow one to be from a related department (such as physics or computer science) or an outside institution (such as another university, NASA, NIH, NIST, NCHS, etc.). Disputes regarding the makeup of the examination committee will be referred to the Graduate Committee. Each committee member must agree to abide by the prospectus for the examination.

Possible Outcomes: Upon completion of the examination, the examination committee decides to pass, fail, or defer a decision on the student. In the last-named case, the manner in which the decision is to be resolved must be specified in the report of the committee. The distinction between "fail" and "defer a decision" is based on the committee's evaluation of the probability of successful completion of the Ph.D. degree.

Repeating the Exam: Upon failure, the Candidacy Examination may be repeated only once. Exceptions to this rule are granted only under extraordinary circumstances and upon petition to the Graduate Committee.