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Ph.D. Preliminary Exam

After admission to candidacy, and before submission of the Ph.D. thesis, students must pass a preliminary exam (Prelim).

Main purpose of the Preliminary Exam: The purpose of the Prelim is to test the student's in-depth understanding of an area in which he or she will develop the dissertation research. The exam is intended to assess the student's mathematical maturity and knowledge at a high level that goes beyond any particular course.The candidate should demonstrate the maturity and expertise required for carrying out dissertation research.

The paradigm: Before the candidate writes his/her thesis, which should be an original and relevant contribution to the area of study, the candidate should be able to present one (or two) relevant peer-reviewed journal articles or an excerpt from a textbook or a monograph well beyond a normal graduate course in the relevant area.

The focus should be on quality instead of quantity. The candidate is expected to demonstrate full expertise and understanding of the topics and theorems presented.  The exam should be evaluated on the performance of the candidate and not on the material presented.

Suggested format of the exam:

  • The candidate should present one (or two) peer-reviewed paper(s) published in journals, or an excerpt from a textbook or a monograph well beyond a normal graduate course, in the same area as the thesis research. The paper(s) or the excerpt should be approved by the advisor and the dissertation committee.

  • The exam is expected to last one to two hours, allowing ample time for questions and discussions.

  • The exam should be conducted by the dissertation committee and open to the departmental graduate faculty.  The audience may ask questions on concepts and results from the presented materials.

  • This is an exam rather than a colloquium talk.  Consequently, the candidate does not need to present a whole paper. The candidate is expected to handle questions and discussions independently.

  • The exam should be meticulously evaluated and a passing grade should be based on how well the candidate has demonstrated mathematical maturity and expertise. 

  • A candidate is allowed two attempts to pass the exam.  Normally a candidate should fulfill the requirement of passing the exam within two years after admission to candidacy.

Procedure: The student's supervisory committee submits an exam proposal to the departmental Graduate Committee, including the material and references for the student to present. The exam is conducted by the student's Ph.D. committee. A representative from the departmental Graduate Committee will attend the exam and observe the exam evaluation as a non-voting member. The representative will be responsible to report the results of the exam to the Graduate Committee.

For information contact:
Prof. Hongwei Long, Graduate Director
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades RD
Boca Raton, FL 33431