The following describes the format and scope of Qualifying Exams in each of the six areas of graduate study. It is department policy that qualifiers be based on curriculum from the first year graduate sequences and any undergraduate prerequisites. Students, who have mastered those courses, should be able to pass the exams. Faculty members, who write the exams, are expected to implement this policy, and to adhere conscientiously to the guidelines that follow. Students, in turn, are expected to interpret each exam problem in a reasonable fashion, so as not to trivialize any solution. Copies of past exams and a record of previous passing scores are available from the department by request.
Qualifying Exams (affectionately known as Quals) are given twice a year and typically take place the week or two before classes begin each semester. A precise schedule is posted months in advance. Students are allowed six hours to take the exam. Food can be brought in to help fuel the brain. Faculty, who grade the exams, are expected to release the results before the last date for students to drop or withdraw from courses without receiving a DR or W on their transcripts, and within two weeks in any case.
The books listed for each area below should be more than sufficient to cover topics that will appear on the exam. It should be emphasized, however, that the exams are intended to test general knowledge and competence rather than any particular set of books or courses.