PhD Comprehensive Exams


Information on exam requirements for the PhD degree in mathematics can be found in the General Information on Graduate Programs (GIOGP) under Degree Requirements.

GIOGP information:

"The student’s Ph.D. Supervisory Committee will determine the timing and the content of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam. The Supervisory Committee is required to follow Graduate College rules regarding the Comprehensive Exam, which may be found online in the Graduate Catalog. In particular, the Comprehensive Exam must include a written portion and may, at the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, include an oral portion.

Typical Comprehensive Exams in the Mathematics Department consist of two parts; common formats for components of the exam include a written exam, an oral exam, or a research proposal. Comprehensive Exams are usually administered by the end of the third year of graduate study.

The decision as to whether the student has passed the Comprehensive Exam, and if not, which part(s) of the exam must be repeated, rests with the Supervisory Committee."

Answers to some FAQs:

The exam contents and formats are both determined by the supervisory committee, and this is often done in discussion with the student. The comprehensive exams do not need to be from courses in the department; frequently the exams are not based on a course sequence nor on specific individual courses.

The exam timing/proctoring is arranged by supervisory committees. Any supervisory committee that wishes to make use of the proctoring structure set up by the department for the qualifying exams each winter and summer has traditionally been welcome to do so, and so some comprehensive exams may be taken at that same time, organized by the supervisory committees, but most comprehensive exams take place at other times.

Forms to be filled out:

  1. The UNL Department of Mathematics Comprehensive Exam Progress Form:
    • This form is available at The information for each of the three parts of the form should be sent by the chair of the supervisory committee to the Graduate Programs Coordinator in the Department of Mathematics. In the semester that the supervisory committee is formed, the advisor sends information on the supervisory committee's decision on the content and format for the exams. Separately, each time a student takes a component of the Comprehensive Exam, the advisor should (promptly) transmit the supervisory committee's decision on whether the student has passed the exam.
  2. The UNL Admission to Candidacy Form:
    • This form is available from a link in the Graduate Catalog . The form should be filled out by the student, signed by the supervisory committee, and sent to both the Graduate Programs Coordinator in the Department of Mathematics and the Doctoral Programs Coordinator in the Office of Graduate Studies, after the student has passed all components of the PhD Comprehensive Examination.