Core Curriculum, Comprehensive Exams, and MS Degree


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Tower View All new graduate students, upon arrival at LSU, are expected to visit the Graduate Director for advising and registration. Thereafter, each semester every graduate student will be given a pre-registration form on which to plan course-work for the coming semester. This form must be filled out and signed by the student's faculty mentor(as explained below), and returned to the Graduate Director by the specified time. Most new graduate students begin their study at LSU with the Fall semester Common Core Curriculum: Algebra I (7210), Real Analysis (7311), and Topology I (7510). These three courses will provide the preparation for the three subtests of the Comprehensive Exam. Passing these 3 subtests at the MS-Level constitutes the major portion of passing the Final Exam for a non-Thesis MS Degree. Passing these 3 subtests at the PhD-Qualifying Level constitutes the examination-component of PhD Qualification. Some students with prior graduate-level background choose to skip one or more of these courses, while some others are advised to take a 4000-level course to prepare for one of the Core Courses. If you feel that part of the Common Core Curriculum is inappropriate for you, you should discuss this matter with the Graduate Director. Sometimes the Department needs to communicate quickly with a student. You should check your letter-box in the Department daily, and keep an eye on the Graduate Bulletin Board outside room 304. Also, you should be sure that the Department has a current local address and telephone number at which you can be reached at any time. In addition, you are entitled to a (free) computer account in the Department, which includes full Internet access. You should activate your account and check it regularly for messages.


Each incoming graduate student will be assigned a faculty mentor. Frequently the department will make an effort to assign a faculty mentor with interests similar to those indicated on the student’s application for admission. The student will consult each semester with the faculty mentor concerning academic planning and academic progress. A student can change mentor at any time by arrangement with the appropriate faculty members. A student who changes mentor should notify the Director of Graduate Studies. Upon selection of a dissertation advisor the faculty mentor will be replaced by the student’s dissertation advisor.

Second Semester Curriculum: The Breadth Requirement

During the Spring semester of the first year, the PhD student is expected to take his or her choice of 3 of the Breadth Requirement Courses. Breadth courses are courses given in lists A and B below. In order to Ph.D. qualify, each student must take at least four Breadth courses, of which at least two must come from List A. Each of the four selected courses must be passed with at least a B, and at least one of these must be passed with an A. The requirement must be completed by the end of the second year of study.

List A:

  • Math 7211 (Algebra II)
  • Math 7350 (Complex Variables)
  • Math 7330 (Functional Analysis)
  • Math 7512 (Topology II)
  • Math 7550 (Differential Geometry)

List B

  • Math 7320 (Ordinary Differential Equations)
  • Math 7360 (Probability)
  • Math 7400 (Graph Theory)
  • Math 7710 (Numerical Linear Algebra)

In addition to the Core Curriculum described above, each new graduate student in Mathematics is required to enroll for one year in a one-credit-hour per semester course `Communicating Mathematics' (Math 7001 and 7002). This course provides instruction and practice in teaching mathematics, writing mathematics, and delivering talks in mathematics at both elementary and advanced levels. Every graduate student needs to be aware of the Graduate School Calendar. A copy of the current calendar is always posted on the Graduate Bulletin Board (outside room 304) and on the Graduate Director's door. The Graduate School is strict about the deadlines published in this calendar. For example, if you need to drop or add a course, you can do this easily by visiting the Graduate Director until the published deadline for adding a course. After that deadline, courses can be added only through appeal to the Dean of the Graduate School. Courses can be dropped until published final drop date. But students receiving financial aid (assistantships or fellowships) must be full-time students at all times in order to keep their aid. Sometimes students are very ambitious and sign up for many courses, expecting to drop one or more if the load becomes too heavy. This is alright, but you must be sure to take the drop action before the published deadline for dropping a course. All students in a PhD or non-Thesis MS curriculum are expected to pass the Comprehensive Examination by January of the second year of graduate study. If you do not pass the Comprehensive Examination at the intended level by the time required, it is up to the Department's Graduate Committee to decide whether or not you can repeat all or part of the Exam. Students are encouraged, however, to attempt this Exam as early as possible so as to get it out of the way. This is especially relevant to those who have entered following advanced study elsewhere. (The Comprehensive Examination serves as the major portion of the Final Exam for the non-Thesis MS degree, and as the PhD Qualifying Examination.) The Exam is offered in August and in January. There are two levels of passing: the MS level, which suffices as the major portion of the Final Exam for a Master of Science Degree, and the PhD level, which suffices for continuing in doctoral study in addition to being the major portion of the final exam for the MS degree. Students may take the Comprehensive Examination earlier than required without risk. To help you study for this Exam, syllabi and sample questions for the three Core-I tests are downloadable from the Graduate Web-site, under the heading Graduate Exams. It is also possible to earn an MS degree by writing a Thesis, and without taking the Comprehensive Examination. However, it is very important to be aware that the Department gives first priority for Financial Aid to students who are in a curriculum designed to pass the PhD Qualifying Exam. For those students who choose a thesis MS curriculum, it is necessary to take the first semester core courses (7210, 7311, and 7510) and at least three 7000-level courses from diverse areas of pure or applied mathematics. It is also necessary during the second semester of study for such students to have a faculty advisor and an Advisory Committee. The MS Thesis will be written under the advisor's direction. The student's Thesis Advisor will be the Chair of the Advisory Committee, which will include at least three Graduate Faculty Members from the Mathematics Department, including representatives of at least two of the following four areas: algebra, analysis, combinatorics, and topology. The Final Examination for the MS degree for such students is primarily a Thesis Defense. The intention of this program of study is to provide greater breadth, albeit with less of the depth in the core subjects needed for doctoral studies. It is possible also to earn a more specialized Thesis-MS in Mathematics with a Concentration in either Applications or Finance. For detailed information about these Concentrations as well as the other degree options, look under the heading Graduate Degrees in the Graduate Program Menu at this web-site.

Required Forms and Deadlines to Receive the MS Degree

Be sure to check the Graduate School Calendar!

When you are in the semester in which you intend to receive the MS degree, there are two Graduate School Forms which you need to fill out. You need to file an Application for the MS Degree, which is a two-page form the first page of which is the `Diploma Page, and an Application for the Final Exam for the MS degree. The Final Exam for the MS is offered once each regular semester, at a time and date to be set by the Department. Each MS-Candidate must appear for the MS Final Exam, at which the Examining Sub-Committee of the Graduate Committee will review the results of the written Comprehensive Exam with the student, who will be questioned and advised. The Graduate School forms are available directly from Graduate School Online, and listed in this Handbook's Table of Contents under Online Resources. The information can be typed into these forms online and printed on any of the Department's printers. Both these forms must be turned in by every MS-candidate according to the schedule in the Graduate School Calendar, and they should not be confused with the Department's sign-up sheet for the Comprehensive Exam, even though this is the major portion of the Final Exam for the non-thesis MS. If you are applying for a thesis-based MS, then your Final Exam will be the Thesis Defense, which requires the presence of your full Advisory Committee. Even if you have passed the Comprehensive Exam in a previous semester and have been waiting to earn 36 graduate credit hours in Mathematics so as to qualify for the MS, you still need to file the Application for Final Exam. Regardless of the type of MS degree you are seeking, you must fill out the Application for Final Exam form from the Graduate School and submit it typed and signed at least three weeks in advance of the proposed exam date. The Graduate Director can help you fill out these forms. Please note: Math 9000 cannot be counted as part of the 36 credit hours towards a non-thesis degree!

Students who are awarded an MS Diploma in Mathematics by LSU will receive a $100 per year increase in their assistantship stipends.

Students in the Thesis-based MS curriculum also need to submit the Application for the Final Exam for the MS Degree. For those students, the thesis defense is the centerpiece of the Final Exam, and the thesis advisor will chair the committee, with the other two members of the thesis advisory committee serving on the Final Exam committee.