Graduate Student Handbook
Studying for Qualifying Exams
Tips for Studying for Qualifying Exams
1. Begin studying early!
- If you are planning to take the exam in August, you should begin studying in June. It is by no means overdoing it to be studying for the exam at least 4-6 days a week, full-time.
- If you are planning to take the exam in January, you should begin studying by the beginning of September. During the academic year, plan exam study into your weekly schedule and treat it like an important job.
- If you are planning to take the exam in May, you should be studying by the beginning of January. During the academic year, plan exam study into your weekly schedule and treat it like an important job.
2. Solve old qualifying exam questions.
- Review the old qualifying exams posted below on this page.
- Do not just read through the old exams or try to find copies of the solutions. You must work on solving the problems yourself.
- Old qualifying exams will give you an idea of the types of problems asked and the level of problems asked on these exams.
- Working the problems on old qualifying exams is the best use of your time and efforts when preparing for the exams.
3. Study with your peers.
- This will help provide motivation to study. It will also give you the opportunity to discuss mathematics.
- One example of this might be having everyone in the study group try to solve the problems on the same old qualifying exam on their own, and then meet to discuss each other's solutions.
4. If you have not taken one of the exam courses in awhile, ask the instructor of the course if you could sit in on the course.
- Sitting in on the course will be useful only if you take it seriously. This means do not only attend the lectures, but also study with the people who are enrolled in the course, and do the homework problems and exam problems.
- Please keep in mind that the instructor of the course likely will not have time to grade your work, since you are not enrolled in the course, however, It will still be to your benefit to do the problems.
5. Do not confuse worrying about the exam with preparing for the exam.
- Carrying around the book, reading old notes and feeling very concerned about the exam will wear you out, and at the end of the day you'll feel like you studied hard; don't be fooled.
- Working on old exam problems and building a notebook of solutions that you worked out is productive. By the end of your months of study, you should have created a solid notebook of complete solutions to many old qualifying exams.
Old Qualifying Exams