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Comprehensive Examinations

Our Strength: Our Program

Comprehensive Exams are an important step in achieving a doctorate degree. Our exams are designed to test a student's competency in several academic areas that are critical to their discipline and support their research.

The Comprehensive Examination in Operations Management and Statistics is normally taken after the completion of the first two years of PhD studies. It is assumed that by this time the student has completed all (or nearly all) of the course requirements and has participated in some research projects.

The main purpose of the examination is to assess whether the student has attained sufficient general knowledge of key topics and tools in the Operations Management and Statistics/ Operations Research Area and is ready to begin independent research work. The student is expected to exhibit an in-depth understanding and mastery of the major analytical tools necessary for successful research in Operations Management and Statistics.

The questions for the examination are drawn from two major areas: Operations Research (linear, integer, non-linear, and dynamic programming; stochastic models, probability and statistics, etc.), and Operations Management and Statistics (production scheduling, inventory analysis, facility location, logistics, etc.). The questions are based on some of the courses listed in the PhD calendar, particularly the four “core” PhD courses offered by the Area during the student’s first two years in the program. The questions may also be based on other general topics in the areas mentioned above and on textual references provided separately (please contact the Program Coordinator).

The format of the examination is: four-hour written, open-book exam. The students will be allowed to bring in up to five books of their choice and any personal notes. Copies of the exams from previous years may be obtained from the Program Coordinator.

The questions for the examination are contributed by the members of the examination committee, normally consisting of the PhD Coordinator for the Area, as well as several faculty members involved in the program. The same committee will evaluate each student's performance on the examination. The results of the examination will be reported back to the student within several weeks of the examination, along with the committee's general assessment of the student's progress in the program.

Successful passing of the Comprehensive Examination is a necessary requirement for the advancement to the thesis research portion of the program. The possible examination results are:

Unconditional Pass

Conditional Pass: The letter describing your results will specify the additional conditions you must fulfill (typically consisting of additional courses to be taken); the conditions must usually be fulfilled within one year.

Fail with Invitation to Retake: If your performance on the exam was below the passing threshold, but, in the opinion of the committee, your performance in other aspects of the program to date has been sufficiently strong, you may be invited to retake the examination. The examination can usually be retaken in the following summer (with next year's class). Please note that the examination can be taken a maximum of two times – the second failure automatically signals that the student must withdraw from the program. During the post-exam meeting, the committee will recommend the additional steps you should take to increase your chances of success on the second attempt.

Fail without Invitation to Retake: In the opinion of the committee, your performance on the exam and other aspects of the program to date indicate that the chances for the successful retake of the exam are minimal. Students receiving this mark are expected to withdraw from the program.