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Frequently Asked Questions

Prospective Students

What will I need to apply to Cal Poly's Master of Science in Mathematics program?  

Generally you will need three letters of recommendation, a Statement of Purpose (approximately one page in length), an undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 2.5 (3.0+ preferable), transcripts, and GRE general exam scores. For detailed instructions on how to apply see Graduate Education website

Is there funding available for graduate students?    

All incoming graduate students may elect to join our Teaching Associates program which has graduate students earning a salary for teaching pre-calculus courses. Generally courses are available each quarter for all graduate students who wish to be TAs. However, if for some reason there isn't enough courses to teach for every graduate student then we will do our best to ensure each willing student gets at least two courses per year. Students who have passed both qualifying exams in a timely manner are offered the opportunity to teach two sections of one course, assuming availability. For other sources of financial assistance see:

I did not major in mathematics as an undergrad. Can I still apply?

Our program puts an emphasis on pure mathematics and presumes students have taken both abstract algebra and real analysis sequences as undergraduates. If you didn't major in mathematics, but did take these upper-level courses, you certainly may still apply. If you've taken only one of these you may still be admitted conditionally, meaning you would need to take the missing courses during your first year. If you haven't taken either of these courses your application would be significantly strengthened by first taking one sequence through a continuing education program, such as Cal Poly's open enrollment, or detailing in you Statement of Purpose how you plan to make up this material.

Current Students

What are the curriculum and GPA requirements for graduating?

A two quarter sequence in each of Applied Analysis, Discrete Mathematics, and Topology, as well as a one quarter class in each of Field Theory, Graduate Algebra, and Real Analysis. Additionally, 9 elective units at the 400 or 500 level are required (these units may be used to write a thesis). All students must have at least a 3.0 GPA in order to complete their degree. See course and exam requirements 

How can I get a TA-ship?

How can I get research experience?

Research experiences can involve choosing the thesis option for the culminating experience, or working with a professor for a paid summer internship. For more information, please refer to the Graduate Student Opportunities

What are the Qualifying Exams and when should I take them?

Successful completion of our program will require passing two preliminary exams, one in Linear and Abstract Algebra, and the one in Real Analysis. Passing each exam is a prerequisite for enrolling in the corresponding graduate course. These exams are each offered: at the beginning of Fall, at the beginning of Winter, and once at the end of Spring. The exams cover material typically covered in undergraduate algebra and analysis courses. Students are expected to pass both exams by the end of the first year in the program to remain in good academic standing, and all students are required to pass by the end of the second year in the program. A support course, currently Math 548, runs periodically to help students prepare for the exams. Keep an eye out for announcements on when the course will be running.
Syllabi and past exams are available at course & exam requirements 

I am having trouble passing the Qualifying Exams. What should I do?

A support course, currently Math 548, is aimed at helping students write rigorous proofs in abstract algebra and real analysis. The course will focus on the qualifying exams as a source of examples and should be an excellent opportunity to prepare for the exams. At the moment the course runs once or twice a year, typically Fall and/or Spring.
Students are also encouraged to take Math 481, 482, 412, 413, (and even 306) to reinforce their knowledge of the content of these exams. 

What is the culminating experience for graduating?

All students must complete either an oral exam, or a thesis, as their final degree requirement.
The oral exam covers topics from three of the required graduate course topics from the required curriculum. Students may select any three of: Applied analysis (520-521); Discrete mathematics (530-531); Topology (540-541); Graduate algebra (561); Measure theory (550). The professors which taught these courses to you will comprise your oral exam committee. The exam usually lasts about 3 hours and is broken into three time segments, one for each topic. For each topic students will begin that section with a 10-15 minute presentation on a key topic from that course; this presentation topic should be chosen with consultation from the corresponding professor on your committee. Following the presentation, will be approximately 45 minutes of questions from your committee.
In place of an oral exam a student may elect to instead write and defend a thesis. Students electing to write a thesis must have passed both qualifying exams by the end of their first year, and will typically enroll in nine units of Math 599, our thesis writing course, during the second year in the program. Please see (Link to the Graduate Student Opportunities page) for more information.

Where can I find the forms needed for graduation?                    

There are a number of forms which must be filled out during your time here as a graduate student. These can all be found on the Graduate Education website

Steps to Graduation 
Checklist & Forms

You’ll notice that you need to submit a Working Formal Study Plan, or WFSP, by the end of Fall quarter.

For more FAQs see the university-wide graduate student FAQ page

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