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Required Courses and the Qualifying Review (QR) Exam

All doctoral students are required to pass the Qualifying Review (QR) exam. The QR exam has three parts, each based on a year-long course sequence. Students are required to take all three sequences, and pass the QR exam in at least two parts out of the three, chosen by the student. The exam in the third part is waived if the student receives a B+ average or higher in the corresponding sequence. The three sequences are:

  • Applied Statistics — STATS 600 (Linear Models) and STATS 601 (Analysis of Multivariate and Categorical Data)
  • Theoretical Statistics — STATS 610 (Statistical Inference) and 611 (Large Sample Theory)
  • Probability — STATS 620 (Applied Probability and Stochastic Modeling) and STATS 621 (Probability Theory)

Our Ph.D. program admits students with diverse academic backgrounds. A mandatory screening test is given to all new Ph.D. students at the start of the first year to determine the most appropriate individual study program for each student. The Graduate Chair will advise the students on course selection based on their screening test results and academic records. Some students take all the required sequences and the QR exam in their first year, while others take additional preparatory courses and postpone some of the required courses to their second year. To remain in good standing, all Ph.D. students are expected to have passed the QR exam by the end of the second year. The QR exam is given once a year, in late May. At most two attempts at each part are permitted.

Advancing to Candidacy

Students who have passed the Qualifying Review exam are expected to find a faculty advisor and start research leading to their dissertation proposal. The Graduate Chair and the faculty mentor assigned to each first year student can assist with finding a faculty advisor. Students are normally expected to submit a dissertation proposal and advance to candidacy within one year from passing the QR exam. Requirements for advancing to candidacy are:

  • At least 18 credit hours of graduate course work. STATS 808/809/818/819 (Department Seminar), STATS 990 (Dissertation Research) and similar non-graded courses do not count towards the credit requirement.
  • At least 4 credit hours of cognates, courses from outside the Statistics department. All cognate course selections must be approved by the Graduate Chair.  
  • STATS 810 and STATS 811. Concurrent enrollment in STATS 811 is allowed (students may complete STATS 811 in the semester in which they become candidates, but no later than that). 
  • Writing a dissertation proposal and passing the oral preliminary exam which consists of presenting the proposal to the student's preliminary thesis committee.

A dissertation proposal is a short paper, which should identify an interesting research problem, provide motivation for studying it, review the relevant literature, and propose an approach for solving the problem. The written proposal is given to the preliminary thesis committee ahead of time and then presented in the oral preliminary exam. The preliminary thesis committee is chaired by the faculty advisor and must include at least two more regular faculty members from Statistics. It may also include up to two additional members from other departments or universities. The preliminary thesis committee may continue to serve as the doctoral thesis committee, but this is not required.

At the oral preliminary exam, the committee will ask questions about the proposal and the relevant background and either elect to accept the proposal as both substantial and feasible, or ask for specific revisions, or decline the proposal. The unanimous approval of the committee is necessary for the student to advance to candidacy.

Additional Course Work Requirements

While these courses are required to graduate rather than to advance to candidacy, it is expected that the students will take some of them before advancing to candidacy, and some after. This may require careful planning as candidates are allowed to take only one course per semester without an increase in tuition.   

You must take at least two 600-level courses from the following list:

  • STATS 605 — Advanced Topics in Modeling and Data Analysis
  • STATS 612 — Advanced Topics in Theoretical Statistics
  • STATS 607 (I and II) — Programming and Numerical Methods in Statistics
  • STATS 608 (I and II) — Optimization Methods in Statistics. Any two half-semester modules from STATS 607 and 608 count as one 600-level course, and no more than two modules can count towards this requirement.
  • STATS / MATH 626 — Probability and Random Processes

You must take at least one 700-level special topics class. STATS 750 (Independent Reading) does not count towards this requirement.  

In addition, all students are expected to register for STATS 808/809/818/819 (Department Seminar) every semester and attend the seminar regularly. Candidates registered for another course do not have to register for the department seminar, but are still expected to attend. Exceptions to the above requirements and credit for graduate work completed elsewhere may be granted by the Graduate Chair.

Annual Progress Reports

All candidates are required to give a short presentation on their research progress once a year. These talks are normally scheduled during the student seminar.   

Dissertation and Defense

Each doctoral student is expected to write a dissertation that makes a substantial and original contribution to statistics or a closely related field. This is the most important element of the doctoral program. After advancing to candidacy, students are expected to focus on their thesis research under the supervision of the thesis advisor and the doctoral committee. The doctoral committee must include at least three regular faculty members from Statistics and at least one regular faculty member from another department (a cognate member). The written dissertation is submitted to the committee for evaluation and presented in an oral defense open to the public.

Rackham Requirements

The Rackham Graduate School imposes some additional requirements concerning residency, fees, and time limits. Students are expected to know and comply with these requirements.