Policies on Graduate Studies


1. Graduate Courses

  1. Each course that prepares students for a comprehensive examination shall cover at least the topics in the examination syllabus, and shall have a written in-class final examination representative of the entire course content.
  2. The written examination, if required, shall form a significant part (but not more than one-third) of the course grade. The grade shall distinguish levels of performance as defined in the University Bulletin.
  3. Each instructor of a course corresponding to a comprehensive examination shall prepare at least four comprehensive examination problems based on his/her presentation of the course, and shall file them with the graduate advisor before the end of the seventh week of the following semester. The problems shall be made available to, and shall be seriously considered by, the examination committee for that semester.

The Graduate Advisor shall notify instructors of the appropriate graduate courses of the above requirements prior to the first day of instruction of each semester.

2. Independent Study

To enroll in a Directed Study course, Math 297, 497, or 697, the student and the supervising faculty member must complete and sign the form, Agreement for Independent Study Course. In addition, the Department Chair shall review the project and the units for the project and, if approved, sign the Agreement form. If the Department Chair does not approve the project or the units, he/she will so inform the supervising faculty member. In case of disagreement between the Department Chair and the supervising faculty member, the project will be referred to the Curriculum Committee if the disagreement concerns Math 297 or 497, and to the Graduate Committee if the disagreement concerns Math 697. The decision of that Committee, by majority of the votes cast, shall be final. The Department Chair shall act within one week following submission of the agreement form by the student and faculty member; if referred to a committee, that committee will make a reasonable effort to act before the student’s deadline to add classes.

3. Masters Comprehensive Examination

If three qualified examiners for a subject are not available, the subcommittee may have two members.

  1. Each examination shall be representative of the topics in the exam syllabus, of three hours duration, and consist of from five to ten problems. Students shall be required to choose from 60% to 80% of the problems for solution.
  2. Each member of an examination subcommittee shall assign a letter grade to each student’s examination. The full subcommittee shall then, by a vote or consensus, assign a single letter grade to the student’s examination.
  3. A student shall pass the comprehensive examination if and only if the grades on both parts are at least C, and shall pass “with distinction” if and only if the grades on both parts are A.
  4. A student who fails the examination on the first attempt shall be granted the opportunity of making a second attempt. If the student receives a grade of C or better on one part, he/she shall be required to repeat only the part not passed. (Changed from "a grade of B" to "a grade of C" according to Ballot G-11, 5/25/2007)
  5. A student attempting the comprehensive examination for the second time must be examined in the same subjects chosen for the first attempt, or in one of those subjects if the other was passed with a grade of C or better. (Changed from "a grade of B" to "a grade of C" according to Ballot G-11, 5/25/2007)
  6. No student shall be allowed a third attempt at the comprehensive examination. A student who fails the examination for a particular degree option cannot be awarded that degree option. However, the student may complete the requirements for another degree option provided that the examination subjects chosen are different from those attempted for the previous option.
  7. A student who has signed up for the examination must complete both parts of it that semester unless he or she is excused. Such excuses may be granted by the Department Chair or the Graduate Advisor only for a documented emergency such as illness or accident. A student excused from the examination will be considered not to have attempted it in that semester, and no grade will be assigned to any part of the examination completed.
  8. The subcommittee for each examination shall normally consist of the three most recent instructors of the relevant course who are on duty during the semester in question, unless:

    1. there are fewer than three people on duty who have taught the course in the preceding five years; or
    2. an instructor would be required by this policy to serve on two subcommittees and is unwilling to do so.

    If three qualified examiners for a subject are not available, the subcommittee may have two members.

  9. A graduate student will not be allowed to take the comprehensive exam in a subject unless he/she has taken and passed the corresponding course (or its equivalent). (Added according to Ballot G-11, 5/25/2007)
  10. The exams will be given on the Saturdays at the end of the third, fourth, and when necessary, fifth weeks of instruction in Fall and Spring. The signup deadline will be the first day that campus is open in August or January preceding the exams. The Graduate Associate Chair should make public this deadline by the ninth week of the previous semester for the benefit of students who cannot come to CSULB during the breaks. Each committee is responsible for making sure its exam has a proctor. Committees should submit grades by the Monday that is nine days after the last exam. (Modified according to Ballot I-6, 11/19/2008)
  11. Absence Policy for Comprehensive Exams (Approved unanimously by Graduate Committee, 02/23/2017)
    A missed comprehensive exam triggers a letter from the staff member handling the Comprehensive Exam paperwork to the following effect: "This is to inform you that by not having attended the exam for which you signed up, you are recorded as having failed it. This counts as your [first/second] of a maximum of two attempts. If your absence from the exam was due to exceptional and unforeseen circumstances such as illness or other emergency, and you wish to petition that your absence not be counted as a failure, you must submit a written and signed appeal, with all relevant data and documentation, to your Graduate Advisor, [insert name], by [date, three weeks after the missed comp]. You will be informed of the status of your appeal within one month of this deadline."

    Upon receiving the appeal, the Graduate Advisor will convene the discipline committee within two weeks and make a recommendation on its merits. The Graduate Advisor will forward the recommendation of the discipline committee to the Graduate Committee.

    The Graduate Committee will then convene within two weeks to review the appeal, together with the discipline committee’s recommendation, and render a final decision.

    The Graduate Committee chair will then inform the staff member handling the Comprehensive Exam paperwork of its decision, and the staff member will inform the student by mail.

4. Masters Thesis Policies

The Graduate Committee, thesis supervisors (i.e., thesis advisors), thesis committee members and students electing the thesis option are to be governed by the following criteria:

  1. Thesis application. No later than the end of the first week of instruction of the semester in which the student plans to graduate, he/she must submit to the Graduate Committee an application which contains the following points:

    The Graduate Committee will then decide whether to grant tentative approval subject to a successful defense of the thesis.

    1. a formal request for exemption from the Comprehensive Examination;
    2. a description of the thesis; and
    3. a positive recommendation from the thesis supervisor that progress on the thesis is sufficient at that stage.
  2. Thesis defense. The thesis must be defended by the student before a three member committee of readers of the thesis. The committee must vote on whether the student passes or fails the thesis defense. Moreover, all full-time faculty members of the Department will always be invited to attend the candidate’s defense of his/her thesis as active participants and to participate in the deliberations of the committee as non-voting members.
  3. All thesis supervisors and committee members will be volunteers from the faculty of the Department. No member of the Department can be required to be a thesis supervisor or a committee member.
  4. Permissible types of theses. An acceptable thesis shall include an original contribution to mathematical knowledge, to its presentation, or to its understanding. Except under unusual circumstances, the content of the thesis shall be beyond the level of a beginning graduate course.
  5. The thesis committee shall consist of three faculty members: the thesis supervisor, who will be the chair, and two additional readers of the thesis. The duties of the committee will consist of:
    1. reading the thesis;
    2. being present at the defense of the thesis;
    3. determining, by means of questioning, if the candidate has sufficient knowledge in the subject matter of his/her thesis;
    4. determining whether the work done by the student warrants fulfillment of the thesis requirement; and
    5. voting on whether the candidate passes or fails his/her defense.
  6. The duties of the thesis supervisor will consist of:
    1. selecting, in consultation with the student, a suitable topic for the thesis;
    2. directing the student in the investigation of the thesis topic;
    3. advising the student in the write-up of the thesis; and
    4. critically reading the final draft of the thesis.
  7. The Graduate Committee of the Department will have final responsibility in determining whether an individual candidate’s program, if satisfactorily completed, will warrant exemption from the Comprehensive Examination.
  8. A maximum of 6 units credit for thesis will be allowed.
  9. Assigned time for thesis supervision: one-half semester unit for one student for one semester, in accordance with the staffing formula.
  10. Formulation of the candidate's committee: If possible, the committee should be formed when work on the thesis begins. In no case should it be formed later than the first part of the semester in which the candidate will complete his/her thesis. The formation of the committee will be accomplished by completing an appropriate form and obtaining the approval of the Graduate Committee.
  11. Schedule of thesis: Normally, a thesis might take two semesters to complete. In a particular case the student and thesis supervisor may very well elect to spend a longer or shorter period of time to complete the thesis. In any case, the schedule of the last six weeks should be as follows: six weeks before the end of the semester in which the student will graduate, an acceptable draft of the thesis should be in the hands of the supervisor. During the following two weeks the defense of the thesis should be scheduled, the committee notified and arrangements made to have the readers obtain a copy of the thesis. The defense of the thesis generally will take place two or three weeks before the end of the semester and in no case may take place later than the final day of instruction of that semester. An appropriate time limit for the defense might be one or one and one-half hours. In addition, the university deadlines as listed in the graduate bulletin must be observed. It is the student's responsibility to meet the university deadlines.
  12. It is University policy that once a student officially selects either the thesis option or the Comprehensive Examination option, then he/she will not be permitted to change options.

5. Due Process Policy for Situations Involving Academic Judgments not Resulting in a Final Grade

When a student believes he/she has been aggrieved in a prejudicial or capricious manner in an academic matter not resulting in a final grade (for example, work leading to the completion of a Master's thesis or satisfactory completion of a Master's comprehensive exam) that student should discuss the matter informally with the Department Chair in order to resolve the issue. If the issue cannot be resolved through the informal discussion indicated above, the following procedure shall be followed:

  1. The student shall present a written appeal to the Department Chair before the end of the semester following the semester in which the matter in dispute occurred.
  2. Within ten (10) working days of receipt of the appeal, the Department Chair shall form an Ad Hoc Committee to which the matter will be referred. This committee shall be appointed by the Department Chair with the approval of the Executive Committee and shall consist of three tenured or probationary faculty members not involved in the issue.
  3. The Ad Hoc Committee shall meet in formal sessions to gather information and evidence relevant to the issue. If so desired by the Committee, or if requested by the student or faculty member(s) involved, the Committee shall hold hearings at separate times for the student and/or the faculty member(s).
  4. The Committee shall make the final decision regarding the matter within thirty (30) working days of the date of constitution of the Committee. The Committee shall notify the concerned parties and the Department Chair in writing of the decision. (Working days do not include periods of time between semesters.)

6. Interpretation of Policy

The Executive Committee shall resolve any question of interpretation of any of the policies in this Policy File by majority of the votes cast, with the Department Chair voting only in case of a tie.