Comprehensive Exams

Prior to the second year of study, Ph.D. students take a comprehensive examination which tests foundational knowledge in statistical theory and methodology. The examination is given over two days in August, shortly before the start of the second year of study, covering material in the core courses of the Ph.D. program - statistical inference (PHST 762), linear models (PHST 781), statistical computing (PHST 710), and Bayesian statistics (PHST 691).

The exam is given in two components, one written and one computing. Questions on the exam can draw from each of the core PhD courses, but are organized into blocks corresponding to the core course under which each question primarily falls under. Material from each of the core courses will help students prepare for those sections. Links to comprehensive exams from prior years are provided below which can also be useful for exam preparation.

Each student receives a grade of either "pass" or "fail" for the examination. Students that pass will be eligible to enter doctoral candidacy upon completion of the remaining, second-year coursework. Students that fail will have one opportunity to retake the comprehensive examination, typically in December or January immediately following the initial attempt at the exam. Students that fail on their second attempt will be dismissed from the program without further consideration.

For further details on the comprehensive exams, consult the full Ph.D. curriculum for additional details.

Comprehensive Exams from Past Years

Exams from prior years can be accessed at the links below. Note that the structure of the comprehensive exam changed in 2015 and again in 2021. As such, some portions of the exam as given prior to 2015 are no longer offered (and thus may not be helpful for preparation), and the current structure does not resemble the 2015-2020 structure. There are two versions of exams in years in which two testing sessions took place. Each of the exam files below is password-protected. Send an e-mail to to acquire a password.

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