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Doctor of Philosophy in Statistics

Course Requirements
Course Sequences
PhD Qualifying Examinations
Thesis Advisor
Preliminary Examination
Preliminary Examination Committee
Teaching Requirements
Doctoral Thesis and Defense Examination
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  • MATH 415 or 418 - Linear Algebra
  • MATH 380 - Advanced Calculus
  • STAT 400-410 - Statistics and Probability I and II
  • Knowledge of a computer programming language

Course Requirements

A total of 24 graduate course units (courses) including:

  • MATH 447 - Real Analysis
  • STAT 424 - Analysis of Variance
  • STAT 425 - Applied Regression and Design
  • STAT 426 - Sampling and Categorical Data
  • STAT 427 - Statistical Consulting
  • STAT 428 - Statistical Computing
  • STAT 429 - Time Series Analysis
  • STAT 510-511 - Mathematical Statistics I and II
  • STAT 525 - Current Research in Applied and Computational Statistics
  • STAT 553-554 - Probability and Measure I and II (Alternatively STAT 551-552)
  • STAT 571 - Multivariate Analysis
  • STAT 575 - Large Sample Theory
  • STAT 578 - Topics in Statistics

Course Sequences

Students admitted without deficiencies (i.e., who are not on "Limited Status") take Statistics 425 and Statistics 510 in their first semester of study, and Statistics 424, Statistics 426, and Statistics 511 in the second semester. The student will be ready to take the Ph.D. qualifying exam after the first two semesters. The typical Ph.D. course sequence is as follows:

First Year



Statistics 425

Statistics 424

Statistics 510

Statistics 426

Math 447

Statistics 511


Second Year



Statistics 429

Statistics 427

Statistics 525 or 571

Statistics 428

Statistics 553 or 578

Statistics 554 or 575


Third Year



Statistics 553 or 578

Statistics 554 or 575

Additional courses

Additional courses

Students who have taken real analysis previously may waive Mathematics 447 with approval from the PhD program director.

International students are expected to pass the SPEAK/TSE exam on campus during their first year as Ph.D. students (see Teaching Requirements). Because teaching is fundamental to both financial support and career development, international students who do not pass the SPEAK exam by January of the second year are subject to a reduction in financial aid.

Qualifying Examinations

A Ph.D. qualifying exam is offered once each year, at the beginning of the Fall semester. The exam covers material in STAT 424, 425, 426, 510, and 511. It consists of two three-hour exams, given on two different days. There are approximately two problems per course, for a total of about ten problems. The exams are interchangeable, i.e. there could be questions relating to any course on either or both exams.

Every eligible Ph.D. student is required to take the Qualifying exam in the Fall semester after the first full year. A student receiving a passing score on the exam becomes a Ph.D. candidate and maintains regular progress towards the Ph.D. degree. A students who does not achieve a passing score will have one of two possible outcomes: (1) near passing, allowed to make a second attempt the following year, or (2) terminal non-passing score.

Reading List for Qualifying Examinations

  • The Analysis of Variance, Scheffe (Wiley)*
  • Statistics for Experimenters, Box, Hunter, and Hunter (Wiley)*
  • Applied Linear Regression, Weisberg (Wiley)
  • Design and Analysis of Experiments, Montgomery (Wiley)
  • Applied Regression Analysis, Draper and Smith (Wiley)
  • Categorical Data Analysis, A. Agresti (Wiley)*
  • Mathematical Statistics, Bickel and Doksum (Prentice Hall), 2nd edition*
  • Theory of Point Estimation, Lehmann (Wiley), 2nd edition*
  • Mathematical Statistics: A Decision Theoretic Approach, Ferguson (Academic Press)

* Primary text(s)

Thesis Advisor

Soon after passing the qualifying examination, the student should find a faculty member who will agree to be the student's thesis advisor. The student and advisor will then plan a course of study, including course work, outside reading, and original work, leading to the preliminary examination. Emphasis can be on, for example, mathematical statistics, computational statistics, applied or theoretical probability, methodology, or statistical applications in another discipline.

Preliminary Examination

During the first two years of graduate study, the student should be thinking seriously about what area of statistics to concentrate in, so that upon completing the qualifying examinations, work can begin toward the preliminary examination. The preliminary examination is frequently an oral presentation of the proposed thesis topic.

Preliminary Examination Committee

The Preliminary Examination Committee consists of at least four faculty members, not all of whom need to be in the Department of Statistics. The committee must be approved by the Graduate Advisor of the Department of Statistics, ad well as the Graduate College. The student prepares a written report to be presented to the members of the Committee at least two weeks before the Preliminary Exam. The Preliminary Exam itself consists of a short presentation by the student followed by questions from the members of the Committee. The Committee then has three choices: pass the student, fail the student, or postpone their decision with an indication to the student of what further work must be accomplished to satisfy the Committee. Since failure means that the Committee believes that the chances for success are very slim, only under extraordinary circumstances will a failed student be allowed to retake the Preliminary Exam. A pass means the student is eligible to begin thesis work.

Teaching Requirements

Each student in the Ph.D. program is required to teach a statistics or mathematics course for at least one semester. Before serving as a teaching assistant (TA), a graduate student whose native language is not English must attain a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK or TSE and attend the International and All Campus Teaching Assistants Orientation Program. All Ph.D. students are required to attend the All Campus Teaching Assistants Orientation and participate in two post-orientation workshops held during the semester. Students who do not complete this requirement within one year of their admission will see a reduction in the percentage of their assistantship.

Doctoral Thesis and Defense Examination

The thesis is written under the supervision of the student's faculty advisor. It must consist of original work, presumably an outgrowth of the preliminary work. A thesis examination committee consisting of at least four faculty members, appointed by the Graduate College at the request of the Department of Statistics, reads the thesis. The student is examined orally by this committee during the defense examination. The committee members should be given sufficient time to study the thesis prior to the examination.

After the defense examination had been passed, copies of the thesis, whose format and physical appearance have been approved by the Department of Statistics and the Graduate College, are to be submitted to the Thesis Office of the Graduate College for final approval.

Additional PhD Program Policies

Annual Review of Ph.D. Candidates

The Graduate Committee of the Department of Statistics conducts an annual review of each candidate's progress toward completion of the Ph.D. degree. Any candidate whose progress is not satisfactory is subject to dismissal from the program. The following guidelines, in addition to the course requirements, will be used in measuring a candidate's satisfactory progress. The student must:

  • Take the Qualifying exam in the Fall semester after the first full year. A student receiving a passing score on the exam becomes a Ph.D. candidate and maintains regular progress towards the Ph.D. degree. A students who does not achieve a passing score will have one of two possible outcomes: (1) near passing, allowed to make a second attempt the following year, or (2) terminal non-passing score.
  • Pass the preliminary exam by the end of January of the fourth year of study

Departmental Seminars

The Department of Statistics sponsors seminars where researchers from academia or industry discuss their recent research. Each student enrolled in the Ph.D. program is expected to attend the seminars. Participation in the seminar series is one aspect given consideration by the Graduate Committee in its annual review of the student's performance.

Graduate Course GPA Requirement

In order to earn an M.S. or Ph.D. degree in Statistics, the candidate must maintain an overall minimum grade point average of 3.0 (A=4.0) in the course work completed.

Changing from Master's to Ph.D. Program

Students in the Master's degree program who wish to enter the Ph.D. program must apply through petition to the department. Such applications will be considered at the same time as those of other students applying to the Ph.D. program.

Department of Statistics
725 South Wright Street
Champaign, Illinois 61820 USA
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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