Core Requirements & Exemption Exams

Core Requirements

All degree-seeking students at UM SPH, including MS and PhD students, are required to complete core biostatistics and epidemiology coursework. If you have completed an existing graduate degree from an accredited Public Health program or school, the departmental admissions committee may approve exemption from the Epidemiology/Biostatistics requirement. Additionally, MPH and MHSA students must also complete coursework related to other disciplines in public health as part of the Breadth, Integration, and Capstone (BIC) requirements.

Exemption Exams

Algebra Exam

Consistent with our mission to create and disseminate knowledge with the aim of preventing disease and promoting the health of populations worldwide, our curriculum requires core competencies across the disciplines of public health. One of these core disciplines is biostatistics, and we require each SPH student to take at least one biostatistics course.

Students admitted to the SPH come with a wide range of academic backgrounds. For students who haven't taken a mathematics course in many years, biostatistics may prove challenging. Skills in college-level algebra are fundamental to success in introductory level biostatistics courses. We want to be sure all students taking biostatistics have this foundation.

For these reasons, students entering the School’s MPH, MHI, and MHSA degree programs and earned a 49% or below in the GRE Quantitative section (except Biostatistics, Health Management and Policy (HMP) Executive Master’s, and Preventive Medicine Residency (PMR) students) are required to take a diagnostic algebra exam during SPH orientation. This exam is multiple choice.  Students who score below 80% on the exam will be enrolled in algebra tutoring sessions concurrently with their first level biostatistics course in the fall semester.  Students may NOT use any study guides or calculators during the Algebra Exam.    Students who score a 50% or above on the Quantitative GRE section may elect to take the exam if they would like to be eligible for tutoring during the first level biostatistics course in the fall semester.

How does the Algebra Exam compare to the Quantitative Section of the GRE?

  • A description of the Quantitative exam can be found here revised_general/prepare/ quantitative_reasoning/
  • The Algebra exam covers arithmetic and algebra, skills that are critical to success in a course in biostatistics. The quantitative GRE is more broadly based. The Algebra exam simply covers algebra (a subset of the quantitative test).

Biostatistics Exemption Exam

Non-biostatistics students who wish to be exempt from the Biostatistics (BIOSTAT) BIC requirement, i.e., BIOSTAT 501/BIOSTAT 521, may take the Biostatistics Exemption Exam.  This is open book (a single reference text) and a calculator is required. You may also use a two-sided hand written sheet of notes 8.5 X 11. Tables for the standard normal, t, chi-squared, and F distributions are provided. Cell phones are not permitted to be used during the exam. You may review a sample exam and solutions. Questions on the exam are based on material from the 8th edition of Introduction to the Practice of Statistics, ISBN 9781464158933, by David S. Moore--which is the text used in BIOSTAT 501 and BIOSTAT 521.

If a student takes the Biostatistics Exemption Exam and does not pass, they will need to take the Algebra Exam AND register for either BIOSTAT 501 or BIOSTAT 521, depending on their department requirements and skill level. 

Note: the Biostatistics Exemption Exam is only offered during orientation and is not offered at any other time during the year.

Epidemiology Exemption Exam

Non-epidemiology MS and PhD students who wish to be exempt from the Epidemiology (EPID) BIC requirement, i.e., EPID 503/EPID 601, may take the Epidemiology Exemption Exam. Students are encouraged to take the Epidemiology Exemption Exam in their first year of study. This exam is a closed book test and a calculator is required. Cell phones are not permitted to be used during the exam. The Epidemiology Exemption Exam is a 30-question, multiple choice exam. No sample exam is available. Questions on the exam are based on material from the fifth edition of Epidemiology (Elsevier) by Leon Gordis, which is the text used in EPID 503. 

The Epidemiology Exemption Exam will be given twice each year – once, during orientation, before the fall term and again before the winter term – but a student may only take it one time. If a student takes the Epidemiology Exemption Exam and does not pass, they will need to register for either EPID 503 or EPID 601, depending on their department requirements and skill level.

HMP Economics Placement Exam - HMP Students Only

HMP offers a two-course sequence (HMP 660 and 674) that integrates intermediate microeconomic theory and health economics. The economics placement exam allows the student to skip the microeconomics segments of HMP 660. A student exempting this segment must register for a 1-credit independent study in the fall semester. During the independent study, the student will attend and be responsible for assignments in the health economics segments of HMP 660.

The placement exam will involve defining and applying basic, non-calculus-based microeconomic concepts. Several basic problems will be included. The exam is closed book, but you may bring a non-programmable calculator. Cell phones are not permitted to be used during this exam.  No sample exam is available, but any standard intermediate microeconomics text will be adequate for preparation.

Exam Schedule

All students are advised to arrive a few minutes before the stated start time as all exams will start and end on time.  

Students may take each exam one time only.  

Testing for 2018 Orientation

  • Students will have the option to take the Algebra Exam, the Biostatistics Exemption Exam, OR the Epidemiology Exemption Exam, or HMP Economics Placement Exam on Monday, August 27, 2018 from 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.  or from 3:00-5:00p.m. Location will be assigned during Orientation.  
  • Students may also take the Exemption Exams on Friday, August 31, 2018 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. in room 1690 SPH I.  

Questions may be sent to