Phase I: Getting started at the BMS

Students generally move to Berlin around the beginning of September. The types of housing available in Berlin range from dormitories of the Studentenwerk, to WGs (shared flats), to private apartment rentals. The BMS has reserved 10 rooms in the Studentendorf Schlachtensee each year for new students where the rental period starts on 1 September. It is recommended that students arrive in September so that all administrative requirements can be completed before the start of the semester. The BMS One-Stop Office will provide support for all of these requirements, but the process will take time. In addition, international students often spend their first month (before the actual semester begins) taking an intensive German language course, which will be covered by the BMS.

The BMS Orientation Week will take place during the week before the first day of classes, usually the second week of October. During orientation week you will learn about your academic requirements, the operation of the graduate program and other opportunities offered by the BMS such as travel funding and student activities.

University Registration and Phase I Advisor

At the beginning of the first year, each student is assigned a Phase I advisor. Your advisor is a faculty member with interests similar to those indicated on your application for admission. The Phase I advisor will review your course selection each term, keep track of your academic progress, and provide advice for your program of study. The Phase I advisor will also advise you on acceptable topics for your qualifying exam.

You will officially be enrolled at the university of your Phase I advisor. Each semester, you must pay a small registration fee (approximately 315€) to receive your semester ticket. This semester ticket will also act as a transportation pass for all Berlin public transportation systems, including the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and bus, valid for the entire semester (six full months).

Course Program

Students are expected to attend three to four basic courses in the first semester to find their mathematical passion. In the second semester students should take one or two more basic courses and an advanced course in their chosen field of interest. The third semester should be devoted to more advanced courses and finding the right master thesis advisor and thesis topic.

The courses can take place at any of the three Berlin universities. BMS courses are posted on the BMS website, but you can take any of the courses offered at the three universities. If you would like to take a course that is not registered as a BMS course, it is possible to receive credit for it as a BMS basic or advanced course. Confirm with the One-Stop office in the beginning of the semester to make sure the credits are properly transferred. All BMS courses (and most other courses) will be taught in English upon request.

Academic Evaluation

The grades for each course are evaluated only by the students’ performance on the final exam. To be eligible to take a final exam, students must successfully complete 50-60% of the homework exercises, which are assigned weekly and usually completed in groups. Final exams can be either written or oral. Written exams will take place during the last weeks of the semester. Oral exams are set by appointment, usually after the end of lectures or the beginning of the following semester.

The overall academic performance of all BMS students is evaluated at the end of each semester. Students are expected to maintain an average grade of at least 2.0. Upon completion of 7 one-semester courses (5 basic courses, 1 advanced course, 1 seminar) with an average grade between 1.0 and 2.5, students will become eligible to take the Qualifying Exam.

Qualifying Exam/ End of Phase I (4th semester)

The qualifying exam is an oral exam given by a committee of BMS faculty members to evaluate whether a student is ready to move on to Phase II, the research phase of the doctoral program. The exam will be a 90-minute exam based on three courses, an advanced course and two basic courses from their Phase I course program. By the end of the first year, students should know on what courses they would be tested in the qualifying exam.

The exam committee will be made up of the professors who taught these courses and your Phase I advisor/mentor. Your Phase I advisor/mentor will act as both an advisor for your choice of topics and also your supporter on the exam committee.

Choosing a PhD Thesis supervisor (4th semester)

As students progress in their coursework and their interests become more focused, they select a PhD supervisor in their intended Research Training Area. They generally make a tentative choice by the end of the third semester in order to plan for the Qualifying Examination and plan their Phase II and apply for funding in the fourth semester.


Phase II: Research (5th - 9th semester)

After successful completion of the qualifying exam, students must designate a doctoral thesis advisor, who supervises their dissertation, and a mentor, who will provide support in other aspects of the dissertation including career advice, networking, and resolving conflicts between the student and the supervisor. Students are expected to finish Phase II in 4-6 semesters.

Students are expected to take at least one advanced course per semester during their research phase. Grades are not recorded from courses taken during Phase II.

Thesis Defense (10th semester)

When the thesis approaches completion, a Thesis Examination Committee is formed according to the regulations of the respective university. The student's successful defense of the thesis completes the doctoral program.


Soft Skill Seminars

The BMS offers soft skill seminars throughout the year. These 1- to 2-day workshops help you develop skills that are useful, and often necessary, to continue working in mathematics in either academia or industry. Some past workshops include intercultural training, communication and presentation skills, organization and work methods, writing mathematics, mathematical graphics, team dynamics and leading teams, applying for jobs and positions in English and project management.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend these workshops.