I’m currently studying for a qualifying exam required by my M.S. program to get the degree and have also applied to continue onto a Ph.D. elsewhere (all of this in the U.S). This situation got me curious about a weird edge case:

What is likely to happen if I get accepted to a Ph.D. program, but later find out I have failed my qual/will not receive the M.S. degree?

I realize that no answer to this will be universally applicable, but the reason I ask is because I already have a B.S (what most of my fellow applicants have) and they don’t necessarily know that my M.S requires a qual in the first place (so admissions decisions were probably made taking into account my coursework, etc.). So, on the one hand, it seems like even supposing I didn’t receive the M.S. I am still an applicant with the same credentials as my fellow applicants + two years of additional grad level coursework + 2 years of MS project + 2 years of Research on top of these other things. On the other hand they accepted me expecting another degree which I don’t have.

I’m not too worried about this personally and intend to pass, but I was curious since it is a real possibility for me (most people get 2 or more chances at the quals, but since I am changing fields a bit I wanted to take certain classes to help in Ph.D. admissions during my first year and ended up with only one shot).

It would be nice if this got answered as generally as possible for future worriers, but if more specificity is needed I did a math undergrad/M.S. and applied to Comp. Sci. for PhD. Also, the M.S. was not done to bolster my record but instead just because I found funding and got more time to explore before jumping onto the PhD “treadmill” as some of my professors have described it (meaning, my undergrad would have made me a good math applicant with research experiences, 3.6+ GPA, strong letters, from a respected school, etc. should I have decided to apply straight out of it).

Anyhow sorry this got long, I was just trying to walk the line between keeping it general and making it unanswerable haha. (Also, as a little aside, I can retake it late in the summer but it’d be a pain travel/housing wise).

tl;dr
Accepted into PhD while in a MS elsewhere, but failed exam required for MS (all in USA). What happens?

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