A student working on a master thesis in mathematics will have to present it at the end of the semester in front of the professor.

The professor will ask several questions during the presentation, what is the intend of those questions?

Basically, what is the professor trying to achieve through those questions?

Does he want to see whether you are the writer of this thesis and that you didn't have someone else do it for you?

Does he want to know whether you understand the concepts you are presenting? ( I am guessing yes, since this is the point of a master thesis after all)

Does he want to know whether you can use the information in your thesis to come up with other conclusions, not mentioned in the paper? Perhaps give you some short mathematics exercises he expects you to solve during the presentation.

Can you explain what is the point of those questions?

  • 4
    If a presentation is good, audience members might even ask questions because they are interested in the answer personally.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 6 at 21:07

After some decades of naively thinking that the point of an exam was the exam itself ... I've finally realized that the largest point is to give students a motivation to study/review/think.

So the point is that the student knows, in advance, that questions will be asked. And that not being able to respond will be, at least, an embarrassment. So the student makes sure to improve their ability to answer relevant questions. That is the real goal. :)

And, for that matter, one's advisor should not allow the exam to take place until they are confident that the student is adequately prepared. There's scant purpose in carrying out an exam wherein a bad outcome is predictable (except, conceivably, in extreme cases where the student is really not working hard, is disinterested, uncooperative, yet somehow doesn't realize they should leave the program voluntarily...)


Often there will be a committee, and not just one professor asking questions. In some institutions, any faculty member can attend and ask questions.

The principal reason is to be sure you do understand the concepts you have presented, which has the added effect of reassuring them that you actually did write the thesis. They may also probe for broader, more general understanding of the subject matter of your degree.

Your thesis advisor or committee chair can help you prepare for the oral examination part of your presentation by giving you advice on how to prepare. It may be possible for you to attend the thesis defenses of other students to see how they are conducted. If so, I urge you to do so.


I can't know what the practice is at your particular university, but that kind of public presentation is common. Other faculty and students may be invited, and may come. The forum gives the student a chance to explain to the audience what they wrote about, what they learned, and why it's important and interesting. Unless there is some doubt about the correctness of the thesis or some doubt about the references the questions are likely to be open ended and straightforward.

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