If a senior math PhD student makes mistakes or gives a wrong mathematical argument that illustrates some misconception in the understanding of the concept, do the PhD supervisors think less of him? Are they like- "he doesn't understand things properly and is not ready to graduate"? What goes on in their mind?

I'm particularly interested in mathematics, but I would like to hear from non-mathematicians as well.

  • 1
    @Ben The question you mentioned is from the same OP, strange.
    – Outsider
    Jan 12, 2023 at 22:49
  • @Outsider: Interesting. I suppose the only difference is that OP was a first-year PhD in the previous question and is now asking as a senior PhD student. I don't think the answer has changed in the intervening year-and-a-half so essentially still a duplicate.
    – Ben
    Jan 12, 2023 at 23:13
  • Did the student catch the mistake themselves?
    – Dawn
    Jan 13, 2023 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


The set of PhD supervisors is not homogeneous, neither is the set of mistakes. Generally everybody makes mistakes, so in principle this should not be a problem, but there are extraordinarily demanding and unforgiving supervisors, and there are also mistakes that reveal really fundamental misconceptions that wouldn't be expected at this level and can hardly be tolerated. So the answer is probably, "mostly not, but it can happen".


This very much depends on the supervisor's tolerance for errors, patience and expectation.

As an example, I am OK if a student makes the same mistake twice. The third time, the student will see frustration; i.e., I've explained this twice now! The fourth time is when I tell the student off; i.e., you should quit!

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