If you want to apply for graduate school in computer science , you have to show that you have the prerequisite background knowledge . What are the available options ? Can I take a challenge test for credit in one subject area ,say ,algorithms provided that I have the required knowledge in this subject ? There is a man who managed to complete most of the undergraduate MIT computer science curriculum using MIT OCW . Can he verify his knowledge to the admission committee by taking challenge tests?Can I take the final exams that the university department offer to regilar students without attending to prove that I have the required knowledge for the graduate program ?

  • Can you prove that it was indeed you who solved the challenge or took the online class, and not someone else in your name? I am not saying that you cheated, but the admission needs to know that you didn't.
    – Davidmh
    Oct 28, 2014 at 7:43
  • well , in that case , I'm ready to apply for challenge exams that the committee itself or the university department organize .
    – gfjmds
    Oct 28, 2014 at 8:10
  • Then you need to be very impressive. Why would they waste their time examining someone, when they have other people just as good, with proper certifications?
    – Davidmh
    Oct 28, 2014 at 8:44
  • FYI, the usual rule for English punctuation is to put a space after any of the punctuation marks . , ? ! : ; and no space before it. Oct 28, 2014 at 14:36
  • I believe the question does not have a (single) answer, as it will be different for each institution. Some will look at alternatives such as industry experience, and some will simply refuse to accept you without the requested degree.
    – Peteris
    Oct 29, 2014 at 13:04

2 Answers 2


What you want to do will limit your choices among schools. Where I teach, we do allow provisional admission for people without the requisite undergraduate degree.* Those students are required to take a series of foundation courses before beginning the "real" master's courses. It is possible, although not easy, to test out of the foundation courses. The provisional admission is revoked for the student who earns unsatisfactory grades (C or below) in the foundation courses.

So, you will need to look for institutions that allow provisional admission, and then check the details of the provisions.

* Students must have some accredited undergraduate degree to be admitted; but it need not be in computing.


I went through this starting in 2001. I had a 1970 bachelor's in mathematics and a 1975 master's in computer science, and successfully applied for 2002 admission to a computer science Ph.D. program. I was not able to get a detailed transcript for the master's degree so I had no evidence of specific computing courses I had taken.

I got letters of reference from people in industry who knew my work. I made prior contact, through my industry network, with some professors in the department. I took the computer science GRE, which is no longer available.

The professors waived recommended prerequisites based on my experience: "The bad news is I've never taken a formal course in operating systems. The good news is I worked as an operating systems developer for 8.5 years."

The department assigned professors to check whether I needed to take undergraduate courses in their subjects, or already had the corresponding knowledge. They used several different systems, including looking at my industry achievements and interviewing me. One professor did not commit until after I had an A in his graduate course, when he decided there was no need for me to take the undergraduate course.

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