Qualifying Exam

Qualifying Exam

Doctoral Qualifying Examination and Master's Comprehensive Examination

The Doctoral Qualifying Examination and the Master's Comprehensive Examination are the same test. Students pursuing the Master of Science Degree, Plan B and all Ph.D. students must take this examination.

New Format: Qualifying Exam – Beginning Fall 2021

The exam will have two parts:

Part 1) Written exam: will be held on one day only. Students will have to do 4 problems, one from each section: Classical Mechanics (including relativity), Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics.

To pass at the PhD (MS) level, the student must solve one problem in each section with a minimum of 40% (30%) score in each, and a total score of at least 50% (40%).

Possible time slots:

10:00 am – 12:00 p.m.   - Classical Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.   -  Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics

The exam will be graded within one week of its administration.

A student who obtains a score of at least 40% (30%) in each section individually and a total score of at least 50% (40%) in the Part 1 is deemed to have passed the qualifying exam at the PhD (MS) level, and is not required to take the Part 2 of the exam.

Part 2) Oral exam: Will be held within two weeks after the written exam scores are announced to the students. It will be administered only for students who earned a Ph.D. (M.S.) passing total score, but not so in each individual section.

Oral Exam Option for the PhD student: If the student has earned a passing score in total (50%), but not in one or two topics individually (scoring somewhere between 30% – 39%), they will be given an option to take the oral exam in the topics in which they did not earn a passing score.

Oral Exam Option for the MS student: If the student has earned a passing score in total (40%), but not in one or two topics individually (scoring somewhere between 20% – 29%), they will be given an option to take the oral exam in the topics in which they did not earn a passing score.

Students are allowed two attempts to pass the examination. The examination is usually taken at the end of the student's first year, but must be taken not later than the end of the student's second year of graduate work. A year's deferral may be granted to students who enter with course deficiencies. Such deferral must be approved by the department during the student's first semester of enrollment.

If a student is enrolled in the Master of Science Degree in the Physics Program and receives a grade of “Fail” on this examination, the student following Plan B, is not eligible to received the Master of Science Degree under this plan. However, the student may petition the department to complete the Master of Science Degree under Plan A.

Past Years' Exams

All exams are in PDF Format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access these files. Adobe Acrobat Reader is available on the web free at http://www.adobe.com/.

  • Fall 2018

Fall 2018 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2016

Fall 2016 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2015

Fall 2015 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2014

Fall 2014 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2013

Fall 2013 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2012

Fall 2012 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2011

Fall 2011 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2010

Fall 2010 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2009

Fall 2009 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2008

Fall 2008 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2007

Fall 2007 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2006

Fall 2006 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2005

Fall 2005 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2004

Fall 2004 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2003

Fall 2003 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2002

Fall 2002 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2001

Fall 2001 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 2000

Fall 2000 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 1999

Fall 1999 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 1998

Fall 1998 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 1997

Fall 1997 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 1996

Fall 1996 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Fall 1995

Fall 1995 Qualifying Exam Problem Book
  • Spring 1995

Spring 1994 Classical Mechanics Qualifying Exam Problems
Spring 1994 Quantum Mechanics Qualifying Exam Problems
Spring 1994 Electricity & Magnetism Qualifying Exam Problems
Spring 1994 Statistical Mechanics Qualifying Exam Problems
  • Spring 1994

Spring 1994 Classical Mechanics Qualifying Exam Problems
Spring 1994 Quantum Mechanics Qualifying Exam Problems
Spring 1994 Electricity & Magnetism Qualifying Exam Problems
Spring 1994 Statistical Mechanics Qualifying Exam Problems

Solved Problem Collections

  • V.V. Batyigin and I.N. Toptyigin: Problems in Electrodynamics (Dover, New York, 1978).
  • S.B. Cahn, G.D. Mahan and B.E.Nadgorny: A Guide to Physics Problems, Part 1(Plenum Press, New York, 1997).
  • S.B. Cahn, G.D. Mahan and B.E.Nadgorny: A Guide to Physics Problems, Part 2(Plenum Press, New York, 1997).
  • J.A. Cronin, D.F. Greenberg and V.L.Telegdi: University of Chicago Graduate Problems in Physics with Solutions (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago,1967).
  • I.I. Goldman and V.D. Krivchenkov: Problems in Quantum Mechanics (Dover, New York, 1993).
  • S. Flügge: Practical Quantum Mechanics (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1971).
  • C.S. Johnson, Jr. and L.G. Pedersen: Problems and Solutions in Quantum Chemistry and Physics (Dover, NewYork, 1986).
  • Y.-K. Lim: Problems and Solutions on Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics(World Scientific, Singapore, 1990).
  • N. Newbury, M. Newman, J. Ruhl, S.Staggs and S. Thorsett: Princeton Problems in Physics with Solutions (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1991).
  • A.C. Tribble: Princeton Guide to Advanced Physics (Princeton University Press,Princeton, 1996)