Oral Exam

One of the requirements of advancement to candidacy is a to demonstrate the command of four core areas of physics: Classical Mechanics (PHY 501), Electricity and Magnetism (PHY 505/506), Quantum Mechanics (PHY 511/512) and Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (PHY 540). In each subject this obligation can be fulfilled either by passing the corresponding Placement Exam element, or by obtaining a B or better grade in the corresponding course(s). This policy addresses the needs of second year students who are in good academic standing and have prospects for a research project, but did not pass the course(s) with a sufficiently high score. These students can petition for a special oral examination which examines if their understanding of the material is sufficient to continue studies for a Ph.D. degree.

The material for the exam does not exceed what has been covered in the course and what is published in the Graduate Bulletin. It will be clearly defined in a meeting of the graduate student and the GPD at least four weeks before the date of the exam.

The exam it conducted by a three member committee appointed by the GPD. It should include the (future) adviser (who cannot be the Chair if the committee) and a past instructor of the relevant core course other than the one(s) who failed the student. Ten short questions prepared by the committee will be used as a starting point of the discussion. The exam should be over in 45 minutes. In rare cases when the student failed to get a passing grade in both the first and the second semester of a given course the exam will be longer and it will cover both semesters.

The student will pass if the Committee judges that there is sufficient understanding of the material.

Second year students should petition for the exam at the end of the Spring Semester. Each student will be informed about the place and the approximate time of the exam. Grading will be Pass/Fail, and the grades will be announced after all students are heard. Not showing up for the exam is equivalent to failing.

Students passing the exam may proceed towards candidacy, as soon as other requirements are satisfied. In general, no grade change will be submitted to the University, although the Committee may decide otherwise.

Refer to the description of graduate program for further details about the policies on the requirements, exams and courses.


Last updated 9/17/2009 by Jacobus Verbaarschot.