Preliminary Exam

The preliminary examination evaluates a student's ability to understand and orally convey a physics research topic of current interest.

The exam marks the Advancement to Candidacy and should be completed by May of the third year in the program. It does not require the presentation of original results. Continued good standing in the program depends upon the fulfillment of this requirement by the end of the third year.

  • By the end of the second year in the program: The student identifies, in consultation with the research advisor, a three-person faculty committee, including the research advisor, to preside over the exam.

  • During the third year in the program: Student and advisor identify an appropriate topic and timetable for the exam and submit the information to the department in the Prelim Form. To complete the form, the student needs to:

    • Determine (with committee members) the date and time of the exam
    • Reserve a conference room for the exam.
    • Submit an abstract to the committee, and add to the form (or cc at least two weeks prior to taking the scheduled exam:
      • The abstract provides a brief description (approximately one typed 8-1/2 x 11 page in length) of the topics that the student will present and in which they are willing to be tested during the exam.
      • The topic may be in the area of the student's research or may represent a specific research paper, provided its subject is dealt with in sufficient generality, perhaps preceded by an appropriate introduction formulated by the student.
  • The first forty minutes of the exam is devoted to a prepared presentation by the student. They should expect questions based upon their graduate coursework and relevant to the topic under discussion.
  • A two-thirds favorable vote is necessary to pass.
  • The exam may be retaken as needed.

The student should remind their advisor to send an email with the results of the exam.