The Comprehensive Exam

Jasper Nijdam mentors in GNuLab

Students who receive a final grade of B or better in each of their first-year core courses (Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism and Solid State Physics), or have an average grade 3.33 or better in those four courses, will not be required to take a comprehensive exam.  Students who do not meet either of these conditions will be required to pass an exam based on the core courses where the final grade was below B.

The exam will be held in the summer of the student’s first and second year. Students who do not pass the exam in the first year can take it in the following year, but students who do not pass the exam before the beginning of the third year will be terminated from the Ph.D. program.

The comprehensive examination covers quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, condensed matter physics, and statistical mechanics at the advanced undergraduate level.

The full comprehensive exam consists of two (2) 4-hour written parts administered over two consecutive days. It is given once a year, during the summer. If a student’s performance on the written exam is borderline between satisfactory and unsatisfactory, the graduate committee may request that the student take an oral exam to allow for a better assessment.

Exams from previous years are available to help you in preparing to take your comprehensive examination: