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Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Previous Exams

Qualifying Examination Schedule

ALL four exam sections will be offered in January and August of each year, during the week before the semester starts. If you are planning to take the qualifying exams, please send an email request to the chair (Prof. Predrag Nikolic, pnikolic at gmu dot edu) of the Qualifying Exam Committee at least two weeks before the exam date. On your email please indicate the individual sections of the exam that you intend to take and please include your G# on the email request.

Exam Schedule for Fall 2017

August 23, 2017 (Wednesday) (9:00am - 4:00pm) Exploratory Hall, Rm 1004
(You can bring a simple calculator to your exam.)

  • 9:00am-noon: Classical Mechanics
    (During the CM exam, you are allowed to bring in with you one of the graduate-level texts, e.g. Classical Mechanics, by H. Goldstein.)
  • 1:00pm-4:00pm: Electromagnetic Theory
    (During the EM exam, you can bring self-prepared formula sheets (no more than 5 sheets of letter-sized paper). No textbooks are allowed during the exam.)

August 24, 2017 (Thursday) (9:00am - 4:00pm) Exploratory Hall, Rm 1004
(You can bring a simple calculator to your exam.)

  • 9:00am-noon: Quantum Mechanics
    (Duirng the QM exam, you are allowed to bring in with you one of the graduate-level texts, e.g. The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, by R. Shankar.)
  • 1:00pm-4:00pm: Statistical Mechanics
    (During the SM exam, you are allowed to bring in with you one of the graduate-level texts, e.g. Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics by W. Greiner et al.)

Qualifying Exam Policy

  • Grades of “Pass” or “Unsatisfactory” will be given individually for the four separate sections of the exam. If a student receives a grade of “Unsatisfactory” in a given section of the exam, he/she is allowed to retake that section in the next cycle.
  • Students entering the program with equivalent courses taken at another institution can satisfy the core requirement by taking the qualifying exam directly.
  • The graders provide numerical scores and the committee meets as a whole to determine pass/unsatisfactory lines.
  • We will discontinue the policy of offering an oral exam to students who are on the pass/unsatisfactory border.
  • Pass/unsatisfactory grades assigned by the committee are final. Students may request to review their exams with the grader in order to learn from the experience. They may not lobby for grade changes or take a copy of their exam following the meeting.
  • Previous exams will be posted on the qualifying exam web site. Solutions will not be posted or provided to students.
  • At least one member of the committee will be available during each exam to answer any questions.
  • Students have 3 years from the date of enrollment in the PhD program to complete the qualifying exams. There will be no additional limit on the number of attempts.
  • The committee will try to report grades within 1 week of the conclusion of the exams.


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General questions and requests for additional information should be directed to the program director.