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The Preliminary Exam

The preliminary exam

All students in the group are required to pass a written preliminary examination that tests undergraduate-level understanding of the fundamental concepts in the field. The exam consists of three parts:

  • Quantum Mechanics at the level of "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics", by D. J. Griffiths (example syllabus: 137.pdf)
  • Electrodynamics at the level of "Introduction to Electrodynamics", by D. J. Griffiths (example syllabus: 110.pdf)
  • Classical Mechanics at the level of "Classical Mechanics" by J. R. Taylor (example syllabus: 105.pdf)

Students may bring a formula sheet into the exam, i.e. a single 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper with information on both sides. The exam will be offered twice per year, and must be passed no later than the start of the third year. Incoming graduate students are encouraged to take the exam at the start of the first semester.  Students need to pass each part individually but not necessarily at the same time. The passing grade is 80%. A student may, however, be deemed to have passed the exam outright if, at any one attempt, their overall performance in all three sections is good enough. Students who have not passed the exam by the start of their third year may be subject to dismissal.

Upcoming exams:

  • Fall 2020 tentatively scheduled on 8/24/2020 (Monday)

A selection of past exams from different years can be found here:

Fall 2007

Fall 2008

Spring 2009

Fall 2010 Classical Mechanics

Fall 2010 Quantum Mechanics

Fall 2010 Electromagnetism

Spring 2010

Spring 2012 Classical Mechanics

Spring 2012 Quantum Mechanics

Spring 2012 Electromagnetism

Spring 2013 Quantum mechanics

Spring 2013 Electromagnetism

Fall 2013 Quantum Mechanics

Fall 2013 Electromagnetism

Fall 2013 Classical Mechanics

Fall 2014 Classical Mechanics

Fall 2014 Electromagnetism

Fall 2014 Quantum Mechanics

Fall 2015 EM

Fall 2015 Classical Mechanics

Fall 2015 Quantum Mechanics

Spring 2016 EM

Spring 2016 Quantum mechanics

Spring 2016 Classical mechanics

Fall 2016 EM

Fall 2016 Quantum Mechanics

Fall 2016 Classical Mechanics

Spring 2017 EM

Spring 2017 Quantum Mechanics

Spring 2017 Classical Mechanics

Fall 2017 EM

Fall 2017 Quantum Mechanics

Fall 2017 Classical Mechanics

Fall 2018 EM

Fall 2018 Quantum Mechanics

Fall 2018 Classical Mechanics