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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)

Upcoming exams:

  • Spring 2022:  Online exam scheduled on  1/29/2022 (Saturday)
    Students are allowed to have a formula sheet (letter size, only one-side not both) for each subject. In the beginning of the exam, students need to show their formula sheet (via camera if the exam is online) to the proctor before working on the problems. Nothing else (textbook, computer files etc) is allowed.   This time we do not have a physical room for the students because all students should have office space by now. If a student plans to take any subject(s), please send an email to Prof. Lin Tian ( to register. 


        9:00AM-11:00AM Classical mechanics

        11:30AM-1:30PM Electromagnetism

         2:00PM-4:00PM Quantum mechanics


Fall 2021:  Online exam  was scheduled on  8/24/2021 (Tuesday). 

Fall 2020 scheduled on 8/24/2020 (Monday) and was online via zoom.   Please see here for instructions!

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.

    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

    Fall 2019 Classical Mechanics

    Fall 2019 Quantum Mechanics

    Fall 2019 EM 

    Fall 2020 Classical Mechanics

    Fall 2020 Quantum Mechanics

    Fall 2020 EM

    Spring 2021 Classical Mechanics   

    Spring 2021 Quantum Mechanics

    Spring 2021 EM

    Fall 2021 Classical Mechanics

    Fall 2021 Quantum Mechanics

    Fall 2021 EM

    Spring 2022 Classical Mechanics

    Spring 2022 EM