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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)

Prior to the Fall of 2018, the exam will be offered once or twice a year, at the discretion of the Prelim committee (see details below).  The exam may be taken once each time it is offered, but must be passed no later than the start of the fourth semester.

Beginning in the Fall of 2018, the exam will be offered only once per year, on the Saturday before instruction begins, and must be passed no later than the start of the third year (i.e. a graduate student has at most three tries). 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. 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 semester may be subject to dismissal.

Upcoming exams:

  • Fall 2017: 9/23/2017 (Saturday)
  • Spring 2018: TBD (may not be offered)
  • Fall 2018: 8/18/2018 (Saturday)
  • Fall 2019: 8/24/2019 (Saturday) 

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