Preliminary Exam Requirements and Guidelines

The Preliminary Examination evaluates a student's ability to understand and orally convey a physics research topic of current interest. It marks the Advancement to Candidacy and should be completed by May of the third year in the program. The exam does NOT require the presentation of original results. Continued good standing in the program depends upon fulfillment of this requirement by the end of the third year.


By the end of the second year in the program:

Student identifies, in consultation with the research advisor, a three person faculty committee to be in attendance, including the research advisor who presides over the exam. 

During the third year in the program:

Student and advisor identify an appropriate topic and timetable for the exam. When the time comes, student:

  • determines (with committee members) the date and time of the exam.
  • reserves a conference room for the exam.
  • at least two weeks prior to taking the scheduled exam, submits an abstract to the committee (Cc Mary Ellen Woycik).
    • The abstract provides a brief description (approximately one typed 8-1/2 x 11 page in length) of the topics that the student will present and in which s/he is willing to be tested during the exam. 
    • The topic may be in the area of the student's research or may represent a specific research paper, provided its subject is dealt with in sufficient generality, perhaps preceded by an appropriate introduction formulated by the student.
The exam:
  • The first forty minutes of the exam is devoted to a prepared presentation by the student. S/he should expect questions based upon his/her graduate course work and relevant to the topic under discussion.
  • A two-thirds favorable vote is necessary to pass.
  • The exam may be retaken as needed.
After the exam:

Student should remind his/her advisor to send Mary Ellen Woycik an email with the results of the  exam.