Qualifying Exams

All PhD students must complete a Qualifying Exam no later than the 6th term/semester in program.

This oral examination is designed to test the student's knowledge of fundamentals and applications of physics closely related to the thesis topic.

The advisory/supervisory committee will meet formally with the student during the first year of the PhD program. From this meeting a list of three areas of physics deemed necessary background for the thesis topic will be recorded on the Advisory Committee Report form.

The qualifying examination committee should have five members:

  • Supervisor
  • Co-Supervisor (if you have one)
  • 2 other committee members (1 other member if your Supervisor and Co-Supervisor are providing questions)
  • The GWPI Director or their representative
  • The GWPI Associate Director or their representative

Students should allow for approximately two months to prepare for the exam. All topics, study materials and the examiners providing questions should be defined before a date is set.

Three of the qualifying examination committee members will each provide three questions for a total of nine questions. 

Students will have two hours to prepare solutions to the nine questions and will be expected to be prepared to present all nine solutions to the examination committee. No books or other aids are permitted.

After two hours of preparation, the examination committee will enter and the student will have up to two hours to present their solutions to the committee.

The most recent committee meeting report and the student's grades in graduate courses will be available to the committee for its deliberations after the examination is finished. Discussion of the candidate's responses to individual questions is expected before arriving at a final decision.

The committee makes one of the following recommendations to the director concerning the results of this examination.

  1. Recommend pass
  2. Recommend conditional pass; some remedial work is required and should be checked by the advisory/supervisory committee by some reasonable specified time
  3. Recommend fail first attempt, required to re-appear
  4. Recommend fail, required to withdraw

Option 3 will not be available to a student more than once. The director will communicate the result to the student in a timely manner.

QE Check List

  • Define 3 exam topics
  • Define 3 expert examiners
  • Define study materials
  • Contact assistant to director to arrange a date