Qualifying Exam

M.S. written examination

Passing the written M.S. exam is required for the M.S. degree, unless a student pursues a research-based M.S. degree (see below). The examination is offered in August and consists of specially designated problems (usually eight) on the concurrent Physics qualifying examination (see below). The designated problems are in the areas of mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics/statistical mechanics, and special relativity.

A student may take the master’s examination a total of twice, including any attempts at the full Ph.D. qualifying examination. The first attempt must be in the August following matriculation, and the second attempt must be made the next year. For this purpose only, students admitted in the Spring semester will be treated as if they had been admitted the following Fall. Students who take the Ph.D. qualifying examination are automatically considered to be taking the master’s examination, unless they have previously passed it. Passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam automatically implies passing the master’s examination.

Research-based M.S. requirements

In lieu of taking the written M.S. examination, students pursuing the research-based M.S.in Physics degree may meet a set of research requirements. In order to do so, a student must:

  1. Accumulate at least 3 credit hours of P800 or 802 (with a passing grade), or equivalent research experience as determined by the director of graduate studies (DGS), before their third semester in the program begins.
  2. Formally choose, in consultation with the director of graduate studies (DGS), to pursue a research-based degree by the end of their 3rd semester. (Students who have not consulted with the DGS and obtained permission to pursue a research-based degree will be required to pass the M.S. examination to receive the M.S. in Physics degree.)
  3. Accumulate at least 8 credit hours of P800 or 802 (with passing grades) by the end of the summer following their 4th semester.
  4. The student will give an oral presentation on their research before a committee to be approved by the DGS. Successful execution of this presentation will thereby constitute satisfactory completion of an oral Final Examination.
  5. A master's thesis is optional. Students pursuing the exam-based M.S. may not switch into the research-based M.S. track without re-applying to the program.

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