Exams

Pre-admission Requirements

Applicants should have undergraduate preparation in physics or another physical science or in an engineering field with a strong emphasis on mathematics and modern physics. The GRE general and subject exams are not used in our evaluation process and should not be submitted.


Applicants whose native language is not English must also take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the IELTS (see the Graduate School’s English Language Proficiency Requirements) for details). An exception to the TOEFL requirement is made for students who have studied for two years at a university in an English-speaking country or received an undergraduate degree from such a university. The TOEFL should be taken no later than November for scores to be available for admissions review.

Ph.D. Requirements

Graduate students engage in a wide range of cross-disciplinary research activities, bringing their expertise as an applied physicist to bear in a collaborative environment. As such, they are required to demonstrate a competency in a common core of physics subjects prior to proceeding to their admission to candidacy “A” exam.   These subjects are Quantum Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, and advanced laboratory techniques.

At present, these requirements can be satisfied by taking one course from each row of the following table, usually in the first year, followed by the PHYS6510 Advanced laboratory class the following year, and obtain a B- or better in all. All classes must be completed by the end of the second year.  Students who need more time to take preparatory classes such as mathematical physics AEP5100 or AEP5200, with the permission of their field-appointed advisor, can delay this schedule to complete the needed background.  Students should prepare a plan of study laying out the timeline for their course schedule and have it discussed and approved by their field-appointed advisor by the 4th week of class in their first semester.

Table of options for fulfilling QM, E&M and Stat Mech requirements
 FallSpring
QMPHYS6572, CHEM7930PHYS6574, AEP5620
E&MAEP5560, PHYS6561 
Stat MechAEP5230PHYS6562 (NOT PHYS4488)

After discussion with, and with the written permission of their field-appointed advisor, students may also take the final exams of AEP5620, AEP5560, and AEP5230 at the regular exam time for those classes as a place-out option in lieu of taking the full class.  However, if a student fails to achieve the equivalent of a B- in any place-out exam, they are not eligible to take any subsequent place-outs exams and must demonstrate competency in all unsatisfied areas by coursework instead.

The Admission to Candidacy "A" Exam is an oral exam to prepare for beginning full-time research in a particular area of applied physics as well as ensure competency in the minor area of study. This exam is administered by the student’s special committee. It is typically taken in the second or third year of studies. Upon successful completion of the A-exam, the student is awarded a master’s degree and formally admitted into the Ph.D. program.

The student then undertakes a project of original research and writes a thesis. In the Final "B" Examination, the student makes an oral defense of this thesis at a hearing administered by the special committee. A successful defense and approval of the written thesis are the final steps in fulfilling the degree requirements for a Ph.D. in applied physics.

The total time required to earn a doctorate in applied physics generally ranges from five to six years, depending on a student’s preparation and research topic.