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Qualifying Exam

The purpose of this exam is to ensure that each student has the necessary knowledge to conduct research in his or her area of concentration.

Please read the Physics Graduate Student Handbook for more details. Questions regarding the Qualifying Examination policies may be directed to the chair of the physics department qualifying exam committee.

Physics—Students accepted into the Physics PhD program must take a written Qualifying (Comprehensive) Examination. The exam will be authored and administered by the physics department's qualifying exam committee and will cover four areas:

  • Classical mechanics (including introductory special relativity)
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Quantum mechanics
  • General physics

Engineering Physics—Students accepted into the Engineering Physics PhD program must pass a Qualifying (Comprehensive) Examination, which is composed of a physics component and an engineering component. The physics component of the Qualifying Examination will be the same as for students in the Physics PhD program, except Engineering Physics PhD students will select, in advance, three out of the four areas to take. The engineering member(s) of the student's advisory committee shall formulate the engineering component of the qualifying examination appropriate to the student's chosen area of engineering physics interest—focusing on fundamentals related to but not on the student's current research.

Sample Exams

Sample examinations and references are available to Michigan Tech students from the domain only (requires ISO password). Problems may be solved using techniques taught at the advanced undergraduate level.

Classical Mechanics

Text References

Classical Dynamics of Particles & Systems, J.B. Marion and S.T. Thornton, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1988. Chapters 1 to 14.

Analytical Mechanics, G.R. Fowles and G.L. Cassiday, 7th edition, Harcourt Brace & Company, 2005. Chapters 1 to 11.

Classical Mechanics, J. Taylor. University Science Books, 2005. Chapters 1-11, 13, 15.

Electricity and Magnetism

Text References

Introduction to Electrodynamics, 3rd ed. D. J. Griffiths, Prentice Hall. Chapters 1 to 11.

Electromagnetism, G. L. Pollack and D. R. Stump. Addison Wesley, 2002. Chapters 1-11, 13-15.

Quantum Mechanics

Text References

Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei and Particles, R. Eisberg and R. Resnick, 2nd edition, John Wiley & Sons, 1985. Chapters 1 to 10.

Quantum Mechanics, An Accessible Approach, R. Scherrer, Pearson Addison Wesley, 2006. Chapters 1 to 10.

General Physics

Text References

The general physics section of the exam will consist of short questions covering all areas of physics normally taught at the undergraduate level including mechanics, special relativity, electromagnetism (including AC and DC circuits), quantum and atomic physics, thermal and statistical physics, optics and laboratory techniques including data analysis.


The Qualifying Exams are administered twice a year, usually during the second and third weeks of the fall and spring semesters.