Qualifying Examination

All Ph.D. students must take and pass a written qualifying examination in order to advance to doctoral candidacy. The qualifying exam is at the level of advanced undergraduate courses and many resources are available to students to aid in preparing for the exams, including previous years' exams.

Qualifying examinations will be offered once a year, in the week before the beginning of the Spring semester. A student wishing to take the examination will be required to sign up for it with the graduate advisor.

There will be four written examinations covering the following topics and typically given on the shown days and times of the week in room 2294 SEL.

Day Time Topic
9 am - noon Quantum Mechanics
9 am - noon Electromagnetism
9 am - noon Thermal and Statistical Mechanics
Friday, 1/12/2018
9 am - noon Classical Mechanics

Please note all students, regardless of their academic standing, are eligible to take the qualifying exam.

For additional details please consult the Department of Physics Graduate Student Handbook.

Previous sample exams are available in the main office. You can also find problems and solutions of the prior exams at This link to qualifying exam Questions and Solutions.

Additional Background Material
The following list of text books should give you an indication of the minimum level at which you should prepare yourself for the qualifying exam. Remember that qualifying problems are typically at the level of the more difficult homework problems of our 400-level courses offered at UIC. To be successful at the qualifying exam both a solid understanding of the material and analytical skills are necessary. The latter requires basic mathematics and practicing problem solving.

  • Mechanics
    • Fowles, Analytical Mechanics
      Marion and Thornton, Classical Dynamics and Systems
      R. Becker, Introduction to Theoretical Mechanics
  • Electromagnetism
    • Griffiths, Introduction to Electrodynamics
      Reitz, Milford and Christie, Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory
  • Quantum Mechanics
    • Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
      Amit Goswami, Quantum Mechanics
      Stephen Gasiorowicz, Quantum Physics
      N. Zettili, Quantum Mechanics
      Liboff, Introductory Quantum Mechanics
  • Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics
    • Adkins, Equilibrium Thermodynamics
      Daniel Schroeder, An Introduction to Thermal Physics
      Reif, Statistical Mechanics
      Kroemer and Kittel, Thermal Physics