Placement Exam

A written placement exam will be administered in the orientation week before the start of classes in the Fall semester. The purpose of the Placement Exam is to ensure the success of all students admitted to our Ph.D. program by providing individualized guidance on courses for optimal development. Our experience is that the admissions process successfully identifies students with the appropriate ability, but does not guarantee uniformity in preparation of the talented individuals admitted to our program.

The exam will consist of problems typical of those found in our introductory and advanced undergraduate courses in mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. The exam will have two parts, each 3 hours in length. Part I will cover mechanics and electromagnetism; Part II will cover quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. If the examination identifies for any student a gap in preparation at a level that would prevent successful completion of one or more of the required graduate courses, that student will be required to successfully complete the corresponding undergraduate course(s) before taking the graduate course on that topic. Students are expected to obtain a grade of B+ or better on the undergraduate course. All students are required to take the placement exam.


The exam will consist take place in two 3-hour session in orientation week. The first exam will cover classical mechanics and electromagnetism, while the second will cover quantum mechanics, and statistical Mechanics and thermodynamics. Students will be informed of the results of the Placement Exam in the first week of classes by the Physics Director of Graduate Studies.

The level of the material covered by the Placement Exam and the mapping onto our undergraduate courses are as follows:

• Mechanics, Physics GU4003: Classical Mechanics, Goldstein, Poole and Safko.

• Electromagnetism, Physics GU3007-3008: Introduction to Electrodynamics, Griffiths.

• Quantum Mechanics, Physics GU4021-4022: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Griffiths; A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics, Townsend.

• Statistical Mechanics, Physics GU4023: An Introduction to Thermal Physics, Schroeder; Thermal Physics, Kittel and Kroemer.

Please note that this guidance is intended to be descriptive, not proscriptive. There are many other excellent textbooks for each of these subjects