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Testing Ph.D Qualifying Exams

  1. Jan 14, 2008 #1
    Hi All,

    Does anyone know where I can get samples of Ph.D qualifying exams.

    Thanks in advance,

    Bob Guercio
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2008 #2


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  4. Jan 15, 2008 #3
    I'm not sure how much it would help you. Each physics department has its own quals. Sometimes they can be based on research areas specific to the department. For example, my department has active research in condensed matter, high energy, nuclear physics, and astrophysics. So our qualifier has questions on all four of these research topics.

    If you're preparing for a qualifier, then my guess is that you've been accepted into a graduate program. Rather than looking for qual problems on the Internet, it would help you significantly more if you called the office of the department where you'll be attending, and ask for old copies of their qualifiers. My department has CDs with old qualifiers dating back to 1981, and this is the department-approved way of studying for the qual. Yours should have something similar.
  5. Jan 15, 2008 #4
    There is a line of books: Problems and Solutions in Classical Mechanics. . .. Problems and Solutions in Statistical Mechanics. . . and so on. The problems are taken straight from PhD qualifying exams and are really excellent references. They have a few errors in the solutions here and there, but that should be part of the fun, finding them. I actually use them to study for regular classes, as I think they provide a great background.

    On the downside, they are pretty expensive.
  6. Jan 15, 2008 #5
    I used these to pass my quals. I found them useful to get new problems to solve and to learn what kind of problems one is likely to see. I then let friends use them to pass their quals. These books are just tons of problems and solutions. Some very bad solutions. There is no "typical" physics text discussing concepts or different solution methods. So unless you are rehearsed in the background, I don't think they are useful study guides. But if you are looking to find new problems to solve. Or find out what kind of problems you find on Quals, then these would be useful.

    One thing you could do is get a group of friends- each one buys a book and you guys swap them around to study.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2008
  7. Jan 16, 2008 #6
    Hmm. . . after reading your response Norman, I wonder about something - is the fact that I learned more statistical mechanics from the book Problems and Solutions in Statistical Mechanics than I did in the class a good sign for the book, or a bad sign for the professor?
  8. Jan 16, 2008 #7

    Tom Mattson

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    I prepared for my quals by solving recent exams from my own school. That's really the only way to do it, IMO. Qualifying exams are wide open with regards to content, and the only way to really narrow it down is to get to know what each professor likes to ask. I was lucky in that the same professors who taught the core courses also wrote the qualifier.
  9. Jan 16, 2008 #8
    Maybe a little of both? (Joking)

    Sometimes to learn something you just need to crank on it for a long time with repetition and practice. All depends on your learning style and the subject. I wouldn't read too much into the professor or the book from one instance. It worked for you and that is great!
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