Graduate Students

Qualifying Examinations

The Qualifying Examination (QE) tests a PhD student's research progress, ability to explain and evaluate his/her research work in the context of the scientific literature, and ability to answer technical questions from other scientists.

Unless special permission is granted by the School, the QE must be completed within 18 months from enrolment in the PhD programme. Failure to do so may result in disqualification from the PhD programme.

Preparing for the QE

To be eligible for the QE, you must have completed the coursework requirements of the PhD programme, while satisfying the minimum CGPA of 3.5. (If you are enrolled in and on-track to complete your last one or two courses during Year 2 Semester 1, you will still be allowed to attend the QE, but the QE results will take effect only after you have successfully completed the courses.) If you think you might not meet the coursework requirements before the QE due date, please contact the PhD programme administrators as soon as possible.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, your QE will be scheduled near the end of Semester 1 of your second year of study (15–16 months after enrolment in the programme). You will be informed via email of the date/time of your oral examination, and the faculty members who will be your examiners.

A few months before the scheduled QE, you should begin preparing your QE report. This is a short report (anywhere from 20-50 pages) detailing (i) your research progress thus far, (ii) how it fits into the broader scientific literature, and (iii) your future research plans. It should be written to be understandable by physicists who are not necessarily subject-matter experts in your research topic(s). It should be properly formatted according to the standards of the scientific literature (e.g., with page numbers, appropriately- captioned figures and tables, properly type-set and numbered equations, etc.).

Please discuss the contents of your QE report with your faculty supervisor in advance, and start working on it early; do not leave things to the last minute! You should show your completed QE report to your faculty supervisor, and receive his/her approval, before submitting it to the examiners.

You should also prepare a 30-minute presentation, with slides, covering the same material as your QE report.

QE Report and Oral Examination

At least one week prior to the oral examination date, submit your completed QE Report to each of the examiners (please ask the examiners whether they prefer a hardcopy or a softcopy).

During the day of the oral examination, please arrive on time, and bring along your own laptop with your presentation slides. The oral examination will consist of your 30 minute presentation, followed by a 10–15 minute Question and Answer session. The examiners may ask you about anything relating to your research.