Preliminary Exams

Students generally take the preliminary examination in January or May of their first year.

The preliminary exam consists of four sections: mechanics; electricity and magnetism (E&M); quantum mechanics; and thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (TSM).  Each student must complete two of the three problems given in each section. The exam is given on two consecutive mornings, with mechanics and E&M on the first day, and quantum and TSM on the second day.

No calculators or other electronic devices or other assistance may be used during the exam. The solution to each problem is to be written in a separate exam booklet, so each student turns in four exam booklets at the end of each day's 3-hour exam session. The faculty grade the exam booklets and then meet to determine which students have passed the exam.

It is necessary to study for the prelims. There are prelims-prep courses offered in the fall. Student-formed study groups are an effective preparation tool.

Links to previous years' exams are below:

January 1998May 1998January 1999May 1999January 2000May 2000January 2001May 2001January 2002May 2002 
January 2003May 2003January 2004May 2004January 2005May 2005January 2006May 2006January 2007May 2007 
January 2008May 2008January 2009May 2009January 2010May 2010January 2011January 2012May 2012January 2013 
May 2013January 2014January 2015May 2015January 2016January 2017May 2017January 2018May 2018January 2019 
May 2019January 2020August 2020January 2021May 2021January 2022May 2022January 2023May 2023January 2024 
May 2024          


Possible other useful study aid can be found here