Information about the AS&T Preliminary Exam for prospective students
All students who enter the Ph.D. program must take a one and a half hour oral AS&T Preliminary Examination based upon basic courses in their field of expertise. The exam must be taken no later than the second semester of the first academic year within the program (typically in late spring semester). Students who fail to pass the exam are allowed one more attempt, to be taken no later than the end of their third semester. A selection of courses to be covered in each of the examination areas will be established, and an oral examination will be arranged. Recommendations for the student's academic program and course work will be forwarded to the Head Graduate Advisor for inclusion in the student's "Blue Card," which tracks a student's progress throughout the degree program. The Preliminary Examination Committee will include four (4) members of the AS&T Group with research interests similar to that of the student. Typically, this will include members from more than one department, and the student's Research Advisor if available. The committee chair will be selected from theList of Approved AS&T Preliminary Examination Committee Chairs. A detailed description of the Preliminary Examination and a Sample Examination Proposal are given in the Student Manual. A sample examination proposal can be also downloaded.
The Preliminary Examination has two purposes:
- To provide guidance to the student;
- To determine if the student is qualified to continue in the Ph.D. program.
The examination will cover basic undergraduate coursework appropriate to the student's chosen research area, broadly interpreted, and which, if possible, is consistent with the student's undergraduate coursework. Students are urged to consult with the members of their examination committee, especially with the Research Advisor, in advance to determine the scope of the examination. As an example, for Applied Physics, students with undergraduate backgrounds in Physics might be examined in these three areas:
- Electromagnetics (Phys 110AB or equivalent);
- Quantum Mechanics (Phys 137A or equivalent);
- One other area of Physics, Mathematics, Engineering, or the life sciences, roughly equivalent to a one or two semester basic undergraduate course of study.
Students with other undergraduate backgrounds will normally be examined in three coherent areas, each equivalent to a one or two semester basic undergraduate sequence, as above. After the exam, the committee will identify strengths and weaknesses in the student's exam performance and in the student's overall record of performance in the AS&T program. The committee can make recommendations for future coursework and other actions to be undertaken. Examples are:
- "Take course X."
- "Improve oral (or written) presentation skills."
- "TA course Y" (serve as a Teaching Assistant).