Exams Information & Archive

Comprehensive Exam Information

See the Graduate Student Handbook for details on the comprehensive exam. Below are three report examples.

Graduate Student Handbook


See the examples below for previous comprehensive exam reports.

"Atmospheric Waves Experiment" Comprehensive Exam Example

"VECSELSs: A flexible laser platform with a high degree of customization" Comprehensive Exam Example

"Surface Metrology for Thermoformed Radio Antenna Panels" Comprehensive Exam Example

Qualifying Exam Information

The main written exam used to demonstrate a PhD student's understanding of core course material has been called the Prelim Exam, the Comprehensive Exam, and the Qualifying Exam.  The topics and courses tested have also changed over the last 20 years.  However, the format of the questions for these written exams has remained the same: each question covers a topic from one of the core courses, and each question is intended to be completed within approximately 30 minutes.  

The PhD Qualifying Exam is given over two mornings in August, typically from 8:30am-11am on the Monday and Tuesday of the week before fall classes startFor 2024, classes start on August 26, 2024.  The Qualifying Exam will therefore be held on August 19 and 20, 2024.  On each day, 4 questions are given, so the written Qualifying Exam has a total of 8 questions.  On each day of testing, an equation sheet (see below) is given in addition to the questions, and the 4 questions for that day can be answered in any order and the total time can be distributed among the different questions as desired.

The questions cover the material discussed in the PhD core courses OPTI 501, OPTI 502, OPTI 505R, and OPTI 511R.   Some students will have taken the advanced Optical Physics core course sequence of OPTI 570 and OPTI 544, instead of the introductory Optical Physics course OPTI 511R; these students will be suitably prepared for the OPTI 511R questions, but all students should nevertheless look through the PDF below that lists common topics between the optical physics courses that are most likely to appear on the exam.

Exam Resources

Past Qualifying Exams