Go to the U of M home page
School of Physics & Astronomy
Physics & Astronomy Wiki

dgs_advice:preparation_for_the_graduate_written_exam

How to prepare for the Graduate Written Exam (GWE)

The Graduate Written Exam (GWE) is a comprehensive exam around the core subjects of Physics that needs to be passed before the beginning of the second year of graduate study (a petition for an extension is possible).

There are three main ways to prepare for the exam: study the basic Physics curriculum, study and solve previous editions of the exam, attend preparatory sessions held in the School.

Basic Physics curriculum

The exam is broken up in two, three hour long, sessions. One is devoted to short questions (10 questions for 10 points each), and one to longer questions (5 questions, 20 points each). By topic, the short questions are on Classical Mechanics (3), Quantum Mechanics (2), Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (2), Electromagnetism, Nuclear Physics, and Special Relativity. The long questions are on Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, and Special Relativity. Therefore the maximum score is 200. The passing line fluctuates from year to year, but it just a bit over 100 (50%).

The exam is prepared by a committee of Faculty which changes from year to year. There are no firm or set boundaries on what the scope of the questions is, and they are largely determined by those that comprise the committee on any given year. Just as a suggestion, you may want to make sure that you are familiar with the following material:

  • Classical Mechanics at an intermediate level, plus the special theory of relativity. Typical texts are Taylor, Marion, Symon, Becker, and Fowles.
  • Electricity and magnetism at the intermediate level, including boundary value problems. Typical texts are Griffiths, Wangsness, Purcell.
  • Statistical physics at the intermediate level, including the use of the Boltzmann, Gibbs, Fermi-Dirac, and Bose-Einstein distributions, classical and ideal gases, and black-body radiation. Typical texts are Chapters 1 through 14 of Kittel and Kroemer and Chapters 1 through 13 of Reif.
  • Quantum mechanics at the intermediate level and the beginning graduate level. Typical texts are Griffiths, Cohen-Tannoudji, Dalibard.

Previous GWE

The time honored process to learn Physics is to solve problems yourself. In addition to looking at problems in the textbooks above, we have made available past GWE's in the department. You can find them here.

Preparatory study sessions

There are weekly sessions after the graduate research seminar to go over problems from past years. Please contact the graduate coordinator in the front office for further information.

dgs_advice/preparation_for_the_graduate_written_exam.txt · Last modified: 2017/10/27 11:03 by vinals