Qualifying and Comprehensive Exam Archive

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.  
Currently and for the last few years, the PhD Qualifying Exam is given over two mornings in August, nominally from 8:30am-11am on the Monday and Tuesday of the week before fall classes start.  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, OPTI 544, and OPTI 600G 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.
  • Major Exams
  • Minor Exams (written exams are no longer required for PhD students from other departments who are minoring in Optical Sciences)

Exam Resources

Major Exams

Minor Exams

Please note that written exams are no longer required for students minoring in optics.