The purpose of the Qualifier Examinations is to ensure that students entering the Ph.D. program have a working knowledge of fundamental physics at the advanced undergraduate level. Given that our graduate students come with diverse training in physics from all over the world, the Qualifying Examinations are one way to bring all students to a common level. Passing the Qualifier Examinations qualifies the student to continue in the Ph.D. program. Although the physics being tested is at the advanced undergraduate level, the idea is that it is good for entering graduate students to go back and solidify their understanding of the fundamentals of physics by working challenging problems.
The Qualifier Examinations are written exams divided into four parts:
A full description of the material covered can seen here:
Note: The SM syllabus has changed after 2005. There is the old 2005 syllabus too.
Copies of previous qualifier examinations are available below:
Old qualifier exams are available below, with a different level and different syllabi:
We encourage students to talk with faculty about any questions they may have on qualifier problems.
The graduate level courses are not intended as preparatory courses for the Qualifier. The student accepted to the graduate program at Duke is expected to know this material. Any weakness in previous education can be addressed by reviewing the relevant topics in the detailed syllabi of the Qualifier. Although some mentoring and advising will be available to the students, this puts most of the burden of preparation for the Qualifier on them.
The Qualifier Examinations are given twice a year: in January just before the Spring semester, and in the last week of May. Each student can take the four parts of the exam at his/her convenience and is not required to take all the exams at the same time. However each student must have attempted all sections during his/her first year at Duke. Students that fail one or more sections must retake those sections, passing all sections before starting their fourth semester at Duke. A student will be allowed no more than two attempts to pass each section. However, a student and his/her adviser may petition the Director of Graduate Studies for a third attempt if only one section has been failed twice. Approval of such a request, in addition to other special circumstance requests, requires a vote by the physics department faculty.