Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Physics Department
Florida International University
Miami, FL 33199.

Exam Format
  • Each part of the exam has nine problems. 
  • You are required to do six problems.  Do not do more than six.  Only the first six problems that are turned in will be graded.
  • The Classical exam will have
    • 3-4 problems from classical mechanics (Part A)
    • 3-4 problems from E&M (Part B)
    • 2 problems from thermodynamics/statistical physics (Part C)
    • You must do at least two from Parts A&B and at least one from Part C.
  • The Modern exam will have 
    • 4-5 problems from special relativity and/or modern physics (Part A)
    • 4-5 problems from quantum mechanics (Part B)
    • You must do at least two from each section.
  • There will be one required problem from Parts A&B on each exam.
  • You will have four hours to do the exam.

Links to Past Qualifying Exams

Classical exams prior to Fall 2005

Classical exams since Fall 2005

Modern exams prior to Fall 2005

Modern exams since Fall 2005

Study Suggestions
  • Do lots of practice problems. 
    • Start with the old qualifiers.
    •  Homework problems from the courses listed below.  Focus on the undergrad-level problems and the easier graduate-level problems. Basically, the problems that can be done in 30-40 minutes.
    • If you want even more problems, just do a Google search on "qualifying exams physics" and you will get tons of links to exams.  Many are similar to our's.
  • We DON'T recommend front-to-back reading of textbooks.  Use the suggested references if you have trouble with a certain type of problem.
  • Work with your colleagues.
  • Do timed practice runs through the old exams.  You need to learn how to pace yourself.  Do the easier problems first before coming back to the harder problems.
  • If you need help with a particular topic or problem after using the suggested references, talk to professor who teaches that topic.
Suggested References
This list mainly includes the texts currently used in courses taught at FIU.  Other texts at the same levels are perfectly acceptable.
Texts Professor
Classical Mechanics
Classical Mechanics, Kibble and Berkshire, 5th ed.
Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems,
Thornton and Marion, 5th ed.
Brian Raue
Lei Guo
Essentially the entire book is fair game: Newtonian mechanics, oscillations,Lagrangians, Hamiltonians, central-force motion, collisions, dynamics of rigid bodies, vibrations, waves. See the course syllabi: Mechanics I, Mechanics II
Classical Mechanics, Goldstein, Poole, and Safko, 3rd ed.
Xuewen Wang
Course website
Electricity and Magnetism
Undergraduate Electromagnetism, Pollack & Stump, 2nd ed.,
Introduction to Electrodynamics, Griffiths, 3rd ed.

Robert Laird
See the course syllabi: E&M I, E&M II
Graduate Classical Theory of Fields Vol. 2., Landau & Lifshitz, 4th ed.
Electrodynamics of Continuous Media, Landau, 2nd ed.
Classical Electrodynamics, Jackson, 3rd ed.
Rajamani Narayanan
E&M 1 Chapters 1-9 from Classical Theory of Fields.
E&M 2 Chapters 1-6, 9, 10, 12 from Electrodynamics...
While anything covered in the courses may be on the exam, consider that many Jackson-level problems are too hard to be solved in the time allotted.
Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
Undergraduate An Introduction to Thermal Physics, Schroeder.
Oren Maxwell
See the course syllabi: Thermodynamnics
Graduate Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics, Reif.
Bernhard Gerstman
Generally not much from this course.  Perhaps something on the equipartition theorem (chapter 7).
Special Relativity
Undergraduate Modern Physics, Serway, Moses, & Moyer, 3rd ed., chapters 1&2.
Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems, Thornton & Marion, 5th ed., chapter 14.
Lei Guo,
Richard Bone
Time dilation and length contraction, Lorentz transfromations, significant emphasis on four-vectors and relativistic kinematics. 
Modern I website.
Graduate Classical Mechanics, Goldstein, Poole, and Safko, 3rd ed., chapter 7.
Quantum Mechanics
Undergraduate Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Griffiths, 2nd ed.
Yifu Zhu
See the course syllabi: QM I, QM II
Graduate Quantum Mechanics, Abers.
Misak Sargsian
See the course syllabi: QM
Generic Modern
Undergraduate Modern Physics, Serway, Moses & Moyer, 3rd ed.
Modern Physics, Tipler & Llewellyn, 5th ed.
Lei Guo,
Richard Bone,
Pete Markowitz
Generally restricted to things like the foundations of QM (Bohr atom, quantization, etc.).  About the first nine chapters of Serway or the first semester of Modern I website.

Contact Information

For more information please contact the Qualifier Coordinator, Dr. Yifu Zhu at or the Director of the Physics Graduate Program, Dr. Brian A. Raue at