Preliminary exams in astrophysics

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

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InquilineKea
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Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Preliminary exams in astrophysics

Postby InquilineKea » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:18 pm

How hard are they? Is it very rare for PhD students to fail them? Does their difficulty vary from institution to institution? And how do they compare to the quals in physics?

Looking at the pages for berkeley and UCSC, it seems that the preliminary exams are distinct from the quals (quals are just specific for a student's research topic)

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grae313
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Re: Preliminary exams in astrophysics

Postby grae313 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:10 pm

This is going to depend completely on the school. A general answer to this question does not exist. The time to ask this question is when you have been accepted to some schools and are attending the visit days, and the people to ask are the grad students in the department. If you want to know beforehand you can try contacting grad students by email from the schools you are interested in, but don't necessarily expect an answer.

Ryalnos
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Re: Preliminary exams in astrophysics

Postby Ryalnos » Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:55 am

Don't put too much emphasis on the qualifier when you're looking at graduate programs (edit: your post sounded like you were looking at schools, but now I realize this is the current grad student forum so I guess I'm a wee bit confused). There are some ugly rumors about schools using them to weed out unwanted extra TA's, but I believe that such behavior is in the past or at the very least rare.

Sure, the qualifier can be a pain (I just took it and fortunately I think I passed!) but you will probably be able to cross that bridge when you come to it. You are typically given several attempts, and if you fail the first time it's a wake-up call to work harder the next time. Usually it will just takes a few good weeks of hard studying to pass the exam, and then it's done. For those among us who don't work well in testing environments, there tend to be contingency plans (oral exams or something), especially if you have found an adviser who wants you to keep working for them.

I realize this isn't an answer to your question, but as grae313 pointed out there really isn't a general one.

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InquilineKea
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Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Preliminary exams in astrophysics

Postby InquilineKea » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:35 pm

Ah okay I see. Thanks for the replies!




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