In addition to course work, there are three examinations to be passed for a Ph.D.:
- a written preliminary examination on undergraduate physics;
- a written and oral Ph.D. candidacy examination; and
- an oral Ph.D. dissertation defense.
Students first take the preliminary examination in the fall of their first year, and must pass it by the end of the second year. The candidacy examination is typically taken in the third year, after course work is complete. In this exam, the candidate must present a research proposal, demonstrate the ability to perform the proposed research, and show a broad understanding of physics. The post-candidacy student then concentrates on research, and generally writes a doctoral dissertation within three years of the candidacy examination. A dissertation is required and must be approved by the student’s doctoral committee and defended orally by the student at the final examination, the Ph.D. defense.