UCF Physics

Candidacy Exam Info

The Candidacy/Qualifying Exam consists of two independent parts, written and oral, each worth 100 pts.   A passing score on each is considered to be 50/100.

The written part is administered in two days and consists of the following subjects:  Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics I and II, Electrodynamics I and II and Statistical Mechanics.  There are 4 questions per subject for a total of 24 questions divided into 12 for each day of the exam.  Each question and subject carries the same weight. Students will have 4 hours to answer the questions on each day of the exam, which is an average of 20 minutes per question. No books or notes can be consulted, but a compendium of mathematical formulas, integrals, etc. may be used after inspection by the proctor. Pocket calculators are allowed.

The written exam is intended to test students’ knowledge at the undergraduate level.  Problems are solicited from the entire faculty and range in difficulty from lower division undergraduate to first year graduate level.  The purpose of the core classes is to prepare students for research, not primarily as preparation for the candidacy exam.  Consequently, students are advised to prepare for the candidacy exam by studying standard upper division undergraduate texts, especially in solving problems from those texts. Those for all the subjects except statistical mechanics tend to cover the same material, so that any text will do.  Undergraduate texts for thermal physics vary widely on the relative emphasis given to classical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.  The UCF candidacy exam has tended to emphasize the latter subject, although not exclusively.  Old exams are available in the department office and may be studied.  However, effort is made to insure that specific problems from old exams never reappear in later exams.

History has shown that the scores on the written exam are strongly correlated with performance in the core subject classes.  To dilute the negative effect of possible outliers (e.g. the unlikely coincidence of a 4.0 GPA and failure on the written exam) the 100 points are awarded as follows.  The actual two-day problem solving part of the exam is worth 80 of the 100 points.  The remaining 20 points are determined by the grades in the 6 core subjects, according to 20*S(grade-3)/6.  Thus, with an A in every core course, a student will receive 20 points going into the exam.  With only B’s, no points are awarded.  While the number of C grades a student can earn before being dismissed from the program is limited, it is possible (e.g. with a record of 4 B’s and 2 C’s) to receive a negative score of up to -6.7 for this part.

There is an opportunity for extra credit on the written exam.  Students are strongly encouraged to become involved in research as soon as they arrive.  To reward this, points toward the written candidacy are awarded for evidence of research productivity.  To receive these, the student must be a coauthor on one or more publications that list UCF as their affiliation.  Five points are awarded for each conference paper (which may include “extended” abstracts).  Ten points are awarded for each peer-reviewed ISI-listed journal publication.  The manuscripts must have been accepted for publication at the time of the exam.

The oral part of the exam is combined with the dissertation proposal (see dissertation proposal guidelines), which must be defended within one year after passing the written candidacy.  The dissertation committee consists of 4 professors (see dissertation committee guidelines).  During and after the presentation, the committee may ask any questions on any subjects.  Afterward, they decide amongst themselves whether to award a passing grade and what points to assign.

Students are required to take the candidacy exam after completing the core courses in their first two semesters.  Two chances are given for both written and oral exams.  After having passed both parts and accumulating 51 credit hours, students are admitted to candidacy and may enroll in dissertation hours.

Planetary Sciences Track

The planetary sciences track requires a Candidacy Exam to be taken after the completion of the core courses. Full Time funded students must complete core courses within the first 3 semesters.  Part Time students are allowed 2 years to complete core courses. The exam is composed of a written component and an oral exam. The written component is a journal-level research paper. The oral component is a two parts: (1) A public presentation of the research contained in the paper including the traditional question and answer period of a scientific presentation; and (2) private questioning on the detail of the presented research as well as the topics covered in the student’s preparation and course work. The written and oral components will be administrated by the student’s Supervisory Committee. More information can be obtained by visiting http://planets.ucf.edu/academics/phd-program.