Note: there are three significant changes to the winter qualifying exam.  (1) The exam will be held over four days.  (2) One sheet of notes is allowed per subject.  (3) The topic list has been modified.  See the information below for details.

All degree-pursing graduate students in the Physics program at Montana State University must pass a qualifying exam.  The exam is held semi-annually, once at the beginning of the fall semester and once at the beginning of the spring semester.

This web page provides current information on the upcoming qualifying exam. Last modified on January 3, 2022.

Current Qualifying Exam Committee

The exam is organized, written, and graded by the Qualifying Exam Committee.

For the 2021/2022 academic year, the committee is composed of:

  • Charles Kankelborg (Chair)
  • Nick Borys
  • Anne Lohfink
  • John Neumeier
  • Anton Vortonsov

Guidelines and committee policy

This year's Qualifying Exam Committee has authored a publicly available set of general guidelines for the writing, organizing, and grading the exam.

Winter 2022 Qualifying Exam

Topic list

A summary topic list for the Winter 2022 exam has been provided.

Note: the topic list has been modified. Text that is strikethroughed has been removed. Text that is underlined indicates slight modification or addition.


Dates: The Winter 2021 qualifying exam will be held on January 10, 11, 12, 13.

Location: Gaines 101

Detailed Schedule

Day Time Topic Tentative Proctor
Monday, January 10 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM Classical Mechanics Anne Lohfink
Tuesday, January 11 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM Quantum Mechanics Nick Borys
Wednesday, January 12 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM Electricity and Magnetism Charles Kankelborg
Thursday, January 13 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM Statistical and Thermal Physics Anton Vorontsov

Permitted note sheets

You are allowed to have one (1) 8.5" x 11" sheet of hand-written notes (front and back) per subject. You will be required to submit your notes with your exam.

Special accommodations

Accommodations will be made for students on a case-by-case basis in accordance to needs determined by the Office of Disability Services.

Requirements on the day of the exam

  1. You must wear a mask at all times in accordance with MSU mask policies.
  2. Devices for music, noise cancelling headphones, or earplugs are allowed.
  3. If you choose to listen to music through headphones, please use a moderate volume that does not disturb others.
  4. Calculators are not allowed.

Previous Qualifying Exams

Prior qualifying exams are archived for reference:  archive of past qualifying exams.