Last modified on May 21st, 2024.

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.

Current Qualifying Exam Committee

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

For the 2023/2024 academic year, the committee is composed of:

  • Jiong Qiu (Chair)
  • Nick Borys
  • Hang Yu
  • Dana Longcope
  • 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

Fall 2024 Qualifying Exam

Topic list

A summary topic list for the Spring 2024 exam has been provided.

Study sessions

Beginning Tuesday, May 28th, virtual and in-person qualifying exam sessions are offered. 

Virtual (Zoom) meetings: 10 – 11am, Monday – Thursday

In-person meetings (Roberts Hall room 210): 12pm – 1pm, Monday – Thursday

Monday: Classical mechanics

Tuesday: Quantum mechanics

Wednesday: Electromagnetism

Thursday: Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics

For questions regarding the study sessions, please contact Aiden Gundersen at


Dates: The Fall 2024 qualifying exam will be held on August 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th.

Location: Gaines 101

Detailed Schedule

Day Time Topic Proctor
Monday, August 12 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM TBD TBD
Tuesday, August 13 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM TBD TBD
Wednesday, August 14 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM TBD TBD
Thursday, August 15 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM TBD TBD

*Any student eligible to take any or all sections of the exam are expected to be present for that session. If you are unable to attend for any reason, please contact Elicia Palmer at and/or the exam chair, Jiong Qiu at

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. Follow current MSU policy with regard to masks.
  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.