Qualifying Exam and Research

  • 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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Qualifying Exam and Research

Post by pqortic » Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:08 am

Hey everyone

I was kind of undecided to enter research program half time or just study and pass the courses in grad school because I heard some rumors here and there that doing research makes studying basic materials harder. and it does make sense since when you enter a research program you are concentrated on something and you would not be in the mode of studying a wide range of physics materials except the ones that covers your special research. this was strengthened when I read about it in the Berkeley website.

now I want you to share your prospect. when do/did you take the Qualifying/preliminary exam and how do you deal with grad research when you want to get ready for Exam?

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Re: Qualifying Exam and Research

Post by zxcv » Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:41 am

When to take your prelim/qualifying exam depends on the institution and your own preparation -- I don't think we can answer that in general.

I would guess the general advice is to study hard and get the obstacle out of the way as soon as possible, but that may depend on the institution. If you can pass the exam before starting the fall then you won't have to worry about a conflict with research at all.

That said, there are a few reasons I've heard taking the exam early that I don't think hold up. Mostly these boil down to the claim that your research and graduate courses won't help and you'll just be forgetting more things you learned in undergrad. You may forget some details, but I found that my graduate courses forced me to learn many materials more strongly than I ever did as an undergrad, and that definitely helped me when I took the prelim exams I didn't pass immediately again at the start of the second semester.

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Re: Qualifying Exam and Research

Post by surjective » Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:56 am

Do them quals right away. Especially if you are a theorist, 'cuz then most profs won't consider you for working with them until you are done quals. Even if you are into experiments, do the quals right away so you can just focus on your research. Also, the review of undergrad stuff will make you learn more from your grad courses (you'll see all the subtle connections between stuff that you'd miss if you'd forgotten all of undergrad). So study a lot over the summer and try to get them done in one shot.

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