Timeline for Completing Graduation Requirements

  • FIRST YEAR—COURSES:  Both terms of Ph242ab Physics Seminar should be taken during the first two terms of graduate study.  However, you may postpone if extenuating circumstances make it necessary that one or both terms be taken in the second year.
  • FIRST YEAR—EXAMS:  Both written candidacy exams, CP & QM—The Basic Physics Requirement—must be attempted by the end of the first year.  New students may take written exams in October of the first year or the summer following the first academic year in June/July to satisfy this requirement.
  • FIRST YEARADVISORS:  Physics students are encouraged to begin research activities early.  Incoming students with GRAs should join a research group when they arrive at Caltech.  Incoming students with fellowships or teaching assistantships should have an advisor by the end of their first year.
  • SECOND YEAR—EXAMS: Written exams must be successfully completed by the end of the second year.
  • SECOND YEAR—COURSES: The Advanced Physics Requirement must be completed by the end of the second year.
  • THIRD YEAR: The Oral Candidacy exam should be taken by the end of the third year. Beyond the third year, students must petition the Dean of Graduate Studies for excessive registration candidacy, and provide a timetable signed by the advisor for completing the oral exam.  Written exams and basic course requirements must be successfully completed prior to the scheduling of the oral exam.  Once the oral exam is passed, the student is admitted into Ph.D. candidacy.
  • FIFTH YEAR: The Institute expects graduate students to complete their program of study by the end of the fifth year. Students beyond the fifth year must petition the Dean of Graduate Studies for excessive registration and provide a timetable for completion of the thesis requirement. All that's left is to write a fabulous thesis!

NOTE:  You must register for at least 36 units every term. After the first year or two, when your course units are all associated with research, you will typically register for 36 units of experimental (Ph 172) or theoretical (Ph173) research. After passing the oral candidacy exam, you will typically register for 36 units of  thesis research (Ph 300) in subsequent terms. Please refer to the Graduate Program Policies section for detailed information concerning requirements.