Physics students are required to take the Department Examination after completing one year of graduate work at UCSD. The examination is on the level of material usually covered in upper-division undergraduate and first-year graduate courses in classical mechanics (Phys 200A&B), classical electrodynamics (Phys 203A&B), equilibrium statistical mechanics (Phys 210A), quantum mechanics (Phys 212A,B&C), and mathematical methods (Phys 201).

The examination is offered twice a year, at the beginning of the fall and spring quarters, and lasts two days, four hours per day. If a student does not pass the exam he/she may repeat it once, the next time it is offered.