The six hour diagnostic was implemented in the fall of 2012 as a replacement for the 4 three hour exams of undergraduate physics material. Previous exams can be found on the exam solutions page.
Guy Marcus has written up a short description of the exam, found below. If you have any further questions about the exam, please contact either Duncan (dwatts@pha) or Guy and we’ll put the question and answer on our growing frequently asked questions list.
The diagnostic exam is just that—a diagnostic. Its purpose is to evaluate your current level of fluency with undergraduate level physics. To ensure a consistent sampling of your knowledge and to remind yourself of physics that you may have learned as long as four years ago, a thorough review of the standard undergraduate curriculum is encouraged. To assist you in this endeavor, we have collected a number of practice questions that are representative of the kind of questions you will see on the exam. Of course, they are in no way comprehensive.
Before the start of classes, you will take exams on Classical Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, and Electricity & Magnetism in two separate three-hour sittings. In the days following at the beginning of the semester, you will have the chance to sit down with the first-year advisor to discuss your performance. It is at this point that you will determine whether it makes sense for you to take any remedial subjects or place out of any courses.
If not only for this reason, it would serve you well to give this exam reverence. While there are few explicit consequences for poor performance, this is an opportunity to refresh your skills and make a positive first impression. It is true that the content of the exam is nominally undergraduate material, but it can still be quite challenging at points. As such, it is a good personal diagnostic of your strengths and weaknesses.
– Guy Marcus