Student presenting her comps 2

Preliminary Requirements

As of Spring 2020, the APS department no longer requires a separate written "comps 1" preliminary examination. All students must pass the five Core Courses with a grade of B- or better, unless preparation by a particular student prior to starting the APS graduate program indicates that a waiver for individual courses is appropriate (evaluation of prior experience will be made by the Admissions Committee during review of applications). Any student who doesn't meet this standard during their first enrollment in a given core course will be assigned a second faculty mentor (not the core course instructor) who has previously taught the core material and who has the time to work closely with the student to help in mastering the core material. Students may, at their option, elect a course of independent study to prove mastery of the material instead of retaking the course.

Comprehensive Examination (formerly Comps 2)

The comprehensive exam ("Comps") is designed to examine a Ph.D. candidate's ability to carry out semi-independent research and to encourage students to develop skills in written and oral communication and time management.

The Comps guidelines are available here.


Dissertation work generally begins in the fifth or sixth semester, after passing Comps. Students establish a progress review committee, which meets regularly to evaluate the student's progress. The progress review committee often forms the core of the student's thesis committee. Graduate students are required to write and defend a thesis before their thesis committee. For the curious, university Ph.D. requirements are discussed in more detail in the requirements for advanced degrees section of the Graduate School website.

Survival Guide

Survival Guide

The Survival Guide contains pertinent, albeit outdated, information about the APS Graduate Program. We hope to have a new version compiled soon.