I'm going to finish my undergraduate degree in June and from September I will follow a masters course in the UK. My field of interest is theoretical/mathematical physics.

I had considered applying for a PhD program in the US but I have observed that most graduate programs require following some masters courses and completing an examination before starting your PhD research. If I had known I would have applied for the whole graduate program but all deadlines were around Christmas. So I would like to ask some questions about this.

  • I guess this will depend on the specific program, but, would there be a possibility of doing some kind of fast-track?, i.e completing the examinations upon arrival and starting your research immediately. Or will I need to spend a year attending to these courses?

  • I believe this may be a common issue for European students. Does anyone know somebody in the same situation?

  • 3
    This might be a question best asked directly to the departments you are applying to, because different departments structure their requirements differently. In my department, many students that come in with a MA end-up redoing it altogether. The department sometimes waives coursework/thesis requirements for people who did MAs in PhD granting-departments of similar repute/focus, but a lot of MA theses do not "qualify" for exemption if the department considers them not "up to standard" or coming from traditions that are too different. Feb 28, 2014 at 21:09
  • 1
    In most schools worth their salt, you will have no choice but to do the coursework. All European students in our department have to follow all degree requirements with maybe partial waivers of some courses on a case by case basis.
    – Shion
    Mar 1, 2014 at 3:10
  • completing an examination Are you talking about qualifying exam? Or admission related exams such as GRE and TOEFL?
    – Nobody
    Mar 1, 2014 at 4:34
  • @scaaahu I believe that usually there is some kind of examination at the end of the first year of graduate programs, at least in the physics and maths ones. Am I wrong?
    – jpm
    Mar 1, 2014 at 15:40
  • 1
    @JulioParra you're right, there is, although it may be called a qualifying exam, candidacy exam, or entrance exam, depending on the department. Also it may be at the beginning or in the middle of the first year.
    – David Z
    Mar 2, 2014 at 4:56

1 Answer 1


Many departments don't have hard deadlines for the graduate school applications, but they might have some test requirements that you need to take for the school to finally accept your application (i.e., many public universities need a GRE score for all applicants).

In case the departments are fine with it, you can still apply and take the tests in the next month or so, although a lot of departments will start accepting PhD students soon (if they haven't started already).

The tests are usually a general test GRE, a subject test GRE, or the GMAT, but they may vary. Since you're from the UK you don't need the TOEFL english test.

I would suggest to email/call individual professors or departments and ask for more information.

In a lot of cases the graduate student assistants can give you a lot of answers directly since they handle most cases.

Usually departments have a faculty member in charge of the graduate student program. They are also good contacts.

When I applied for my PhD in the states I was still in school in Europe, so I went through a similar situation, although I was done with the standard tests by that December (eight years ago).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .