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Graduate Course Enrolment FAQ

Course types, course requirements, enrolment procedures and related policies for Physics graduate students
Table of Contents

    What Physics graduate courses are offered this year?

    Physics graduate courses to be offered in the 2023-24 academic year appear on the Graduate Course Listings page.

    How do I sign up for a course?

    See Instructions for Graduate Course Enrolment on Acorn

    How do I audit a course?

    Requests to audit a graduate course should be addressed to course instructors. Auditors may attend lectures and other class meetings, and take part in class discussions. The auditor will not receive evaluations of participation, or be allowed to submit assignments or write examinations and tests. No grade is given, and no indication of audited courses will appear on a student transcript.

    The process to request audit status is as follows: (1) complete the course audit request form on the SGS website. (2) Email the completed form to the course instructor and the physics graduate office (grad@physics). (3) If you want to receive a Certificate of Attendance, or are an External Auditor (not enrollled at UofT), then you will be charged 40% of the part-time special student per course fee (in 2023/24, 40% of $958.50 course fee + $1,096.27 incidental fee = $821.91) to be settled with the Business Office. Audit fees must be paid by October 1 or February 1 in the F/S sessions, respectively, and are non-refundable. (4.) Once approved, UofT students can be added as observers to the course Quercus page. External auditors must request a guest UTORid: see this page for more information.

    For more information, please refer to the University’s Policy on Auditing of Courses.

    What sessional dates and deadlines do I need to know about?

    The start and end dates of Physics lecture courses generally correspond with Faculty of Arts and Science sessional dates. Note that courses cross-listed graduate-undergraduate (i.e., those typically numbered PHY14xxH) correspond exactly with FAS sessional dates and may commence slightly earlier than graduate-only courses (i.e., those typically numbered PHY2xxxH or PHY15xxH). For thesis and fee related deadlines, see the SGS Sessional dates.

    UofT course types. What is an FCE?

    "Half courses" are the norm at UofT

    Normally, course weight is measured in full-course equivalents (FCEs) or half-course equivalents (HCEs). Full courses are marked with the suffix “Y”, typically extend over two consecutive academic sessions, and have a course weight of 1.0 FCE. A full course requires a minimum of 48 to 78 hours of organized activity (typically lectures). Half courses are marked with the suffix “H”, typically extend over one academic session, and have a course weight of 0.5 FCE or 1.0 HCE. A half course requires 24 to 39 hours of organized activity. Half courses are further tagged with “F” or “S.” Courses tagged with “F” run over the Fall session (i.e., September to December); courses tagged with “S” run over the Spring session (i.e., January to April). Most graduate lecture courses in the Department of Physics are half courses (e.g., PHY1500H F). The most common example of full courses in the Physics graduate curriculum are the research courses (e.g., PHY6011Y) and seminar courses (PHY7001Y).

    Modular "Quarter" courses

    In addition to full and half courses, Physics also offers modular or quarter courses, each with a weight of 0.25 FCE. A modular/quarter course requires approximately 12 hours of organized activity (typically lectures). Currently, the modular/quarter courses are PHY2108H and PHY2109H, both of which are “Special Topics” courses. The special topics vary from year to year and provide students with the flexibility to examine a diverse range of subjects in a compressed format. Special topics offered in a given year will be based on program needs and faculty availability. Modular/special topics courses are repeatable for credit, provided the topics covered in each module are different. Each modular/quarter course will have a unique subtitle and lecture code. Students may count modular/quarter courses toward their graduate program requirements to a maximum of 1.0 FCE (or 4 modular/quarter courses).

    What are the program requirements?

    For the purposes of fulfilling the lecture course requirements for the MSc or PhD, the Department recognizes any relevant lecture course listed in the current School of Graduate Studies calendar or in the Department's current Graduate Course Listings. It is normally expected that at least 50% of the courses taken by students toward satisfying the requirements for the MSc or PhD will have a PHY indicator, and that no more than 30% will be graduate courses that are cross-listed as undergraduate courses in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Students are encouraged to consider the two professional skills courses offered by the Department: PHY1600H, “Effective Communication for Physicists” and PHY1610H "Scientific Computing for Physicists."

    Students will not be given credit for any courses taken during their time as undergraduates; nor may they take for graduate credit any courses they have already taken as undergraduates (e.g. courses cross-listed in the Faculty of Arts and Science). Students require the approval of the Associate Chair before registering in graduate lecture courses, so there will be a slight delay between requesting registration and its approval.

    The 3.0 FCE requirement for the PhD specifies only the minimum number of courses that are to be included in the graduate programs; however, it is expected that all students will audit additional graduate lecture courses and attend seminars in their area of specialization, as well as the weekly departmental colloquium, throughout the period of their graduate education . Additional requirements may also be imposed by a student’s supervisory committee.

    Research Courses

    MSc and first-year direct-entry PhD candidates register in these courses. Grades for these courses are provided by the supervisor, based on the supervisor's evaluation of the ability and progress of the student in performing research as evidenced in interactions with the student throughout the year. The available Research courses are listed here:

    • PHY6011Y - Research in Atmospheric Physics
    • PHY6021Y - Research in Biophysics
    • PHY6031Y - Research in Condensed Matter Physics
    • PHY6041Y - Research in Geophysics
    • PHY6051Y - Research in Quantum Optics
    • PHY6071Y - Research in Subatomic Physics and Astrophysics

    Seminar Courses

    All MSc Option-II students enrol in the seminar course appropriate to their area of research. The grade for this course is provided by a Faculty assessor on the basis of the student's ability to present orally and defend the results of the Research Project at the MSc Oral Examination. Although students enrol in these courses upon entry to the MSc program, the grade needs is reported to the School of Graduate Studies only after the MSc oral examination. The available Seminar courses are listed here:

    • PHY7001Y - Atmospheric Physics Seminar
    • PHY7002Y - Biophysics Seminar
    • PHY7003Y - Condensed Matter Physics Seminar
    • PHY7004Y - Geophysics Seminar
    • PHY7005Y - Quantum Optics Seminar
    • PHY7007Y – Subatomic Physics and Astrophysics Seminar

    Can I take courses from other departments?

    Physics graduate students sometimes find graduate courses offered by other departments useful to their research plans. (Course descriptions can be found at the School of Graduate Studies Calendar.) However, course requirements for a Physics degree must be fulfilled with at least 50% PHY-coded courses, and all non-PHY courses must be related to the intended research topic.

    In order to enrol in a non-PHY course, approval from the Graduate Office must be sought. The procedure follows:

    1. Consult your research supervisor for advice; or if you have not yet identified a supervisor, then consult faculty in your intended research area.
    2. Select the course on Acorn. You will get a message that approval is required
    3. Email (a) the course name, (b) an updated transcript (capturing the most recent year or more), (c) the list of all planned courses for the upcoming term, and (d) a one- or two-sentence justification to grad@physics.
    4. Your request will be approved (or denied) after review. This may take up to one week.

    How are Graduate Courses graded?

    See Grading Guidelines for Physics Graduate Courses.