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Courses and registration FAQ

Course types, requirements, and related policies for physics graduate students
Table of Contents

    What physics graduate courses are offered this year?

    Current course offerings are listed on the Graduate Course Listings page.

    How do I sign up for a course?

    See Instructions for Graduate Course Enrolment on Acorn

    What deadlines do I need to know about?

    See this year's SGS Sessional dates.

    UofT course types. What is a FCE?

    "Half courses" are the norm at UofT

    Normally, course weight is measured in full-course equivalents (FCEs) and is indicated via a Y or H suffix. Y courses are year-long or full courses, allocated 1.0 FCE (full course equivalent), and normally taken over two sessions. They entail a minimum of 48 to 78 hours of organized activity (typically lectures). H courses are half courses, allocated 0.5 FCE, and are normally taken over one session. They entail 24 to 39 hours of organized activity. Half-courses are also tagged with F (first) or S (second), referring to the Sept-Dec term or the Jan-Apr term.

    Most lecture courses in Physics at the University of Toronto are half courses. The most common example of full courses in the Physics graduate curriculum are the research courses and seminar courses discussed below.

    Modular "Quarter" courses

    Starting in Fall 2021, we will offer quarter courses in the graduate program. PHY 2108H and PHY 2109H are special topics courses with 0.25 FCE. This modular, or "quarter" course, is weighted at half a standard one-semester course and the equivalent of 12 course-hours. The module topics will vary year to year and give students the flexibility to examine a diverse range of subjects in a compressed format. The topics offered will be based on program needs and faculty availability.

    The modules are repeatable for credit if taken with a different topic, which will be differentiated with a subtitle and unique lecture code. Students may count such quarter modules toward the graduate course requirements up to a maximum of 1.0 FCE (4 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: PHY 1600H, “Effective Communication for Physicists” and PHY 1610H "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 which 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 throughout the period of their graduate education as well as the weekly departmental colloquium. 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, and MSc (with thesis) students register also in their second year, in sequence of the last digit (i.e. in PHY60x1Y in their first year of graduate study, in PHY60x2Y in their second year of graduate study). 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

    • 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 orally present and defend the results of the Research Project at the MSc Oral Examination. (The `L' designator for these courses means that although students enroll in these courses upon entry to the MSc program, the grade needs to be reported to the School of Graduate Studies only after the MSc oral examination.) The available Seminar courses are

    • PHY7001L - Atmospheric Physics Seminar
    • PHY7002L - Biophysics Seminar
    • PHY7003L - Condensed Matter Physics Seminar
    • PHY7004L - Geophysics Seminar
    • PHY7005L - Quantum Optics Seminar
    • PHY7007L – Subatomic Physics and Astrophysics Seminar

    Can I take courses from other departments?

    Physics graduate students often find courses offered by other departments useful in their programs. For example, physics graduate students have taken courses from the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mathematics. Course descriptions can be found at the School of Graduate Studies Calendar. Normally no more than 50% of a student’s courses can be from another department, and not all courses are appropriate. Consult your research supervisor for advice; or if you have not yet identified a supervisor, then consultat faculty in your intended research area. The Associate Chair must approve all requests to to take non-PHY courses as part of the physics graduate program.

    How are Graduate Courses graded?

    See Grading Guidelines for Physics Graduate Courses.