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FAQ on Physics Courses and Programs

We get similar types of questions about studying Physics at the University of Toronto. Check out our FAQ to see if someone has asked a similar question to the one you have. Even if they don't exactly match a specific question of yours, maybe you'll be able to find something useful here. Feel free to follow up with a question to us at And let us know what other information we can include in this FAQ. (This FAQ was started in the summer of 2013 and is a work in progress.)

Questions about Physics Programs of Study (POSts)

  1. What programs of study does the Department of Physics offer, and what programs are offered jointly with Physics and other Departments? The Department of Physics offers three Physics programs: the Physics Specialist, Physics Major, and Physics Minor programs. It also offers two joint specialist programs: the Biological Physics Specialist, and the Physics and Philosophy Specialist. In addition, joint Specialist programs with Physics are hosted by the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Mathematics.
  2. Is there some sort of standard way that courses are numbered in the calendar? Many of our courses are grouped by common numbering, including
    • The "x24" courses: PHY224H1, PHY324H1, PHY424H1 are courses in practical and experimental physics.
    • The "x50" courses: PHY250H1, PHY350H1, PHY450H1 are courses in electricity and magnetism and electrodynamics.
    • The "x52" courses: PHY252H1, PHY452H1 are courses in thermal and statistical physics.
    • The "x54" courses: PHY254H1, PHY354H1, PHY454H are courses in classical physics of particles and continuous matter.
    • The "x56" courses: PHY256H1, PHY356H1, PHY456H1 are courses in Quantum Mechanics.
  3. I am about to start my second year at U of T in September and am enrolling in a Physics POSt. Which year's calendar should I refer to for planning my program? The calendar to refer to is the calendar for the upcoming academic year. For example, suppose you were a first year student in 2012-2013 and want to enrol in a Physics POSt for 2013-2014. You should refer to the 2013-2014 calendar for your academic planning.
  4. How do I go about fulfilling the Ethics Requirement that is described in the calendar? The language in the calendar can be confusing, so here it is a nutshell. You can fulfill the Ethics requirement by a) taking JPH441H1, or b) taking any of the courses in the list ETH210H1/ETH220H1/HPS200H1/PHL265H1/PHL275H1/PHL281H1, or c) taking another course provided it is pre-approved by the Undergraduate Office. For options a) and b), you are permitted to take the course as CR/NCR. If you are approved to take a course under option c), please ask the Undergraduate Office if you are also approved to take the course CR/NCR.
  5. I would like to take PHY250H1 or PHY256H in the summer. Can I postpone taking the co-requisite math credits until the following academic year? No. The second year vector calculus math credits must be taken either as co-requisites or have been taken already.

Questions about transfer credits, prerequisites, and admissions

  1. I would like to take PHY131H1 course, and noticed that the prerequisite is MCV4U and MHF4U. I took the IB program and have taken Math SL --- would that be a suitable replacement? Yes, Math SL does provide suitable background, but you should make sure you understand the content of the Ontario Curriculum courses MCV4U and MHF4U prior to starting your studies. Please note that Math SL does not provide you with transfer credit for MAT135H1; the latter course is a co-requisite for PHY131H1.
  2. I see that Ontario Curriculum SPH4U is recommended but not required for PHY131H1. Is it ok to take PHY131H1 without SPH4U? Yes, it is ok to go ahead and take PHY131H1 but you are responsible for determining what you need to review to get a better sense of the recommended background. I suggest you contact the instructor for the course several weeks prior to the start of lectures.
  3. I did not take any calculus courses in high school. Is it possible to take Undergraduate Physics in this Department? Unfortunately, no. Our physics core courses like PHY131 and PHY151 require high school calculus and require you to take calculus in University. However, if you wish to take one of our breadth courses like PHY100, PHY101, PHY205, you might enjoy these as an alternative.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

  1. I am a student taking physics at ___ who plans to be staying in Toronto next summer. Are there research opportunities available in the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto? What would you suggest I do to find out about them? You can contact faculty -- theorists, experimentalists, lecturers -- to ask about possible placements. I would encourage you to contact people at other nearby Universities as well, such as York and McMaster, to broaden the possible pool. If you have concrete skills such as programming you should make sure to promote those.
    In your contact email, make sure to include an unofficial transcript indicating courses taken and grades, resume, availability, general expectations for compensation, references if available. It's really helpful if you can say something intelligent about the person's research, which will require you to look them up and try and understand what their area of work.
    We maintain a summer employment and summer school opportunities list at This is worth looking at every few weeks because it is frequently updated.