Examination regulations (in brief)
The Prüfungsordnung für den Masterstudiengang Physik (Examination Regulation for the Master's Course of Study in Physics) is the official document of the RWTH Aachen University that defines the regulations of the Master's Program in Physics, starting from the admission criteria, to the organization of the curriculum to the policies for the exams. Below you find a brief summary of the information contained in the Prüfungsordnung für den Masterstudiengang Physik that is typically most relevant for students.
Please note that only the German text in the official document
Prüfungsordnung für den Masterstudiengang Physik
is legally binding!
Organization of the Master's Program: Modules and Credit Points
The Master's Program in Physics is spanned over four semesters (two years) and it has a modular structure. Each module corresponds to a certain number of credit points. One credit point corresponds to a total work load of 30 hours for the student. As a rule, a semester comprises 30 credit points, which means that the whole Master's Program comprises 120 credit points, including the Master's thesis and the final Master's colloquium. The modular structure allows a large flexibility for students to design their curriculum (study plan).
The Master’s Program is organized along the following seven different tracks
Experimental Particle Physics,
Astroparticle Physics and Cosmology,
Quantum Field Theory and Gauge Theories,
Experimental Condensed Matter Physics,
Condensed Matter Theory.
For each track, the first year of Master’s studies has one or several mandatory courses, as described in the Curriculum of the Master's Program in Physics. In addition to the mandatory courses, a certain number of credits has to be acquired in terms of elective courses, which can be chosen among those listed in the Modulkatalog.
The second year of the Master's Program is essentially dedicated to the Master's thesis. This represents an independent research work in one of the fields of study listed above. Students have to choose a supervisor and agree with him/her on the topic and the form of their Master's thesis project. With Master's Seminars and Practical, students acquire respectively a deep understanding of the relevant topics in the field of their thesis, and proficiency in the related research methods. The results of the Master's thesis project are presented as a scientific essay and exposed in a talk in front of the research group (Master's defence colloquium).
The Master's Program is completed when all the modules that form the curriculum of a student have been passed, and the grade of the Master's thesis is at least "Sufficient" (4.0). In this case, the student is awarded the academic degree of "Master of Science RWTH Aachen University (M.Sc. RWTH)".
The course catalogue (Modulhandbuch) contains a complete overview of all courses offered by the Master's Program in Physics. Together with the associated examination, each course forms an academic module that corresponds to a certain number of credit points.
For information on the qualifications required to be admitted to the Master's Program in Physics please refer to the page Entrance Qualifications.
The Master's Program in Physics is taught in English. Only within the track of studies "Nanoelectronics" and in subsidiary subjects some elective courses are taught in German. Even in these cases, it remains possible to successfully complete the Master's Program with English courses only. The Master's thesis can be written either in English or in German.
Period of study
The standard period of study is four semesters (two years), including the completion of the Master's thesis. The Master's Program can be started either in the winter or in the summer semester.
Mandatory, elective and optional modules
The curriculum is divided into mandatory, elective and, if applicable, optional modules. Mandatory modules are modules that a student is required to take and that form the backbone of the chosen track of studies. Elective modules are modules that students can select to complete their curriculum, i.e. to achieve the required number of credit points per semester. Elective courses can be chosen from a list of core modules characteristic of each study track (specialisation courses). In addition, there is a range of free electives in subsidiary subjects from which the students can choose. Optional modules are modules that are not included in the curriculum but may be taken by students voluntarily, i.e. in addition to the curriculum. The results of the examinations taken in these modules do not contribute to the final grade of the degree but, if requested by the candidate, can be listed in the final academic transcript.
Registration (& cancelation) to classes
Students must register for each course via a registration procedure. The registration deadline and procedure will be announced on the campus information system RWTHonline in a timely manner. The registration to lecture courses can be cancelled anytime during the semester. The registration to lab courses or seminars can be cancelled until a day prior to the beginning of the course.
Registration (& cancelation) to exams
Students must register for each examination. The precise registration and cancellation procedures are announced in RWTHonline. For each lecture course there will be at least two examination dates offered every year. The dates of the written examinations will be announced at the beginning of each course. The registration for an examination can be cancelled without giving a reason, up until three working days before the respective examination date. If a candidate does not appear at an examination without a good reason or if he/she withdraws from the examination after the start of the exam without a good reason, the examination performance is considered "Unsatisfactory" (5.0). In case of illness, the candidate must present a medical certificate.
Types of examinations
To complete a module students have to pass the corresponding examination, which can be in one of the forms described below.
Oral examinations. In oral examinations, candidates are expected to demonstrate their understanding and awareness of the concepts and relationships of the subject area, and that they are able to classify specific problems within the field. The oral examination is also to assess whether the candidate has acquired a wide basic knowledge. Oral examinations are held either by several examiners (oral examination by panel) or by one examiner in the presence of a competent minute taker, who takes written notes of the contents of the exam and of the candidate’s performance. The duration of an oral examination is at least 20 minutes and 40 minutes at most. The candidate is informed of his/her grade right after the exam.
Written examinations. In written examinations, candidates have to demonstrate that they are able to identify and find ways to solve a discipline-specific problem in a limited period of time and with limited resources, using established methods and approaches. Multiple choice tests and e-test (multimedia-supported assessments) can be used as part of written examinations. The duration of a written examination is at least 60 minutes and 180 minutes at most.
Oral presentations. An oral presentation is a talk with a minimum duration of 20 and a maximum duration of 60 minutes, based on a written paper. The presentation is to demonstrate that the candidate is able to provide a scientific/scholarly analysis of a specific topic, taking into account the relevant concepts and relationships of the subject area, and present the results orally.
Written term papers. In a written term paper, a problem from the subject area of the class is thoroughly addressed and possible solutions are worked out, drawing on the relevant literature and suitable aids and materials that will be announced as part of the term paper assignment.
Written homework. Written homework can be assigned and evaluated during the semester to gradually prepare students for the subsequent examinations. The result of the homework assignments might represent a prerequisite for the admission to the final examination of the module.
Colloquium. In the colloquium, students have to demonstrate in a discussion of 30 - 60 minutes with the examiner and other participants that they are familiar with the concepts and relationships of the subject matter of the course and are able to classify questions and problems in the contexts of the subject matter. The colloquium may begin with an oral presentation.
In practical trainings and laboratory courses students learn to perform independent experimental work, evaluate measured data, and present measured results in a scientific manner. The assessment of practical training/laboratory work will take into account the knowledge of the subject matter demonstrated by the students, their experimental skills, and the quality of their scientific analyses.
For each module, the type of examination and the material/aids allowed in the exam itself are usually announced at the beginning of the course or, at latest, four weeks before the exam. Admission to the final examination might have as a prerequisite gaining a "Leistungsnachweis" (assessment of achievements), which certifies that a student has regularly attended the course, participated in class discussions and worked out successfully the assigned homework exercises.
Assessments and grades
Examinations are graded according to the following scale:
1 = Very good
An excellent performance
2 = Good
A performance which is clearly above the average requirements
3 = Satisfactory
A performance that meets the requirements
4 = Sufficient
A performance that still meets the requirements, despite being flawed
5 = Unsatisfactory
A performance that does not meet requirements due to substantial flaws
Intermediate values can be formed by raising or lowering the individual marks by 0.3 (the grades 0.7, 4.3, 4.7 and 5.3 are however excluded). An examination is considered to be passed if the mark is at least "Sufficient" (4.0).
Individual examinations are graded by the respective examiners. Grades are announced at latest six weeks after examination, and students are automatically informed of their grade through the CAMPUS Information System, via an email to their RWTH email-address.
Performances that are not graded obtain the evaluation "Pass" or "Fail".
In case of an "unsatisfactory" (i.e. failed) performance, an examination can be repeated twice. If a candidate receives the mark "Unsatisfactory" (5.0/failed) when repeating a written examination for the second time, he/she has the chance to take a supplementary oral exam before the examination is definitively considered as failed. Based on the performance in this supplementary oral examination, the grade will be either "Sufficient" (4.0) or "Unsatisfactory" (5.0/failed). A module is considered to be ultimately failed if the examinations required for passing can no longer be repeated.
The Master's thesis consists of a written essay that contains the results of the Master's project. It can be written either in German or in English and it should not exceed 80 pages, without appendices. By working on the Master's thesis, students demonstrate their ability of independently addressing a problem in a limited period of time using scientific or scholarly methods.
The Master's thesis can be assigned and supervised by any professor or person with post-doctoral lecturing qualification in the department of Physics,who is involved in research and teaching activities at RWTH. In exceptional cases the Master's thesis can be conducted outside of the Faculty or the RWTH, but this requires the explicit permission of the Board of Examiners.
As a rule, the Master’s thesis must be completed within six months of full-time work from the moment when the subject and the title of the thesis are registered. The topic and the tasks of the Master's project have therefore to be designed accordingly. In individual cases, for good reasons, the candidate might apply for an extension of the writing period up to six weeks. The Board of Examiners has the right to decide on such an extension. If the Master's thesis is not handed in on time, it will be considered as "Unsatisfactory" (5.0/failed).
The Master's thesis will be assessed by the supervisor of the thesis and by one, or in exceptional cases two, additional examiners. If the thesis is evaluated as "Unsatisfactory" (5.0/failed), the candidate will have the possibility of a second attempt.
The topic of the Master's thesis can be given back only once and only within the first month of the writing period.
The final grade with which the Master's degree will be awarded is formed by taking the weighted average of the grades of all the modules of the curriculum, except for the Master's Seminar and the Master's Practical. The grade of each module is weighted with the corresponding number of credit points, with the exception of the grades of the Master's thesis and the Master's defence colloquium, which are weighted with twice the credits assigned to them. In this calculation, only the first decimal place is taken into account. All other decimals are deleted without rounding. The final grade of the Master's degree may be as follows:
Average grade to 1.5
= Very good
Average grade between 1.6 and 2.5
Average grade between 2.6 and 3.5
Average grade between 3.6 and 4.0
For students who enrolled before winter semester 16/17 the following holds: If a candidate manages to complete all modules of the Master's program in the standard period of time (i.e. 2 years), he/she can ask to exclude from the calculation of the final grade the module from the first year with the least favourable weighted-grade.
The final grade "Passed with Distinction" ("Mit Auszeichnung") is awarded if: i) the Master’s Thesis has been evaluated with the grade "1.0", and ii) the weighted average of the grades of all other modules in the curriculum is 1.3 or better.
RWTHonline is the web-based campus information system of the RWTH Aachen University. Together with other on-line services, it contains the academic calendar, the on-line forms for registering to classes and examinations as well as the personal students pages, with their individual schedules.
A Semesterwochenstunde (semester-week hour), in brief SWS, is the unit of time used for lectures during the semester. One SWS corresponds to a 45-minutes class every week during the semester teaching period.