The Geophysics Departmental Exam consists of oral and written components. There is no single course of study appropriate to the geophysics curriculum; instead, the individual interests of the student will permit, in consultation with the first-year guidance committee, a choice of course work in seismology, geomagnetism, etc. The content of six core courses taken during the first year (SIO 223B, SIO 224, SIO 225, SIO 227A, SIO 229, and SIO 234) forms the basis for the written departmental examination. Those lacking adequate preparation in probability and statistics are encouraged to take SIO 221B, or a comparable course, before enrolling in SIO 223B. Students should also consider taking SIO 233 if they have little experience in programming. Finally, students are also encouraged to participate in the Special Topics seminars (SIO 239) where students have a chance to practice their speaking skills before their peers.

The written exam is administered at the end of spring quarter and the oral exam follows early in the fall quarter. The written exam is based on the coursework. The oral exam is based on assigned papers to read, which are targeted at the student's interests. A brief presentation of possible research interests will also be expected at the oral exam.