The Master's oral is described in the SFSU bulletin:
This culminating experience is a written and/or oral examination that is prepared and administered by the major department so students can demonstrate their ability to integrate the content knowledge, independent thinking, and critical analysis, and, as may be appropriate, accuracy of documentation. The results of the examination (pass or fail) are reported to the Division of Graduate Studies on a Report of Completion of Culminating Experience Requirement form by the deadline date indicated in the university calendar.
A candidate who fails a comprehensive examination will be provided an opportunity to take it at least one more time. The conditions for repeating an examination (e.g., number of times, elapse of time required) are stated in the departmental description of the graduate program."
The physics department comprehensive oral will usually include questions on:
We will be looking for your ability to integrate and synthesize the material learned in all of your courses. Thus the exam goes beyond mere repetition of course material.
Prior to taking the oral you must have achieved a score of 25th percentile or better on the GRE. Some faculty are willing to help you prepare by offering a 1 unit 899 course that includes "mock-oral" quizzing sessions. Check with your committee chair if you are interested in this help.
We understand that students may be nervous during this exam, and we take this into account when evaluating your performance.
Physics MS candidates are offered a second opportunity to take the exam after failing once. Usually the committee will recommend a study plan and will specify conditions to be met prior to the second attempt.