I graduated a four year physics course at a quite highly rated British university in 2011, and am now 24 years old. I managed a to graduate with a 1st and am now into the first year of my PhD, but I sometimes question if I'm really that competent/knowledgeable. I feel as though I have forgotten significant amount of what I have covered in the past 10 or so years of learning physics, with too little time/energy to go back and re-learn it all. So much material hastily learned for exams and then gradually forgotten. You hear so much these days about university degrees becoming easier, so I can't help but wonder if it's true - have I gained a deep understanding of things, or have I just figured out how to pass exams effectively? More than anything I feel poorly informed about what is really going on in current research, I mean, most of my course focussed on things that have been established for decades or longer.
Is this a common feeling amongst people at this stage in their physics career, regardless of which decade we're in? At what point did you start feeling like a "real" physicist (at least in your depth/breadth of understanding, if not in your official job title)?