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Testing Anyone else take the physics gre today?

  1. Apr 14, 2007 #1
    i thought it was a bit easier than the four exams floatin' around the 'tubes. time got called when i still had five problems left, but i still answered 81 questions! :eek:

    can't wait until i see my score. it'll be a long six weeks. :biggrin:
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2007 #2
    81 questions? That's amazing! Back when I took my physics GRE, I only answered about 60 of them (and I got into grad school, so I wouldn't be worried about your performance). Anyway, I hope it turns out well!
  4. Apr 14, 2007 #3
    i hope i didn't get 20 wrong!!! :tongue:

    during my test, i was the only physics test taker. we had three biology students, a chemistry student, and an english student. the gre subject tests aren't that popular in the spring, i guess, even though i think it makes more sense to take'em in the spring of junior year. you only miss out on a few questions (assuming you aren't postponing really important classes like quantum 1 and electrodynamics until senior year), and i think it'll significantly reduce the amount of ineluctable stress during the fall of senior year.
  5. Apr 14, 2007 #4
    I took the GRE Math today. We probably had over 20 people taking different exams (I think 9 or 10 were taking the psychology exam). I answered a little more than half, but I feel confident about the ones I did answer. Apparently I have forgotten everything I learned in Linear Algebra, because I could not figure out any of those questions. However, I never expected to get into a great school anyway, so I never worried too much about it. I hope I at least cracked 50th percentile, but it probably won't make much of a difference for me anyway.
  6. Apr 14, 2007 #5
    When I take the physics GRE I won't have analytical mechanics, QM (beyond what is covered in the modern physics course), or nuclear physics...

    can someone recommend what I should study to fill in these gaps?
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2007
  7. Apr 14, 2007 #6
    Woah now, I only said I answered 60 questions. If I recall, I only got something like 40 of them right, resulting in the fairly average score of 620. If I actually managed to get 60 questions right, I'd consider myself a physics genius.

    Yeah, taking it in the spring does sound like a good idea, if you've had quantum 1 by then. At my school, however, quantum mechanics was in the fall of the senior year, so I really had no choice but to take it then.

    Sure. For analytical mechanics, it might be a good idea to study Lagrangian mechanics. I know that sounds monsterous, but it's really pretty easy (most undergrad textbooks only spend a single chapter on the topic). I recall having about four questions that pertained to this. For QM, make sure you know how to deal with Dirac delta potentials, finite square wells, finite potential barriers, and of course the easy case of the infinite square well. You've probably learned most of this in modern physics, so it should all be review. You might also want to pick up a senior quantum mechanics book and read the chapter that covers Dirac notation. It's not really that hard, but you don't want to be confused when you start seeing ket notation.

    Of course, don't spend more than a week on the stuff I mentioned above. It'll score you a few extra points, but you're better off solidifying the knowledge that you already have. I found that a lot of the questions they ask are from sophomore quantum. Knowing when and how to use the gamma factor for relativistic calculations is really important. As for not having taken nuclear physics, don't worry about it. They don't ask specialized questions on topics like solid state, nuclear, plasma, or other such things. If they do, they'll be questions you can answer without having taken the class. For example, in one question on my GRE, we were asked to use the Hubble Constant to estimate the age of the universe. It turned out that if you looked at the units, you knew that you just had to invert the constant. I was actually hurt slightly by having taken cosmology, because I spent a minute remembering that in reality, you've got to add a factor of 2/3. Oh well...
  8. Apr 15, 2007 #7
    i'll actually be disappointed if i got more than five wrong. :uhh:

    the gre's questions on lagrangian mechanics are basic, basic, basic!

    also, don't neglect hamilton's equations. i could've gotten one more question right this time around if i had bothered to look at'em. :frown:

    i don't think you have to worry about dirac delta potentials. just stuff about the harmonic oscillator, finite and infinite square wells, angular momentum, computing commutators, and, if you want to be overprepared, a question on time independent perturbation theory pops up every once in a while.

    the rest of the quantum stuff is either basic probability/expectation value stuff or things you can reason out yourself. (in my experience, anyway.)

    they do have some questions on solid-state, nuclear, particle, and astrophysics/cosmology, but it's at the level of a modern physics class. if you read the relevant chapters in your modern physics textbook, you'll probably be overprepared.

    some of the particle physics questions can get really obscure, so i didn't really bother too much with them.

    i might as well give my secrets to studying, since i think i did pretty well on the test.

    the exam from 2001 is on the ets website, and the exams from 1986, 92, and 96 are floating around on the internet. there used to be a book with those exams in'em, and people have put'em in the 'tubes. i took all four exams, beginning in early, early february (like, a day before the superbowl!), spaced out by two or three weeks. during that time, i would analyze the questions i got wrong and skipped (and even some i got right!), writing down concepts i never knew before (e.g., bragg reflection, polarization, etc.) and making "equation sheets" for the topics i missed the most questions in (atomic physics, EM, optics, etc.).

    the guy who runs grephysics.net has solved all of the problems to all four exams. i've found that many of his solutions are really unclear and/or total crap. some users post better solutions beneath his, so look for those. i remember one solution to a problem on grephysics.net... the guy says, "this is just a simple propogation of errors problem" and then proceeded to crank out the answer. not too instructive if you don't know anything about that topic to begin with! of course, i could've researched the topic on my own, but i didn't really bother trying to understand the lab methods questions at all--i just had to hope not to see very many of'em!

    also, harvard's sps website has some tex'ed up study sheets for a lot of the topics covered. i noticed that some equations were wrong (having gammas in the wrong place here and there, for example), so you really have to go through and check everything. no big deal--you'll just reinforce the material that way!

    oh, and know your dipole transition selection rules! an easy way to get one or two questions right! out of the four practice exams, there was at least one problem on that, and if you knew it, it took all of five seconds to find the right answer. (i can't say whether or not i saw one on the exam i took yesterday... :tongue: )
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2007
  9. Apr 15, 2007 #8
    Jesus, you make me feel like an idiot. I took the physics gre yesterday and I was only able to answer 40. If I get 30 right Ill freaking cry. Then again Im a first generation college student and from kentucky enough said.
  10. Apr 15, 2007 #9
    well, if you spend about 1.7 minutes on each problem on average then you should be able to get through all of the problems....

    I am mostly concerned about the fact that I won't have QM or analytical mechanics by the time I take the test.....that is going to hurt a bit. I guess I will need to study this stuff.
  11. May 16, 2007 #10
    got a 920. bajeebus! :surprised
  12. May 16, 2007 #11


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    NICE!!!! Thats freaking great man!
  13. May 17, 2007 #12
    What was the highest score one can get in GRE???
    And is it neccessary for anybody to take gre to get in a grad school, for example in math??
  14. May 17, 2007 #13
    Holy crap. I only got a 590 cries. I was actually happy as hell about my score. Then again I dont claim to be a genious only work hard. Sort of got screwed by not having quantum, classical 2, and E and M too till this coming semester. That and I didn't study this time around. I work a full time job, work 20 hours a week for research, and go to school and maintain aobu t a 3.8 gpa. This summer while Im at my reu down at Eastern Tennesse State Univesrity Ill be studying quite a bit for it. I did the best of my class though lol the next highest score was only a 520.
  15. May 17, 2007 #14
    highest score: 990.

    necessity of taking gre subject tests: depends on the program. uf's math grad program does not require applicants to take the math subject gre (last i heard), but i imagine other programs do. all of the physics programs i am interested in require the physics subject test (as well as the general test).
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