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Classes Before GRE?

  1. Nov 7, 2007 #1
    It seems like most schools that I've looked at don't offer a class in full on QM untill senior (according to the course sequences they universities have laid out -- these are probably maleable to a certain degree). I am mostly looking at state school as my GPA isn't good enough to get into any really prestigious schools (I'm applying to U. of Washington but probably won't get in).

    What I'm really wondering though is if QM isn't taken untill how are you expected to be able to pass the physics GRE, because as far as I know most people take the GRE at the beginning of their senior year? Is the material on the GRE basic enough to have been covered in a Modern Physics course?

    Also if anyone could supply me a list of classes that one must take before taking the GRE I'd be very thankful.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2007 #2
    I think the QM on the GRE is a little more advanced than a modern physics course. The QM is about the level of Griffiths, in fact, some of the problems seemed like they were taken directly out of Griffiths text.

    Edit: I took the test this October. If you can master chapters 1-5 of Griffiths you will be fine for GRE QM, IMHO.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2007
  4. Nov 7, 2007 #3
    At Case we had a two semester Quantum course our Junior year, using Griffith's. If you haven't had the courses yet before you take the exam you could always put together a study group some months before the exam, or even see if a professor would be interested in teaching a review course.

    I'd assume you'd need classes beyond the intro level in Quantum, E+M, Mechanics and a class in Thermo/StatMech. Probably more, but I don't recall. I'd check the gre website for information on what the exam covers.
  5. Nov 8, 2007 #4
    Junior year here, and I am taking QM now, using Griffiths. I don't understand why they would offer the course after you desperately need it.

    Definitely much more advanced material than in my Modern Physics class.
  6. Nov 8, 2007 #5
    quantum 1
    EM 1
    stat mech (if you want to get an extra three or four problems right)
    lagrangian/hamiltonian mechanics
    modern physics
    advanced laboratory (if you want to get an extra problem or two right)

    if you master the material in those classes, you'll get a really good score. if you're missing one or two, you'll probably still do well.
  7. Nov 8, 2007 #6
    I also don't understand why they would do that. After doing a bit more research I found that WSU (generally thought of as the "next best" public school in Washington) offers a class called Introdruction to Quantum Mechanics that could probably be taken junior year. It is only a one semester class but there are also three 500 level QM classes (not sure if these are available to undergrads).

    Here is a link to the Intro. to QM class:
    And here is a link of all the undergrad physics courses offered:

    I'm just wondering does it look like the QM class is good enough for the GRE requirements (there are lecture notes on the side which go over the topics covered).

    Thanks a lot for any help, I really just don't want to get stuck at a sub-par school...although this may end up happening anyway.
  8. Nov 8, 2007 #7
    I looked at the first link and I think that course would give you a good foundation for the GRE. There are basically four systems which you should have down cold: Infinite square well, harmonic oscillator, hydrogen atom, and two state spin systems.
  9. Nov 12, 2007 #8
    fwiw, the quantum questions on the gre are some of the easiest on the exam. it's really basic stuff, i thought.

    take a look through some of the exams and note the types of questions they have on QM. it's just stuff like calculating expectation values given a wavefunction written in terms of some basis, infinite square well, harmonic oscillator, angular momentum. the stuff about the hydrogen atom comes mostly from a modern physics class.

    every so often, there's a question on first order perturbation theory, but that's like one question every other exam, so you don't really need to know it.
  10. Nov 12, 2007 #9
    I see, well I have one other question. When departments lay out a sort of course schedule, are those set in stone? For instance the Intro to QM class I provided a link to above, is not scheduled to be taken until senior year (even though the prereqs are met at the beginning of junior year), does that mean that it *must* be taken senior year or could it be moved to junior year?

    EDIT: I think I should add that their are two *semesters* of Modern Physics at WSU whereas at UW there only seems to be one quarter. So perhaps this means that Modern Physics at WSU is much more in depth (it could also just mean it's more time consuming..)?
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2007
  11. Nov 12, 2007 #10


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    Staff: Mentor

    The only thing that matters (or should matter) as far as the department is concerned is that you meet the specific prerequisites for a course. Here, for example, the prereqs for QM are differential equations and the Intro Modern Physics course. Students can take QM any time after they've taken those courses.

    We also lay out a sample course schedule for the full four years, but it's intended only as an example of how to fit everything together.
  12. Nov 12, 2007 #11

    Maybe. We have 2 quarters of QM where the second one is optional (but you'll probably still take both if you want to go to grad school).
  13. Nov 13, 2007 #12
    As far as schedules being set in stone, the answer is No.
    If you go to talk to your Dept. they should help you work out a schedule that can accommodate your needs as long as you aren't demanding too much from them.
    For instance, if a student wants to study abroad, their schedule will not be able to follow the general 4 year plan that the dept. lays out. (this assumes they can't take the required classes where they study abroad)
    But they can most likely double up courses for a few semesters to make things work out.
    As long as you *mostly* meet the requirements for the course, and it is being offered in a given semester there's probably no reason you can't take it if you want to. I say *mostly* because sometimes if there is a prerequisite for a course that you have not met, the department will allow you to take both classes concurrently.
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