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PGRE and application to grad schools

  1. Dec 30, 2008 #1
    I am going to take GRE physics next October (or November). From what someone should begin with?

    Are the 1st year textbooks (like Serway's) useful, or one should study all the stuff from the advanced undergraduate texts (Griffiths' e/m, Goldstein's classical mech., Shankar's quantum mech., etc)?

    And the last question...
    I am an material science student. Could this be a disadvantage to my applications to physics and applied physics graduate schools? I have already pass e/m (from Griffiths), quantum mechanics (mainly from Shankar), optics (from Hecht), thermodynamics (From Atkins' physical chemistry), statistical mechanics , intro to condensed matter physics and intro to computational physics (notes) and the math: calculus I and II, complex calculus, probability theory, linear algebra, ODE and PDE. This semester I'll take classical mechanics (do I have actually time to prepare for it? :uhh:)

    I'm doing research (already 6 months) on photonics and plasmonics (with 1 poster presentasion so far) and I want to do my phd on condensed matter physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2008 #2
    I don't think with your coursework (especially if you end up with two terms of classical mechanics, quantum, and e/m) that your application will suffer at all because of the label "materials science". You look to have strong math, which is also good.

    Keep working on the research... a publication or two is GREAT for an application. Research experience shows you now what grad school is about.

    With regards to the PGRE... you'll have to rely on someone else's advice. It's been WAY too long since I've thought about the GRE (the students I presently teach are engineers, premed, or non-science students, and it's been a LONG while since I took it! :biggrin: ).
  4. Dec 30, 2008 #3


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    Yes, questions on introductory topics are a very large (even majority) portion of the Physics GRE. Due to time constraints the questions they can ask cannot be too difficult and must lend themselves to multiple choice type questions. Although there are questions over more-advanced (upper division) classes, you can still pick up a great many points from the introductory level questions. As a matter of fact, going through an intro course’s textbook (such as Serway, Young & Freedman, or Halliday, Resnick, and Walker) is an excellent way to prepare for the test.
  5. Jan 1, 2009 #4


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    I think that the PGRE is a pretty basic test, which just about scratches the subjects you learn in a upper-level undergraduate course. I agree with mrjeffy that an introductory book will really help.

    Also, like all standardized tests, practicing from the previous PGRE tests will help a lot. I think that there are four practice tests released by ETS and available on the internet. Get the tests and work them out. I felt that was adequate preparation when I wrote the test.

    Finally, I suggest you take the October test. The November test is a bit too close to the deadlines, and you may not get your score reports on time.
  6. Jan 1, 2009 #5

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    What to study is easy - study whatever you're weakest at. (This sounds obvious, but people seem to want to work at being even stronger at what they are already strong in. If before studying you would get 9/10 problems in topic A and 3/10 in topic B, where is the largest potential gain?)

    There are some Halliday and Resnick problems on the GRE. How much time you spend on them is up to you. On the one hand, there is the point I made above. On the other hand, you don't want to lose any points to problems at this level. Remember, the easiest and the hardest problems on the GRE are worth exactly the same number of points.
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