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Physics GRE in the stead of coursework

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Main Question or Discussion Point

My friend – a former TA in astronomy, who's completing her PhD in Astrophysics – suggested to me that graduate programs may be fine with acing the Physics GRE subject test in the stead of posted grades in coursework. I know I'll have to ask the specific graduate programs, but since some of you serve on admissions review boards, I'd figure I'd pose the question here as well. Is this acceptable? In other words, is completing self-study and acing the subject test respectable? Or is it even also possible to request to take the qualifier?

I would, of course, prefer to do the coursework itself. But after spending some time lurking the forums, I've come to realize that certain texts may do me better than the ones I actually get in my coursework. For example, Spivak's Calculus seems to be superior to the books that have been prescribed in my upcoming Calculus courses.

Thoughts?
 

Answers and Replies

Dr. Courtney
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I don't think many grad schools are going to accept a good physics GRE score in the stead of lots of undergraduate credits in math and physics. My undergraduate transcript shows 27 credit hours of math including Calc I, II, and III, diff. eq., linear algebra, and numerical methods. It also shows 46 hours of physics. A good GRE score might mitigate the absence of a few upper-level physics courses, but it will not mitigate the absence of substantial undergraduate coursework.

Don't even bother to apply to most PhD programs without at least Calc I, II, and III, and without at least 22 credit hours of Physics including a year of calc-based introductory physics, and a semester each of higher level mechanics, E&M, quantum, and statistical mechanics. And this is really a bare minimum that might be offset with a great GRE score if the committee is in a charitable mood or the institution is looking to fill empty spots in the program.

Michael Courtney
 
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I figured about as much, but my friends sowed the seeds of doubt enough to make me wonder. Thanks!
 

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