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?