Planning on doing the physics GRE (not a physics major)

In summary: PhD.In summary, you don't have the proper background in physics to do well on the GRE and taking it is not recommended.
  • #1
Hi everyone,
I've read a few posts on this forum and thought they were helpful enough that I should try to get some help as well. My situation is a little unusual in that I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry, minoring in mathematics. I want to tackle biological problems for my PhD, but my experience working in biology labs made me feel unsatisfied with the methods currently employed in pure biological research. Anyways, long story short, I'm hoping to get into an interdisciplinary lab where I can tackle biological problems with more a quantitative and physical approach. Of course, it would've been much better if I had this realization a couple of years ago, but I have to work with what I got. So, my rationale for doing the physics GRE is basically to "prove" to the admissions people that I am capable of grasping fundamental physics in a timely manner so that I can work in a biophysics lab. I have looked over the physics GRE practice question, and I have learned almost all the math necessary for it. I have taken 2 first year undergraduate physics and a second year physics course (thermodynamics). So my questions are: how should I prepare for the GRE given my background? And is my reason for taking it justified? I have about 5 month, but if 3 and a half is doable, I would want to do it mid-september.
 
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  • #2
DarkForest said:
Hi everyone,
So my questions are: how should I prepare for the GRE given my background?
You don't yet have the proper physics preparation (e.g., classical and quantum mechanics) to do well on the GRE.
DarkForest said:
And is my reason for taking it justified?
Only if you're going to pursue a PhD that falls within the domain of a physics department.
 
  • #3
DrSteve said:
You don't yet have the proper physics preparation (e.g., classical and quantum mechanics) to do well on the GRE.
Ok, how should I prepare?

Only if you're going to pursue a PhD that falls within the domain of a physics department.

A lot of program have different streams, take for example in Caltech, the neuroscience PhD program has a physics stream, biology stream, and psychology stream. Also, programs like biophysics at Harvard doesn't belong to either physics or biology as far as I know. So its not as clear cut as physics department vs non-physics
 
  • #4
DarkForest said:
A lot of program have different streams, take for example in Caltech, the neuroscience PhD program has a physics stream, biology stream, and psychology stream. Also, programs like biophysics at Harvard doesn't belong to either physics or biology as far as I know. So its not as clear cut as physics department vs non-physics

So do they require a GRE, or not? I see no point in taking it if they don't. In any event, you're not ready to take it with only the courses you have under your belt.
 
  • #5
DrSteve said:
So do they require a GRE, or not? I see no point in taking it if they don't. In any event, you're not ready to take it with only the courses you have under your belt.
Not required, but my rationale still stands. I know I'm not ready now which is why I'm asking how I can prepare for it, it's not like any of this can't be self-taught. I've had no trouble with any math/physics course I've taken so far.
 
  • #6
What major do you want to pursue in graduate school? Biology, Chemistry, or Physics? I think, however, biophysics research is primarily done in the physics department and the people working in these labs are physicists.
 
  • #7
DarkForest said:
Not required, but my rationale still stands. I know I'm not ready now which is why I'm asking how I can prepare for it, it's not like any of this can't be self-taught. I've had no trouble with any math/physics course I've taken so far.

There's a big difference between taking a first/second year undergrad physics course with an instructor and teaching yourself advanced quantum mechanics. You are asking to cram ~4 years of study into five months. By self-study.

However, if you want the bare minimum of knowledge, your best bet is to buy a copy of the "Conquering the Physics GRE" book and go through it. If you can solve the questions in that book, you will do okay, since the practice tests and questions in that book are generally more difficult than the pGRE.
 
  • #8
DarkForest said:
I want to tackle biological problems for my PhD, but my experience working in biology labs made me feel unsatisfied with the methods currently employed in pure biological research.

If I were you I would determine the specific area of biological research that you are interested, delve into the physical techniques that are applicable to that area, and then take specific math, physics or biophysics courses that would help you with those techniques.
 

1. What is the purpose of taking the physics GRE if I am not a physics major?

The physics GRE is a standardized test that is used by graduate schools to assess the basic knowledge and understanding of physics of their applicants. Even if you are not a physics major, taking the physics GRE can show your proficiency in the subject and make you a more competitive candidate for graduate programs in fields related to physics, such as engineering or astronomy.

2. How is the physics GRE different from other standardized tests?

The physics GRE is specifically designed to test your knowledge and understanding of physics concepts, rather than your ability to memorize equations or formulas. It covers a wide range of topics in physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. Unlike the general GRE, the physics GRE is not a computer-based test and is only offered three times a year.

3. Do I need to have a strong background in physics to do well on the physics GRE?

While a strong background in physics can be beneficial, it is not necessary to do well on the physics GRE. The test is designed to assess your understanding of fundamental physics concepts, and you can prepare for it by reviewing basic principles and practicing with sample questions. It is also important to have a good understanding of mathematics, as it is a key component of the physics GRE.

4. How can I prepare for the physics GRE?

There are several ways to prepare for the physics GRE, including reviewing textbooks and taking practice tests. Many test prep companies also offer study materials and courses specifically for the physics GRE. It is important to start studying early and create a study schedule to cover all the topics on the test. It can also be helpful to work with a study group or tutor to review difficult concepts.

5. Can I retake the physics GRE if I am not satisfied with my score?

Yes, you can retake the physics GRE if you are not satisfied with your initial score. However, it is important to check with the graduate programs you are applying to, as some may only consider your highest score, while others may average your scores. It is also important to keep in mind that you can only take the physics GRE three times in a 12-month period, so it is important to plan accordingly and make sure you are well-prepared before retaking the test.

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