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Preparing for Physics Qualifying Exams

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  • Thread starter buffordboy23
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

This monster will be here soon enough. I know that reviewing past exams and previous coursework is an obvious method, but what about memorizing the content, such key equations? I see that there are a couple different ideas: (1) memorize the important equations, or (2) memorize the derivations of the equations. The second method seems best, because you understand the approximations and limitations imposed on the resultant equations. Do you guys (or girls) think the second method is feasible, or needed to perform well? How have you guys approached this aspect of the preparation?
 

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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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I have never seen a qualifying exam where (1) would be enough to pass. (2) is more likely to help.
 
  • #3
Dr Transport
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Practice, practice, practice. I did about 1000 problems in the year before my qualifiers. I aced them after all was said and done.
 
  • #4
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Gotta agree with Dr. Transport and Vanadium 50. Really the best way to study for the qual is to do as many practice problems as humanly possible, and maybe read a few pages out of the textbooks if you really have to. Last summer when I was studying, I basically came into the office at 9 am, and did qual problems until 5 or 6 pm (my advisor was nice enough to pay me anyway). I think the only derivation I ever memorized was the one for the first order energy perturbation in quantum mechanics, and even then it was because there was a practice problem on it.

Does your department give you access to old qualifying exams? If so, that's really the only major tool you need. Your books from undergrad might be helpful too, but I wouldn't waste too much time on that.
 

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