Self-Studying Physics in 8 months for a University Entrance Exam

In summary, the person is studying Physics to get into a University to study masters in India, but they have some background in the subject. They are studying Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences by Mary L Boas for that. They have 8 months left and are focusing on completing the entrance exam for a Masters in a top Indian university. They are not sure if this will help, but they have attached the syllabus they must cover along with the post.
  • #1
Slimy0233
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I am studying Physics to get into a University to study masters in India. But, I do realize how vital a role mathematics plays and I am studying Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences by Mary L Boas for that.

I have some background in Physics, I did study Physics in high school and University, although I don't count my university education as real education because the Indian university I studied in had such low standards that even though I got good marks, I don't know what they taught me (literally the worst years of my life, I feel like they are my lost years). But as of now I am trying to get into masters in India and I am making sure that I don't get a bad university. Which is why I am studying for the entrance exam for Masters for top Indian universities.

I have 8 months left and I have all of those 8 months as I sitting at my home. I am sure you can add something which can benefit me. What strategy should I pursue as of now? I know for a fact that I can't delve deep into most of the stuff I am studying, but I want to at least have enough knowledge to know that I deserve a good university.

Meanwhile, what should be my strategy, I can't read an solve every book I have on Physics, so, what should you do if you were in my place? I am actually getting coached for it by a institution here online. I have 4 hours of lectures daily and many problems to work out regarding those lectures. I am not sure what I am exactly hoping from my post, but I am certain there is something you can teach me from your experience

I am not sure if this will help, but here are the textbooks I am using
1. Mathematical Methods by Mary L Boas
2. Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths
3. Introduction to Quantum Physics by Griffiths (despite of the debate on it, my professor strongly recommended it.
4. An Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkov
5. Classical Mechanics by Goldstein (I am not using it, as I found Kleppner and Kolenkov to be easier)
6. Modern Physics by Kenneth S Krane
7. Optics by Ajoy Ghatak (a famous Indian author)
8. Vibrations and Waves by Anthony Philip French
9. Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics by P. Reif
10. The Feynman Lectures (1-3)
11. Solid State Physics by Aschcroft & Mermin

I have attached the syllabus I must cover along with the post.
 

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What level of understanding physics and math are you at, right now?

In the US, most of the books you listed are considered "upper undergraduate level", i.e. third and fourth years of a 4-year undergraduate degree. At this level, most US colleges and universities assume / require that students have already studied intro physics at the level of e.g. Halliday/Resnick/Walker Fundamentals of Physics (two semesters of material), plus single- and multi-variable calculus (three semesters), and intro linear algebra and differential equations (one semester apiece).

Exceptions include Kleppner/Kolenkow, which I understand has been used by MIT in their intro physics sequence (but are you "MIT material?" :wink:). At the college where I taught, it was used as a bridge between Halliday/Resnick/Walker and true upper lever mechanics books like Marion and Symon. Goldstein is usually considered a graduate-school level book.

Krane is usually used as an "intro modern physics" book, in between intro physics and a full-on QM course like Griffiths.

I'm not familiar with French, but I think it's also intermediate between intro and upper level.

Boas is commonly used in "math methods for physics" courses, after the usual calculus courses.
 
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  • #3
Slimy0233 said:
I am studying Physics to get into a University to study masters in India.
In the US, I believe one requirement for applying to graduate school in Physics was to take the Physics GRE exam (PGRE). I think many schools may have dropped that requirement now, but I'm not sure. Still, it's a good way to gauge your level of knowledge versus others who are applying for Physics Grad School. Have you considered taking one of the PGRE practice exams?

https://www.ets.org/pdfs/gre/fact-sheet-physics.pdf
 
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  • #4
Slimy0233 said:
But as of now I am trying to get into masters in India and I am making sure that I don't get a bad university. Which is why I am studying for the entrance exam for Masters for top Indian universities.
Thanks for the explanation of your situation. I think it makes it far easier for everyone to offer you good advice.
I really like @jtbell assessment of that list of texts. I would initially concentrate on the really knowing the lower level material (e.g Halliday and Resnick) and the math methods. Then do E and M and modern physics. Forget Goldstein for now and do Marion/Thornton. Understanding a few things well is far better than knowing many things superficially. Is there anyone locally you can teach and/or learn from? Teaching focusses the mind.
 
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  • #5
jtbell said:
What level of understanding physics and math are you at, right now?

In the US, most of the books you listed are considered "upper undergraduate level", i.e. third and fourth years of a 4-year undergraduate degree. At this level, most US colleges and universities assume / require that students have already studied intro physics at the level of e.g. Halliday/Resnick/Walker Fundamentals of Physics
I know enough differentiation and integration to be eligible to take a physics class in India (although the standards are pretty low to begin with)
I have somewhat of a ok foundation in maths. i.e., I will understand almost every differential equation and integral calculus question and be able to solve it. I have a good knowledge of everything a US student might know after they graduate high school and some more. But, I don't have enough math knowledge to solve a standard book related to say QM or Electromagnetism.
I didn't want any specific help but I was wondering if an average student might be able to get a good understanding of Physics within say 8 months. of c, any other advice would be helpful too. I mean, to what depth should I study or something else you feel like I should know.

jtbell said:
plus single- and multi-variable calculus (three semesters), and intro linear algebra and differential equations (one semester apiece).
I am aware of all these. I mean, I have knowledge of the topics you are mentioning.
So, I don't think these math topics would post any problem.
jtbell said:
Goldstein is usually considered a graduate-school level book.
Thank God for that because I can't understand much of it :')
Money well spent ig, someday it will be useful.

Edit: In what order do you think I should go through learning Physics. Should I read the Feynmann lectures btw??
 
  • #6
berkeman said:
In the US, I believe one requirement for applying to graduate school in Physics was to take the Physics GRE exam (PGRE). I think many schools may have dropped that requirement now, but I'm not sure. Still, it's a good way to gauge your level of knowledge versus others who are applying for Physics Grad School. Have you considered taking one of the PGRE practice exams?

https://www.ets.org/pdfs/gre/fact-sheet-physics.pdf
hey, unfortunately no, I have not considered taking PGRE or GRE exams. I am certain I don't have enough knowledge to do well on any of those. But I do appreciate you sharing the fact sheet. The syllabus especially would be extremely helpful.
 
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  • #7
hutchphd said:
Thanks for the explanation of your situation. I think it makes it far easier for everyone to offer you good advice.
I really like @jtbell assessment of that list of texts. I would initially concentrate on the really knowing the lower level material (e.g Halliday and Resnick) and the math methods. Then do E and M and modern physics. Forget Goldstein for now and do Marion/Thornton. Understanding a few things well is far better than knowing many things superficially. Is there anyone locally you can teach and/or learn from? Teaching focusses the mind.
Unfortunately there is no one I can teach or learn from locally here. I really wish there were. Thank you very much for the advice, I was looking for it.
 
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  • #8
I don't want to discourage you, but your list of books / subjects may be too much to accomplish in 8 months. Getting through Kleppner & Kolenkow by yourself in 8 months could be hard.

I love Feynmans lectures but I think they are better for solidifying one's understanding rather than first exposure. When I read them I get an "aha, now I get it" feeling.
 
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  • #9
gmax137 said:
I don't want to discourage you, but your list of books / subjects may be too much to accomplish in 8 months. Getting through Kleppner & Kolenkow by yourself in 8 months could be hard.

I love Feynmans lectures but I think they are better for solidifying one's understanding rather than first exposure. When I read them I get an "aha, now I get it" feeling.
Honest yet not discouraging advice was all I was looking for. Thanks :alien:
 
  • #10
jtbell said:
I'm not familiar with French, but I think it's also intermediate between intro and upper level.
Decades ago, when I was a physics undergrad at MIT, French was one of the textbooks used in 8.03, Vibrations and Waves, typically taken in the first semester of sophomore year. Back then, introduction to special relativity was also shoehorned into that course. I just checked the recent curriculum. 8.03 (Physics III) still covers vibration and waves, but there is now a separate course covering relativity. An online OCW version of 8.03 from 2016 uses H. Georgi, The Physics of Waves, as the principal text.
 
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  • #11
jtbell said:
Exceptions include Kleppner/Kolenkow, which I understand has been used by MIT in their intro physics sequence (but are you "MIT material?" :wink:). At the college where I taught, it was used as a bridge between Halliday/Resnick/Walker and true upper lever mechanics books like Marion and Symon. Goldstein is usually considered a graduate-school level book.
<<Emphasis added.>> When I read this, I thought Symon must have written a more advanced text from the one I was familiar with. But I checked, there is only one mechanics text (different editions) by Symon. I chuckled at your hierarchy: Symon was the textbook used in MIT 8.01 (freshman first semester physics) when I took it decades ago.
 
  • #12
jtbell said:
Exceptions include Kleppner/Kolenkow, which I understand has been used by MIT in their intro physics sequence (but are you "MIT material?" :wink:). At the college where I taught, it was used as a bridge between Halliday/Resnick/Walker and true upper lever mechanics books like Marion and Symon. Goldstein is usually considered a graduate-school level book.

Krane is usually used as an "intro modern physics" book, in between intro physics and a full-on QM course like Griffiths.

I'm not familiar with French, but I think it's also intermediate between intro and upper level.

Boas is commonly used in "math methods for physics" courses, after the usual calculus courses.
Thanks for those reviews. I had a doubt, I was wondering if reading The Feynman Lectures before reading any standard books was a good idea?

I am told that the Feynman lectures are one of the simplest and the best, so, would it be wise to use them without having read the standard books (Like would it be ok to read the classical mechanics lectures before I have read Kolenkov and Kleppner?)
 
  • #13
Slimy0233 said:
Honest yet not discouraging advice was all I was looking for. Thanks :alien:
It would take me years to get through your reading list. I'd focus on Kleppner and Kolenkow first. Perhaps working through the early chapters of Boas as well.

You can't learn everything at once.
 
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  • #14
Slimy0233 said:
Thanks for those reviews. I had a doubt, I was wondering if reading The Feynman Lectures before reading any standard books was a good idea?

I am told that the Feynman lectures are one of the simplest and the best, so, would it be wise to use them without having read the standard books (Like would it be ok to read the classical mechanics lectures before I have read Kolenkov and Kleppner?)
Read Feynman WITH the other books. It will deepen your understanding.

BUT, to be honest, given the amount that you need to do in the time you need to do it, I would consider dropping it.
 
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  • #15
Slimy0233 said:
1. Mathematical Methods by Mary L Boas
2. Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths
3. Introduction to Quantum Physics by Griffiths (despite of the debate on it, my professor strongly recommended it.
4. An Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkov
5. Classical Mechanics by Goldstein (I am not using it, as I found Kleppner and Kolenkov to be easier)
6. Modern Physics by Kenneth S Krane
7. Optics by Ajoy Ghatak (a famous Indian author)
8. Vibrations and Waves by Anthony Philip French
9. Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics by P. Reif
10. The Feynman Lectures (1-3)
11. Solid State Physics by Aschcroft & Mermin
There is a question of how much time that you have. Assuming that you are comfortable with freshman physics, I would cull the list

1. Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths
2. Introduction to Quantum Physics by Griffiths
3. Junior Level Mechanics book (Marion, Symon or the like)
4. Modern Physics by Kenneth S Krane
5. Optics by Ajoy Ghatak (a famous Indian author)
6. Vibrations and Waves by Anthony Philip French
7. Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics by P. Reif

This assumes that Krane goes into enough depth for the various physics subfields on the test

if you feel that you need more relativity
try Spacetime Physics by Taylor and Wheeler

if you feel like you need condensed matter try Solid State Physics by Kittel

If this is still too much, you could read selected chapters in books 5 to 7.
 
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  • #16
Thank you very much! @Frabjous This means a lot!

I will heed to thy words. Especially the part about 5-7 chapters.
 
  • #17
Looking at the syllabus, you probably need to add an Electronics book. I am not the person to ask for a recommendation. It will probably also be a selected chapters book.
 
  • #18
Frabjous said:
Looking at the syllabus, you probably need to add an Electronics book. I am not the person to ask for a recommendation.
Oh, yes, I am aware of that. I was just making sure what my expectations should be and what I should study (lightly), and you gave me what is achievable.
 
  • #19
Slimy0233 said:
I am told that the Feynman lectures are one of the simplest and the best, so, would it be wise to use them without having read the standard books
Frabjous said:
Read Feynman WITH the other books. It will deepen your understanding.
I agree. I consider Feynman to be useful supplementary reading. I would not use it as a primary textbook because it doesn't have the exercises that normal textbooks have. Everybody who has studied physics will tell you that the real learning comes when working out exercises.
 
  • #20
Frabjous said:
you probably need to add
He has 11 books and 8 months. The last thing he needs is adding more.
 
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  • #21
Vanadium 50 said:
He has 11 books and 8 months. The last thing he needs is adding more.
I agree. Look at his list - a Bachelor's Degree in physics in 8 months. Self studying. Maybe he can do it, but I know I couldn't. And I did it traditionally in 4 years (almost 50 years ago!)
 
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  • #22
Vanadium 50 said:
He has 11 books and 8 months. The last thing he needs is adding more.
Given that in post 15 I shortened the list to 7, and that the syllabus has electronics in it I stand by my suggestion. I agree that it is ambitious, but I did not set the requirements.
 
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  • #23
I think we need to take a step back.

The OP says he has a high school education as far as physics is concerned, but wants to start an MS program. It's India, where examinations have a much higher weight than elsewhere, so maybe this is possible, but the time window requires he learn the entirety of a BS program in physics. And do it better than whatever the cutoff is between those who make it in and those who don't. And do it at least six times faster than everybody else. And do it without benefit of instructors?

Does this sound reasonable?

Does this sound like a path to success?
 
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  • #24
Good catch.

I think the OP needs to say what physics courses he took at the “low standards“ university.

Fixing a bad educational experience is different from learning from scratch.
 
  • #25
Frabjous said:
Good catch.

I think the OP needs to say what physics courses he took at the “low standards“ university.

Fixing a bad educational experience is different from learning from scratch.
Unfortunately there is absolutely no use going over my education. Everyone in my college wasn't studying physics, we were studying for exams. I took 5 other subjects along Physics for the first two years and 2 of them had equal weightage as physics. My degree was 25% physics and 75% others. So you can imagine I didn't get time to take anything seriously and read it as I wish. Finish one exam and you would be buried in assignments and projects with hardly any time to study. I didn't have enough to study the books I wanted. The only name of the game in the bachelor's was to survive.

We in India don't do a bachelor's in science because we like it, we do it for a job (ok fine, job is important), but no one actually does what they want to do. And as a result most of us are never able to do what we want to do. Leading to an incompetent and indifferent people. It's really tragic to be honest.

I am not saying I had no fault in it, I had major fault in my bachelor's I should have done more to study physics as I had known what I wanted to do, but in the end I can't shrug off the feeling that I was destined to fail or barely survive. On a brighter note, India has changed it's educational system right now, it's far better than what I went through, the only regret is, I didn't have the change to experience this.

I am sorry for what seemed like a rant, but I feel like this was somewhat necessary.
 
  • #26
Just be aware that what you are trying to do is extremely difficult. You should have a Plan B just in case.
 
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  • #27
Frabjous said:
Just be aware that what you are trying to do is extremely difficult. You should have a Plan B just in case.
As much I respect you for saying it, there is no plan B, plan Bs don't usually help plan A.

I shall be scanning most of the things I see in the books if not study them completely. I want to have a good grasp of the concept if nothing else.

I have to do this. Thanks for your advice here and in previous posts too!
 
  • #28
Slimy0233 said:
As much I respect you for saying it, there is no plan B, plan Bs don't usually help plan A.
Ben and I disagree...

“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” — Benjamin Franklin
 
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  • #29
berkeman said:
Ben and I disagree...

“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” — Benjamin Franklin
Looks like the OP is adopting the Apollo 13 movie tag line: "Failure is not an option."
 
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  • #30
CrysPhys said:
Looks like the OP is adopting the Apollo 13 movie tag line: "Failure is not an option."
Was that before or after the loud "Bang!"?
 
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  • #31
Slimy0233 said:
I shall be scanning most of the things I see in the books if not study them completely. I want to have a good grasp of the concept if nothing else.
These two thoughts do not really go together.
 
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  • #32
I think the likelihood of your obtaining admission to a "top rank" university by learning the entire undergraduate curriculum in in 8 months to be very small indeed. Perhaps you should try to obtain entrance to a lesser institution for a Masters with hopes of making up these deficits over the next 2yrs +8 months? I do not know the institutional structure in India, but in the US there are many lesser institutions that can provide good pedagogy to a motivated student. Your (internal?) demand for admission to a "top-rated" or nothing seems self-defeating. One needs to work for success, not just aspire to it.
 
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  • #33
CrysPhys said:
"Failure is not an option.
Note that Apollo 13 did not make it onto the moon. It is an example of successfully executing Plan B.
 
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  • #34
Vanadium 50 said:
Note that Apollo 13 did not make it onto the moon. It is an example of successfully executing Plan B.
"A successful Failure"

You make a good point!
 
  • #35
hutchphd said:
I think the likelihood of your obtaining admission to a "top rank" university by learning the entire undergraduate curriculum in in 8 months to be very small indeed. Perhaps you should try to obtain entrance to a lesser institution for a Masters with hopes of making up these deficits over the next 2yrs +8 months? I do not know the institutional structure in India, but in the US there are many lesser institutions that can provide good pedagogy to a motivated student. Your (internal?) demand for admission to a "top-rated" or nothing seems self-defeating. One needs to work for success, not just aspire to it.
Plan B would be not so top university but university which helps me get out of the country for my PhD anyway! The reason I am aiming for the top university is because the greater the reputation of the university, the greater the chance I am gonna get into a better university abroad for my PhD (because doing a PhD in India as you might know is a (more of a) nightmare acc to my peers).

>
Your (internal?) demand for admission to a "top-rated" or nothing seems self-defeating. One needs to work for success, not just aspire to it.
I shall do that sir. I shall heed to your advice if I fail, but I will try not to fail in the first place!
 

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