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Testing Study topics for Physics GRE

  1. Jan 25, 2008 #1
    Hi all,
    I'm from EE background, currently working as TCAD enggr in a semiconductor fab outside US and I'm considering research in physics in the US.
    (relevant key words that I've identified, till date- computational nanoelectronics, molecular electronics, ballistic nanotransistors, Non-Equilibrium Green's Function, quantum simulations etc)

    I know i'll have to sit for the Physics GRE for the same and I'm quite overwhelmed by the breadth of the syllabus for the test. since i've not read formally much of core physics areas such as classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, optics, thermodynamics (perhaps all that's there in physics except electronics), i want to master(preferably quickly) these atleast to the level of scoring well in the test.

    could someone suggest me a sequence of study topics so that i can cover most of these efficiently? like which should i know first before proceeding to which?
    this would probably easy for physics majors but as i said, i'm from EE and i'm frustrated trying to do this exercise of coming out with a study plan, myself.

    also, to all those physics folks, which is the best way to prepare - studying sequentially i.e one area at a time (first knowing all that's there in classical mech and then quantum)
    or studying multiple areas concurrently (for eg, 2 hours classical mech, 2 hours statistical mech, 2 hours quantum mech per day, everyday) ?

    i just have these books : classical mech - goldstein,
    electrodynamics, quantum mech- griffiths
    what other books(preferably self-learning type) are advisable for the above mentioned subject areas as well as other areas such as optics, thermodynamics etc?

    I'd highly appreciate inputs.
    thanks a lot!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 25, 2008 #2

    Ben Niehoff

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    What you need is an undergraduate physics textbook, something like Halliday & Resnick. The classical mechanics covered on the Physics GRE is not nearly to the level of Goldstein. All you really need to do is practice some simple mechanics problems (pendulums, cylinders rolling down inclined planes, that sort of stuff) using Newton's laws.

    However, you should also learn the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods, which you can learn from Goldstein, but honestly, you don't need anything in Goldstein but chapters 1, 2, beginning of 3, and beginning of 8. An undergraduate text like Marion & Thornton might be better for learning Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods.

    Also, you will want a Modern Physics textbook, like Tipler & Llywellyn. This will survey relativity, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics in (mostly) good enough detail; although the stat mech section is weak.

    Given that you have experience in electronics, the circuit problems should be disturbingly easy for you, although physicists for some reason like to do everything by mesh analysis (which I find much more confusing to apply than nodal analysis). Generally every circuit will reduce to a parallel-series circuit, so look for that before you start posing any complicated equations.

    The best thing to do is to look at the available practice tests, and see what it is you need. Find some method to remember all of the equations, because the test will not have an equation sheet for reference. What worked for me was to derive all of the equations myself. The test WILL have a table of physical constants, and you WILL be asked to calculate with them (with no calculator); however, in nearly all cases, you can round everything off to one significant figure and still determine the correct answer choice.
  4. Jul 30, 2011 #3
    What book by Halliday and Resnick are you recommending? I've searched for both of them on Amazon and I find more than one book.
  5. Jul 30, 2011 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    "Physics" (Halliday/Resnick/Krane) goes into more depth than "Fundamentals of Physics" (Halliday/Resnick/Walker), but either will do. Actually, any first-year calculus-based intro physics book will do: Serway, Tipler, and Giancoli are authors that come quickly to mind. The topics are pretty much standard. Get whichever is cheapest for you. Just make sure you get the calculus-based version, because some also authored algebra/trig based books for non-physics-majors.
  6. Jul 31, 2011 #5
    Thank you very much. I went with Physics vol 1 and 2.
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