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Testing When to start prepping for/take the Physics GRE?

  1. Jun 10, 2012 #1

    I'm going to be a freshman this coming year, and hope to be double majoring in physics and math (I still have to solidify that at my orientation). I've been doing some research on the physics GRE, and it seems that a lot of material tested is covered within the first 2-3 years of undergrad. Would it be a good idea for me to begin preparing for the test now (especially given that 80% of the test covers intro level physics concepts), and take it at the end of my sophomore or junior year?

    Also, would it be a good idea to take the mathematics GRE subject test as well? Would that boost my chances of admittance to a top ten school?

    Thanks for your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2012 #2
    I've heard of people studying it a month before the Oct/Nov exam of their 4th year. I am myself planning to start studying in August.
  4. Jun 10, 2012 #3
    Well I understand that a lot of physics majors begin then, I guess I'm just wondering why that is, especially considering how incredibly competitive the exam is. Is there any reason in particular that many don't start earlier?
  5. Jun 10, 2012 #4
    I'm sure many do, but personally I don't see the point of preparing for it during one's third year or earlier instead of trying to do as best as possible on third year courses (which will have the last grades that will get to be on an application transcript at the time of application, in my case).

    I've seen a few exam sets and honestly I don't really think any more than 2 months should be necessary if one has taken all the first year general physics stuff + a full year's worth of CM, EM, Optics and really basic QM, and I'm fairly slow-paced when it comes to preparing.

    I think CO state university offers a course for undergrads that is geared to prepare them for the pGRE.
  6. Jun 10, 2012 #5


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    There's a point of diminishing returns. The exam is as much about test taking strategy as it is about physics. Of course, everyone is different and some require only a few weeks to review all the lower level physics.
  7. Jun 10, 2012 #6
    Yeah, I see what you mean by grades - I'll definitely be putting my undergrad classes and research above the prep in terms of my priorities. That being said, what about the mathematics GRE? Would it be advantageous to prepare for/take that if I want to go for a grad program in physics? I hope to double major in math and physics, so I would have the necessary mathematics background. Would it be helpful to take if I were applying to a math-intensive physics field for my masters or phd?
  8. Jun 10, 2012 #7
    By the way, I apologize if I appear a bit naive. I'm just trying to acquire a sense of what I should be attempting to accomplish over the next 4 years.
  9. Jun 10, 2012 #8
    The best way to study for the GRE now is to try hard to really get your classes. There's no better preparation than learning material well.
  10. Jun 11, 2012 #9

    king vitamin

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    Gold Member

    Taking it your sophomore year is definitely a bad idea - there is a decent percent of questions on advanced material. Not a lot, but there will usually be a few questions on particle physics or partition functions and other advanced type topics.
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