Advice on How to Study For the Physics GRE

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Advice on How to Study For the Physics GRE

Post by rozka » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:07 pm

Hi everyone!

New poster here! My PGRE is at October 13th this year I'm actually struggling with studying for the physics GRE. So far, I have the Halliday and Resnick book, Schaum's Physics for Engineering and Science, and Schaum's 3000 Solved Problems in Physics. I also have all the old exams and Griffiths QM and Electrodynamics.

I'd like to know how people approached those books. How should I read these books? Which problems should I do? What should I make flashcards of? I hope I don't need to do every single problem in every book!

I'm feeling pressured since I have a month and a half left.

Thanks everyone! :D

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Re: Advice on How to Study For the Physics GRE

Post by P-representation » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:25 pm

A month and a half is more than sufficient time to adequately prepare for the PGRE!
I think the best and most basic way to study for the exam is to look at the previous papers. The PGRE is a very standardized test, so the actual paper too will not be too different in content or difficulty level from the practice ones given. The PGRE exam is mostly tests your speed at simple computations, eliminating the wrong answers etc rather than any in-depth thinking, so you need to be very familiar with the kind of questions typically asked.

The way I approached it was to work out all the sample PGRE problems from a particular topic, say classical mechanics, under a strict time-constraint. That made me aware of where my concepts were weak and what topics I had to study in greater detail. Also, this helped me in quickly recognizing what type of question it was and what would be the best approach to solve it quickly, so I didn't have to spend much time during the examination wondering how to solve it. For example, the special relativity section in the PGRE essentially consists of 3 kind of problems, given A & B, compute C (in various permutations of A,B & C)

Further, I also made short notes for every chapter I studied with all the relevant shortcuts and formulae, such as boundary conditions for electrodynamics, selection rules for QM, Energies of hydrogen like ions, important reactions in particle physics etc. I found it to be invaluable when it came to revising topics.

I don't think it would be very helpful to work through all the books you had mentioned. I think you should study only bare minimum the topics you need and focus more on improving your problem solving abilities under a strict time constraint. There are however, some topics which I think need a special focus

Classical mechanics: Small oscillations and Normal modes of coupled oscillators, Elastic and non-elastic collisions of rigid bodies
Electrodynamics: Applications of Gauss law, boundary conditions for EM field, Dielectrics, Polarization etc
Quantum Mechanics: Selection rules, Positronium!, Particle in a box with perturbations, symmetries, Harmonic Oscillator
Statistical Physics: Partition function, Entropy (S=k lnW )
Particle Physics: The first chapter of Griffiths book. Very basic questions are asked from it.

Also, if you have the time, go through the recent Nobel discoveries and inventions. There is always atleast one question about some Nobel prize related topic, like Graphene, 21 cm radiation etc.

Hope it helped!

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Re: Advice on How to Study For the Physics GRE

Post by gigadan » Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:05 pm

I am on the same boat. I started to study for it couple months ago. I was reading text books but I discovered soon that what I did was somewhat waste of time.
I spent too much time on re-deriving the equations.

I started to do practice exams just a week ago. I feel like I am short on time.
I find PGRE covers a BIG variety of topics. Like Positronium is something I have never heard of. It has half of energy of a hydrogen atom... I went through the practice exam and found I wasn't doing too well. Sometimes I even eliminate the "right answers" by misunderstanding the question.

So I wonder if anyone has any input on the test taking skill and strategy?
Are there some not-so-familiar equations that pop up quite a lot on PGRE?


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Re: Advice on How to Study For the Physics GRE

Post by arvind » Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:50 am

Hi, I am also appearing on the test this October 19th and have just finished my general gre with decent score. So I want to just rock the PGRE.
I also have around 37 days only as I had general gre on sept 10th. So I also need a very focused type of prep method. I can study full day and most part of night if necessary but want more than 900 in PGRE ( In 37 days can't aim for 990 :( ). So any kind of insight will be very appreciated.
I have most of the preparation materials but a very little time to go through so plz help :)

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Re: Advice on How to Study For the Physics GRE

Post by WhoaNonstop » Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:23 am

gigadan wrote:Are there some not-so-familiar equations that pop up quite a lot on PGRE?
This will be rare, as will be any references to positronium. You shouldn't study for these questions in my opinion. You should focus on the questions that are more common, which will always be 95/100 of the questions on the test. Also, realize that sometimes you don't even have to know the equation, just checking limits and using tricks can solve 1/3 problems on the PGRE.


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