REA - The Best Test Preparation for the GRE

  • New visitors are encouraged to start reading topics of interest in the articles forum as the articles can help you digest a lot of information in a short amount of time.
  • Everybody is encouraged to write articles that can benefit prospective and current physics graduate students.

Post Reply
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:00 pm

REA - The Best Test Preparation for the GRE

Post by problems » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:49 pm

Title: The Best Test Preparation for the GRE in Physics (isbn=0878918485)
(Maybe if they had a more realistic title then it wouldn't be called the "purple book")

My own difficulty with the "purple book" made it very difficult to find a way to give a sincere recommendation to others (but I eventually found a way in the paragraph below). By the way, the "purple book" no longer has a purple cover and I have a hunch it is because of the reputation the "purple book" has earned over the years. Many people feel the "purple book" is excessively more difficult than the actual physics GRE with its intense calculations and subject matter. I found it very frustrating to waste precious preparation time on complicated problems and when I found the solutions I thought to myself, "There is no way the GRE could ask a question like that and if even if they did, then there is no way I could justify wasting 15+ minutes trying to solve it."

However, I finally found peace with the "purple book" by realizing that one doesn't have to follow the books recommendation and work through all the problems. Rather, one can work selected problems that offer the most benefit. The book contains 400 problems with detailed solutions and many of the problems are excellent preparation material. Below I select a few problems that I would want to spend time working through if I were preparing for the Physics GRE again. There are probably many problems that should not be on the list below and there are probably many problems that should be added to the list. If you feel any problem number should be added or omitted then please share your thoughts in the Physics GRE forums. Please keep in mind that there is a distinction between good Physics GRE practice problems and good physics problems. Regardless, I would recommend that you at least glance at ALL of the problems in the book even if they do not appear on the list below.

Test Number
Problem Numbers (ISBN 0-87891-848-5)

Test I: 1-3, 5-9, 10*, 12-14, 16-18, 20, 22, 23*, 24, 26, 27, 30-31, 32*, 33-34, 36- 40, 42, 43-48, 52- 57, 59-60, 62, 66, 68, 72, 74-75, 77, 80, 83, 85-88, 90*, 91-94, 96-100

Test II: 1, 5-8, 12, 14, 16-17, 20, 24, 26, 28-29, 32, 35-36, 40, 43-44, 48, 49*, 52-54, 57-59, 61-68, 72, 77, 80, 84-88, 98, 100

Test III: 1, 2*, 4-5, 6*, 7-10, 11*, 12-15, 17-21, 24, 25*, 26, 28-31, 33, 35-36, 37*, 38-39, 40*, 44-45, 50-51, 52*, 55, 56*, 58-60, 66-67, 69, 77-78, 85, 88, 95

Test IV: 1, 3, 6, 8-17, 23, 25*, 28-31, 33, 36-38, 47, 51*, 52-56, 60*, 61, 65, 67, 69, 73, 75-76, 78, 80-82, 84*, 85-88, 90, 93, 95, 99

* An asterisk by a problem indicates that the problem involves perhaps too much calculation for a Physics GRE problem and therefore I would feel O.K. about myself if I saved time and used a calculator to work through those particular problems during my preparation. (Note: A calculator is NOT allowed during the actual Physics GRE)

Please use the list above only as a rough guide to help you select desirable problems to work through. Keep in mind that many seemingly difficult problems can be quickly solved by exploiting the answer choices. Also, the "purple book" has a nice 74 page overview of fundamental concepts and it is worth the read.

REA also publishes other books books that have some relevance to the Physics GRE. I list them in the other problems page. In particular, Physics Builder (isbn=0878919414) has even more practice multiple choice problems than the "purple book". The problems are grouped by topic and, as a whole, they are easier than the "purple book". However, both books reuse a large number of the same problems and as with the "purple book" many of the problems leave something to be desired. Fortunately, you can usually buy a used Physics Builder book at bargain basement prices (typically 1/3 the price of a used "purple book"). This is probably because the people who buy Physics Builder for the MCAT and SAT II Physics find it exceedingly difficult and want to get rid of it. I am not recommending Physics Builder as a great book but rather as a nice, affordable complement to other practice multiple-choice physics questions.

Post Reply