## Physics GRE strategies

Maxwells_Demon
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:09 am

### Physics GRE strategies

I've been studying the practice tests for the physics GRE.

I'm keeping a notebook for the solutions of the problems, leaving each page of the notebook for each problem. I write detailed answers for each problem, as well as hints and notes for my personal understanding.

I'm thinking of a strategy to keep in mind for the real PGRE testing. For example, this strategy will apply for each problem during the test:
• 1) Attempt to solve problem within 1 minute or so. If get nowhere, then go to #2. If you need a little bit more time with certainty in solving it, just solve it asap.
2) Check if dimensional analysis or some type of elmination can occur. If not, go to #3.
3) Skip
3a) Skip for good, and cross out problem. (In case it's something you won't be able to solve)
3b) Skip for coming back to it later, and circle problem (In case you have more time)
Something like this. This loop will apply for all attempted problems on the real PGRE. This loop process is intended to be efficient in solving the problems with the given training/knowledge given by the four practice exams. Did anyone do something like this? My goal is to get 90+ percentile, so I guess this post is for those who has/had a similar goal.

-Maxwell's Demon
(Entropy decreaser)

quizivex
Posts: 1035
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

Maxwell, you seem to be on the right track with your studying. I also kept a notebook, and when I skimmed through my undergrad texts, I wrote down anything I didn't already know or remember. There were a handful of concepts I just never understood, such as group vs. phase velocity, relativity of simultaniety (I f***ing hate all the discussions about flying clocks!), so I thought carefully about these ideas and wrote my own explanations in the notebook including some good analogies. I also wrote down useful constants and formulas that I knew would be worth memorizing. Without a notebook, you'll forget some of what you review, but when I took the test it was all fresh in my mind cuz of the notebook.

Your systematic plan for attacking the problems is also a good idea, though you may find that once you get deep into the real test you might start deviating from it. Try a test under timed conditions (if there are any you haven't looked at yet) with your strategy and see how it works. I didn't think much about how to take the test itself but I was just hoping I'd move quickly through it, so I didn't hesitate to occasionally spend 4-5 minutes on one problem... but for students who know less than, say 80% of the GRE probelms on average, they need to be more careful which problems they choose to put much effort into. I ended up doing that and I answered most of the problems in a bit over 2 hours and left blank the ones that I didn't know how to do immediately or thought I botched. I then went back and had enough time to knock those out too.

Who else is out there preparing for October? Comeon there's gotta be more of you. Let's get some first time posters on here now!!!!!!!!

Oliver
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:56 am

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

I'm preparing it for April.
But I defenetly recommend some other strategies for the test, which are namely:
1) Cross over a problem when done. It saves you time at the end when coming back.
2) Proceed by intuition and elimination/deduction. I need to check on that, but if you know the choice lies between only two propositions, it might be interesting to take your chance: you only get -1/4 points for a wrong answer, but get full mark if you answer correctly.

lattes
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 2:02 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

Hello. I'm new here. I'm an international student (Brazil) preparing to take the test in October. As an int. student from an unknown university I guess that my only chance to get admitted in a grad program is scoring +900 in the pgre and showing some strong research background (I'm finishing a paper for Physical Review A and paper for a brazilian equivalent of American Journal on Physics). I'm also studying hard for Toefl (september) and Gre General (october too).

I'm also using a notebook to keep solutions for the problems and to help me memorizing useful formulas.

About Maxwell's strategy, I would put Oliver's item 2 (about guessing) between pass 2 and 3. I would only do (3.b) if I had the feeling that I can solve the problem with a little more thinking. Any opinions?

I know it depends on the people, but how many hours are you guys studying/studied per day during you preparation for the test?

---

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

I would say to try dimensional analysis and limits first, if you can do it quickly. Although there's not as many of these problems as there used to be on the old tests, it will still get you a few answers in no time, as well as helping narrow down your options.

As far as guessing: statistically, you should break even with random guessing: you'll get 1 out of 5 right, but the 4 wrong answers will cancel that out. So the odds are in your favor to guess if you can eliminate even one of the options with certainty. If you're not feeling that lucky, then you should at least guess when you can eliminate two, and definitely guess when you've narrowed it down to between one and two options.

When I took the practice tests, I marked which ones I guessed, and crossed out the answers that I had eliminated, then I could see how many I really knew, and how many I got by creative guessing. It also helped me to refine my process of elimination / guessing strategies to the strategy that I finally used on the test.

G01
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:54 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

One of my strategies has been to create an index card for each topic/formula/concept I could not seem to remember. Then, I use those index cards as "quiz cards" (name of topic/formula/concept on front and explanation/actual formula on back).

This has really helped me. (My practice scores have jumped from 650 on my first practice test to 800 on the most recent one I took.) Unfortunately my goal is 900 or bust so I still have some work to do before October, but I'm slowing making progress.

Anyway, index cards were something that worked for me.

navitd
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 9:36 am

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

Hello everybody,

I read here that you guys have at least four simulation physics tests! I only have one! where did you get the simulation test?

Thanks!

Navit

quizivex
Posts: 1035
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~physics/?q=node/13

The newest practice test is the one sent by ETS in the preparation booklet, and can be downloaded on the ETS website where you registered.

muonman
Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:19 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

G01 wrote: Unfortunately my goal is 900 or bust so I still have some work to do before October, but I'm slowing making progress.
Oh hi G01. I'm in the same boat: 900 or bust. Actually, with my crappy transcripts, and little research, I don't think I can get into any graduate school without a 900+. Let's for a "900 or bust" club!!!!!

a bucket
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri Aug 08, 2008 9:02 am

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

muonman wrote:Let's for a "900 or bust" club!!!!!
Where do I apply for membership?

G01
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:54 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

a bucket wrote:
muonman wrote:Let's for a "900 or bust" club!!!!!
Where do I apply for membership?

Step 1: Apply for the Physics GRE

Step 2: Score 900 or above!

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

Step 3: if you fail to achieve a 900, explode in a gooey mess.

trani
Posts: 108
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:04 am

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

I know it depends on the people, but how many hours are you guys studying/studied per day during you preparation for the test?
So I guess I am interested in that question too. Anyone want to share?

I guess I can start it. On the average I think I get in about 2 hours of serious studying a day. Of course, that takes like 3-4 hours of staring at the book (accompanied by peaking at my laptop) with my concentration abilities...

I have been doing that for a week. My test date is Nov. 8.

To give an idea of my starting point. I took the 8677 exam before studying anything at all. I got 680.

My goal: I will be super happy with something above 800. That might be a bit ambitious for me. But i figure it never hurts to shoot high.

Helio
Posts: 809
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:11 pm

### Re: Physics GRE strategies

trani wrote:
I know it depends on the people, but how many hours are you guys studying/studied per day during you preparation for the test?
So I guess I am interested in that question too. Anyone want to share?

I guess I can start it. On the average I think I get in about 2 hours of serious studying a day. Of course, that takes like 3-4 hours of staring at the book (accompanied by peaking at my laptop) with my concentration abilities...

I have been doing that for a week. My test date is Nov. 8.

To give an idea of my starting point. I took the 8677 exam before studying anything at all. I got 680.

My goal: I will be super happy with something above 800. That might be a bit ambitious for me. But i figure it never hurts to shoot high.
I am taking the october test (i just want to get it over with and not have to worry about the day before my 21st birthday... i reserve that for the general gre). I have been study (i am serious here) since july... on and off for about a month and since august most weekdays at least an hour or two (the girlfriend came on the weekends and you can study something else then ). Since school started at least everyday for at least 3 hours.... i think i got a good 24 this weekend. i know i am crazy, but i am taking 3 BS classes this semester and quantum B is not much a hindrance and i am just plain bad at ETS tests. I have a really bad tendency of taking too long for question and getting really nervous (i was once shaking so much during an exam that i couldn't write a 1)... What has that brought me.... i know the practice tests cold... schaum's 3000 is on chapter 15 within a week... but midterms start next week... after my last midterm... 2 weeks of straight PGRE. then i can worry about my deadlines... I HATE being international (i have to give in one of my applications 2.5 months earlier then rest of the US... thank you UWash...)

And before you ask... the girlfriend is gone... they say freshly divorced post-docs are the best.... and it is true