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Breakdown of the PGRE

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:45 am
by astrofan
There is no breakdown of what type of questions I got wrong and right on the PGRE. I understand that a basic knowledge of physics is the point of the exam, but different programs should be looking for different things. I know the rest of the application can say how good you are at certain areas of physics, but I don’t see a reason to just send the number of correct and incorrect questions. For example, I don’t know anything about solid state physics, and I am sure that the PGRE accounted for that. On the other hand, I do know a good deal about astrophysics/cosmology. I would think it would be much more impressive to the astrophysics programs that I am applying to that I got an inflationary model question correct instead of a semi-conductor question.

(As a small digression, just to further my point, a faculty member at my university said that the only thing he knew about General Relativity is the principal of equivalence. He was making a point that he didn’t take a course in the field and has no use for GR. I didn’t ask, but I bet there would be some PGRE questions specifically pertaining to astrophysics/cosmology that he would have to look up.)

I realize that this would further bias students who did not have exposure to a particular specialty, but specific knowledge in the field you are applying to should be rewarded. I would love to say in my personal statement that I got all the astrophysics questions correct on the PGRE (which I am assuming is true). What do people think; would seeing a breakdown of the types of questions you got right and wrong make the exam more meaningful?

Re: Breakdown of the PGRE

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:56 am
by xudis149
PGRE is not really a great measure of your research potential in a specialized sub-field. In fact the specialized topics section is around 8% in the exam. So how many u get right out of them is largely irrelevant according to me. The exam is just a measure of fundamentals in physics and how you fare in competition.

However, if PGRE had 20 advanced questions each from fields like astro, condensed , particle, AMO, and remaining 20 from soft matter, quantum computation etc... then it might have been a good parameter for ur research potential in a sub field...

Re: Breakdown of the PGRE

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:21 pm
by astrofan
I see your point (and would obviously prefer the later exam), but they could still send the breakdown, even if it was only a few questions.

Plus, it would be interesting to see if I did better in quant, clas mechanics, or E&M.

Re: Breakdown of the PGRE

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:27 pm
by xudis149
biology is one subject test which has sub-scores....

Re: Breakdown of the PGRE

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:54 pm
by twistor
I don't know which physics test you took. I don't recall any astrophysics/cosmology questions on the PGRE. If they exist there are probably only 1 or 2 of them and thus a sub-score would not be indicative of anything.

Re: Breakdown of the PGRE

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2008 4:39 pm
by mhazelm
the nice thing about this would be that if, like me, you totally screwed up on the PGRE, you would know what your weakest areas are. Or damn, maybe for me they're all just weak? :(

and for the record, if they asked questions about general relativity, I'd be thrilled. I'm much better at that then all those conservation of lepton number sort of things.