Hello, everyone! This is another time to shower up with preparation to enroll graduate program in Physics. In a previous article on top research facility we tried to illustrate some narrative configuration of individual research clusters that top universities hold comprehensively. In this article our interest would revolve around preparation of Physics GRE that most of US Physics grad schools ask during enrollment time in their M.Sc./PhD programs.
Although there are many universities worldwide, some are top, where enrollment in grad school of Physics with a B.Sc. (in Physics) certificate additional to some other documents like- statement of purpose and letter of recommendation, some researches etc. is sufficient, but in USA- normal admission procedure with a general GRE score and a TOEFL score (for non-native English speakers) as requirement is not sufficient to proof ones caliber for entrancing in Physics Grad School. An extra shield is required for applying almost all universities having good research facility in Physics, generally known as subject GRE or Physics GRE (that we are interested here!) or PGRE . USA education system has been designed in a way that before entering in graduate school to study mainstream subjects like Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics- even English Literature, a prior check of knowledge and background understanding of prospective students on relevant subject to be done by a paper based test using the platform of Education Testing Service (ETS) that covers almost all necessary contents taught during undergraduate schools worldwide.
To check student’s foundation knowledge and understanding of problem solving skills there are mainly nine basic contents covers in Physics GRE that are mostly foundational physics courses and very few are on advanced topics as- Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, Atomic Physics, Special Relativity, Optics and Wave Phenomena and Specialized Topics. Rather than get involved in detail and analytical solutions in PGRE only a keen understanding and problem solving capacity is being checked focusing on basic contents of each basic area. To get an overview on Physics GRE one can check- https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/physics.
Now we will talk about some textbooks required for PGRE. For Classical Mechanics (CM) “Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems” by Marion and Thornton is a good choice to cover most of topics of Classical Mechanics section that ETS syllabus follows. Halliday Resnick and Krane “Physics Volume I” is also worthwhile with focus on relevant topics as it is taught as first year and second year freshman physics course worldwide . For Quantum Mechanics (QM) definitely “Introduction to Quantum Mechanics” by David J. Griffiths is the best choice for PGRE though it’s an introductory level textbook and you may went through Sakurai or R. Shankar if you are a senior undergrad. There are two another books written by Griffiths on electrodynamics- “Introduction to Electrodynamics” and particle physics- “Introduction to Elementary Particles” that covers almost all contents of electromagnetism, atomic physics and special relativity and some parts of specialized topics part of GRE syllabus. To cover parts of Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics one can follow “Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics” by F. Reif with a reflexive choice. There is another good book to warm up with Statistical physics names “Elementary statistical Physics” by Charles Kittel. And again Halliday Resnick and Krane “Physics” – with its two volumes to be energized with a significant amount of exercises addition to a scope of constructing a more breadth on problem solving skill included topics from Optics and Wave phenomena.
To sketch a study schedule for a good strength with proper shield for Physics GRE one have to spent time very carefully as there are only three times sitting available in a whole year (Should be counted as two as two of sittings are closely scheduled- September and October). There are some Physics GRE questions officially disclosed by ETS for personal practices and familiarity of exam style for next generation test takers available at online. It would be a good decision to choose a flexible time for a test session with one of disclosed question paper personally. It would help to judge personal strength and weaknesses before any steps to be taken for preparation. It has two advantages. Firstly one would be familiar with question pattern and would be able to understand own strength and weaknesses along with covered contents. Then analyzing of own answers with different perspectives, like- dimensional analysis of equations or learn techniques to solve problems quickly will open some new understandings that missed during test session. Analysis of cross marked question also would reveal understanding in many dimensions of GRE questions. So, sitting for a test with ETS past papers before any step taken for preparation would be a wise decision. Even an earned mark of below 20% is effective, as it will open a primary understanding of PGRE question.
Now it’s time to start preparation with above mentioned textbooks based on performance and analysis of first taken test. Effective preparation on selected topics and exercises from mentioned textbooks- based on personal weaknesses is going to be a timely decision as next step. One can creates card to memorize important equations and contents and even tricks (!) that are important for test. It is very popular and effective that many students follow during their preparation. Learn how to eliminate from multiple choice options and then choosing best option with a simple calculation would count as some forward step. It all time to be remembered that PGRE test time is not a moment to create your own theory besides use of possible tricks to reach proper answer. So, time consumption strategy ought to get focus in preparation of PGRE as it is a game of time play.
After one and half month take your next personal full time test in exam environment. Judge yourself. This time you will see the progress. And definitely you start feeling confident. Again sort and analyze your questions and answers you definitely will reveal some new dimensions that still left to put strong focus. Try to figure out weaknesses that still make you to feel falling behind. Do exercise on selected topics. This time make a little break and then restart. Ask yourself what left in your memory and what lost. You will find some topics and equations missed. Revise those contents. Doing so, and seat for your third test. This time you will see your confinement of some previously missed contents to grab. Your percentile marking is progressive. And you will definitely find your own way to recover your disproportions. Don’t forget about your flash cards to memorizing equations, tricks. These are the thing that you created with lots of labor! Exercise based on contents of flashcard may reduce your preparation time depends on your use of cards.
Now I would mention a unique preparation material. It is experimentally effective and written by experienced people. Yes, it is “Conquering the Physics GRE” by Adam Anderson and Yoni Kahn. One can get a lot of important suggestion from this short time preparation material. You can start using it two months prior your original test. I have heard from some people that they found this book effective even only fifteen days before their original test. So, don’t miss it in anyway. Finally you can seat for your fifth test (There are five tests available online). Try to seat for this test just two to three days prior your original test as a final dummy. It will make you feeling literally confident. After suggesting not being frustrated about any deviation of expected score on chronologically taken tests, I will recommend you one more thing that- after finishing all five sitting of tests if possible creates an overall content wise revision before entering the center.
Anyway, to set a goal and meet the expectation is based on a lot of practices. For PGRE normally it is said a time period of at least six months worth for having a good Physics GRE preparation. Even someone with an in-depth understanding of foundation in Physics may fail to reach desired result if there is have any gap in preparation. So, try to make preparation as concrete as possible, definitely using your brain on tricks and mechanisms. Finally, it won’t be a false remark if someone says that- PGRE is a test of check basement of undergrad Physics before entering grad school.
It’s all for today. Next time we will come with another topic. Till then- Good Bye.