Preparing for the Physics GRE

If you're an undergraduate and are interested in applying to graduate programs in the field of physics, you'll have to take the Physics GRE Subject Test . This test is intended to survey your familiarity with undergraduate physics topics. It does not measure your potential as a scientist (nor does it gauge your worth as a human being). There is absolutely no reason to take this test unless you intend on pursuing an advanced degree in physics, but you might as well take some time to prepare and get the best score that you can.

I compiled and organized the following materials as part of a short course on preparing for the Physics GRE. Please feel free to use them to prepare for the test. Reading them will not give you a deep understanding of the complexities of modern physics, but they should give you a reasonable sense of the scope of material the test requires, as well as the types of questions asked.

How to Study

The Physics GRE is very, very different from any other test that you have taken as an undergrad. It is so different that really the only way to prepare is to take some practice tests - a few of these are available online, and one is available directly through ETS. Sit down and take one in real time - no notes, no breaks. Additionally, try looking through my No Excuses Checklist - these are concepts that you have no excuse to not be familiar with when you sit down to take the Physics GRE. Afterwards, reflect on how well you did - which types of questions did you answer correctly, and which types incorrectly?

From this point on, you can review the topics that you don't feel familiar with. Your undergraduate textbooks should be fine, my notes (below) may also be helpful. Above all, practice solving as many real test problems as you can find - my notes will include example problems as well as discussions about how to solve them.

Review Notes

Additional Resources

The official ETS website contains a lot of basic information about the material covered on the Physics GRE as well as the format of the test.

The Ohio State SPS website currently has four past example exams that you can practice with, as well as worked solutions to problems sorted by subject area. Another site with worked solutions to the four past example exams is (but unfortunately has a few bugs and has not been updated since 2007).

Four practice exams is a lot, but if you want even more practice, Conquering the Physics GRE has some additional practice tests and review questions.

Best of luck with the exam!

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