EE Engineers for physics GRE

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tanujt
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:36 pm

EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby tanujt » Thu May 15, 2008 3:09 pm

Hello,
I'm an Indian student, graduating this year with a bachelor's in Electronics & Communication Engg.
There must be many engineers here who've given the GRE and gone for PhD's.
I'd like to know how the experience is with the GRE for an EE engineer. Does the preparation require an extra mile somewhere?

tanuj

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby marten » Fri May 16, 2008 9:52 am

It is definitely possible to make the switch from undergrad EE to grad physics but it requires a little extra work. I also don't think that it is likely to get into top rated physics programs, there are just too many competitive applications from students who already have a full physics bachelors degree. Most graduate schools specify a physics degree as a program requirement, but some are willing to make exceptions. Look for wording such as "physics or closely related area" and ask departments about your specific situation. Some will encourage you to apply, others might even be willing to look at the classes that you've taken to assess your preparation for graduate physics work.

I applied to physics graduate programs as an engineering major (BSE degree with electrical concentration) and a physics minor, which I'm sure helped. Each department that replied to my questions about applying with an engineering major said basically the same thing: the important consideration was what classes I had taken, and how well I did in them. They were especially interested in knowing what physics classes I had taken. Some programs are flexible enough to work with the student to arrange a course schedule that fills in any gaps in their physics education, but that takes time and costs the physics department money. But it is done, there are occasionally graduate students taking undergraduate physics courses. I expect to be taking some this fall. I was accepted into 2 programs, and made it to #1 on the waitlist of another before withdrawing my application. I also know of several other international students (I think that they were Indian also, actually) that were planning on switching from EE to physics. I think most of them congregate over at the yahoo physics gre group. Search this site also and you'll find others.

As for taking the Physics GRE, you'll have to assess your level of preparation. I would recommend a lot of studying, because a good physics GRE score can help demonstrate that you have a good grasp of basic physics. Since you're graduating this year, I assume that you're planning on applying for fall of 2009. I recommend starting now for the fall 2008 PGRE test. Try and spend some time each day, as consistent studying will help improve your speed and retention. Start with studying the fundamentals, and then take one of the practice tests in test like conditions to see where your holes are, and concentrate studying that material.

It can be done, but be prepared to put in some extra work, good luck,

Marten

tanujt
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:36 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby tanujt » Thu May 22, 2008 4:51 am

thanks.
being an EE student, i havent had any in depth training in certain topics like: a lot of classical mechanics, stat mech, atomic, optical and nuclear/particle. apart from the first one, the rest of the topics supposedly have lesser weights.
what is the level of the questions that come from these topics i listed above? is it basic enough so that an engineer can cover it in comparatively small time?

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby marten » Thu May 22, 2008 12:36 pm

An engineer can cover that material well enough to be able to answer most of the questions, depending on how long you study. The best thing to do is see for yourself and take one of the practice tests. Go over it carefully and you'll know the depth of questions and what to study for. There is a lot of material that an engineer probably hasn't been exposed to, so I'd recommend studying now for the November test.

Marten

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby marten » Thu May 22, 2008 3:33 pm

To be more specific, I found that the classical mechanics stuff was pretty basic, most engineers should have that pretty well covered from 1st year physics. Just review and work on speed. The optical stuff wasn't too bad either, same deal.

Stat mech, atomic, and nuclear/particle will probably take more studying, depends on what your engineering education was like and how much physics you've been exposed to. Generally speaking, most of the material comes from lower level physics classes. If you never get to the tougher upper level stuff, you won't be able to answer those questions, but they represent a small portion of the test anyway so you can still do alright. In many cases, other multiple choice taking techniques like dimensional analysis and order of magnitude estimations can eliminate some wrong answers, then you can guess.

Marten

tanujt
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:36 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby tanujt » Sun May 25, 2008 3:04 pm

thank you.
i guess 5 months of preparation shall work fine.
one more question: i had applied to some uni's this time without the test, and of course dint make it. some of them said that my physics background was not strong enough. that is what the physics gre is for.
but actually, as i've seen and read elsewhere, not having the subj gre hurts your chances, but having even a 900+ score doesnt supposedly help that much.
now i guess these are reviews from mostly physics majors. how about an engineer? does anyone have an idea if having the sub gre on one's profile, can actually work wonders for an EE major? ultimately, there isn't much that we can show besides the test scores, and engineers have made it to PhD's in the top ones.

thanks again,
tanuj

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby grae313 » Sun May 25, 2008 4:28 pm

Well, I don't know anything about EE majors and physics grad school but it just stands to reason... the physics GRE would be even more important because it would show that you know your undergraduate physics.

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby marten » Sun May 25, 2008 7:12 pm

Exactly, I second grae. A good score (I was happy with over 700) or at least scoring over the 50% percentile should demonstrate to admissions committees that you have a decent grasp of basic physics.

A student with an undergraduate degree in physics doesn't have to get a super score on the physics GRE, instead they can have research experience and good grades in upper level physics classes which helps get acceptances more then a good physics GRE score might. An EE student generally won't have either of those two things, hence a good physics GRE score is extra important.

I'd recommend applying again this year, include a range of schools, safe, extra-safe, match, and reach. The more you apply to, the better your chances of getting in are.

Yeah, 5 months of prep should be good.

Do you know of engineering students that got into top physics PhD programs? I bet that they must have been really exceptional students.

Good luck,

Marten

trupti
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby trupti » Mon May 26, 2008 9:29 am

yeah i know one EE engineer who got into caltech astro. But he is exceptionally bright, is astro olympiad gold medalist, went to world class EE institute and had an astro related publication in national level journal. Though i don't know his pgre score. But he has such a stellar profile (many more achievemnets than I have mentioned above) that caltech would have taken him even without a pgre.
@ marten
in which field did you apply and where did you get?
I got 760 and I am rethinking of giving it again this november. being an int'l student I don't think 760 will be enough for me and also the fact that I have engg background

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby marten » Mon May 26, 2008 8:49 pm

Yeah, with a list like that, he could probably do about whatever he wanted. I applied to 5 physics programs, and 2 Applied Physics programs. The details are on the results page as well as the 2008 Physics Applicant Profiles thread. I'm happy with getting into Lehigh, their department seems to be closely connected to the electrical engineering department (some of their faculty has EE degrees) and they encourage interdisciplinary research.

Have you applied anywhere, trupti? Without searching the posts, I think I remember you posting about this before. Get any good information?

Marten

trupti
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby trupti » Tue May 27, 2008 12:25 am

I saw the profile thread but I was wondering which specific field of "physics" or "applied physics" did you apply. The requirements may vary a bit depending on whether one applies for bigger areas CMT or CME or smaller fields like astro.
I will apply next year after one year job. I didn't get much info about engineers applying to astro. I know only 2 people. one of them has a stellar profile . The other one has an average profile but she had an int'l publication in applied physics. Also she got 2 admits but probably she already knew the admission chair in one of the universities where she got accepted. So I am yet not able to judge my chances of getting into a good program for astro. Also because our dumb college suddenly changed the grading system in middle of my degree , I have equal no of As, Bs, Cs, Ds and even a few Es on my transcripts which is making me even more worried.

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby marten » Tue May 27, 2008 12:27 pm

Actually, I didn't apply to any specific field. I'm still not completely sure what field I want to study. It may have helped if I had had a specific research area in mind when I applied, but all I could really say was that I was interested in something "experimental".

You can always explain your school's grading scale; I submitted an extra letter with most of my applications describing my undergrad physics classes in a bit more detail. I listed the text books used in each class, figuring that would be important to know for the admissions committees that were trying to assess my undergrad physics preparation.

Like several people have eloquently described before, the whole admissions process is somewhat of a "crap shoot", so be as prepared as you can, don't stress too much, and apply to a bunch of places.

Marten

trupti
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby trupti » Wed May 28, 2008 10:29 am

hi
Thanks
I should probably just apply to a few colleges and hope for the best

t3chn0n3rd
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Jun 21, 2008 4:43 pm

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby t3chn0n3rd » Sun Jun 22, 2008 6:09 pm

I agree, most Double E majors , as well as chemical engr, and mech. engrs. have

1) general mechanics/ classical physics
2) electricity and magnetism
3) thermodynamics

but they may be lacking in atomic, nuclear, quantum mechanics.

But that shouldnt be a problem learning , with the heavy calculus, and math training of most engineers.

darkmav
Posts: 28
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:52 am

Re: EE Engineers for physics GRE

Postby darkmav » Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:31 am

Statistical mechanics is an important part, which is usually absent from an engineering curriculum. Also, there is a difference between engineering thermodynamics (usually deals with applications) and thermodynamics in physics which is a broader term usually implying fundamental concepts in theory.




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