So 3 months back I decided I wanna be a Physicist! Trouble was that this meant I had only three months to prepare for the dreaded Physics GRE. Here's what I learned ( wisdom and mistakes) along the way.
1. Material Used:
This is where I messed it up. Trying to study from too many books becoz all the advice on the web says that some topics are good from one book and others from another. I should have stuck to my instinct which I did in the end but there was little time.
So I will just say this:
Sear's and Zemansky's University Physics 13th Edition : Seriously just get hold of this book and this is the only one you will need. It is brilliant, brilliant for anyone trying to learn the subject. Very intuitve. From Physics GRE point of view the book has lots of solved questions and Chapter summaries and formulae in the end. I am regretting that I did not just go all out studying this book and wasted time trying multiple books. It also has bridging problems and Test your understanding questions. If you can solve these and get comfortable I think you are good to solve any question on the Physics GRE ( Also has challenge problems which I did not get time to try). You will enjoy reading the real life applications etc which are nicely put in the sides, which is why you are studying Physics anyway. Dont get daunted by it's size. Update :
The reason I went ga-ga over this book was because it helped me learn Physics from scratch.
There are however quite a few things I realized the main thing being that reading from this book and preparing for the Physics GRE is not the same thing. It's a great book to help you understand and I still feel it's the best textbook out there but you will need to do a lot of ' Physics GRE Type ' problems as well. So past papers are your best bet and in addition you should refer books that have GRE style problems.
Also here's a list of things missing from University Physics ( you should read these topics from elsewhere ) as suggested by other users in this thread :
-Lagrangians and Hamiltons
-Error Analysis in Lab Methods
You might want to study Quantum from another book as well since it's treatment is quite abbreviated. Lastly there are not enough sums in Relativity and you should try getting them from somewhere else.
2. Solve the 5 Sample Papers available. No two ways about it. Just do them. Do atleast the 2008 and 2001 Editions if you are short on time.
3. By far the best Returns to Study ratio that you can get is by studying the last 5 sections on the Physics GRE Syllabus. These are:
Quantum Mechanics| Atomic Physics | Special Relativity | Lab Methods | Specialized Topics : 43 %
This is just the last 300 pages in University Physics. Not bad at all I would say if studying 300 pages can help you prepare for 43% of the marks!
Again do not leave this section. You might like classical mechanics ( like me) and enjoy solving sums from there and you might want to become perfect at it and spend lot of your time preparing for this part. But really from the GRE Physics point of view Classical Mechanics can be tricky and/or time-comsuming.
Some of the questions from Atomic Physics are so simple they will take you 3 secs! So you get what I am saying...
4. Whatever you study study it well. Sometimes the same sub-topic can have two-three questions. It's not even funny.
5. Study to understand but also keep the exam in mind.
6. Prepare your own notes. You are anyways going to write the formulae atleast once. So if you can make your own notes ( Short summaries and formulae) using whatever you study and the summaries at the end of each chapter you will feel good about yourself.
7. A score of 85/100 and a score of 100/100 both give a scaled score of 990/990. So if you are short on time, this means it is not absolutely necessary to study everything and be a Jack of all, rather you would do good studying whatever you do properly. This has multiple benefits:
For one, you will be less worked up which is quite important. You can focus your attention on the parts you know. And on the exam itself it gives you time to revise (hopefully) whatever you have attempted.
8. On the exam it is a good idea to brush through the questions, do a quick first round and answer whatever you know. Dont get bogged down in questions which are slightly familiar ( These are the hardest ones to let go off ).