Dreading the exam.

janeway
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 3:11 pm

Dreading the exam.

Postby janeway » Thu Jul 01, 2004 3:25 pm

First off, thanks so much for this helpful web site. Secondly, I am terrified of the Physics GRE, and any advice would be great. I have been out of college 7 yrs, aero eng major, and I really want to study astrophysics at grad school in Fall 2005. I plan to take the Physics GRE in November. I have been studying since Feb but since I work 70+ hours a week at a job TOTALLY unrelated to physics (a job I hate but cannot quit by the way), I have not made good headway. I finished a calc review, but did not get into diffy q's yet. I am just wrapping up classical mechs. I got serious this past month, and I am moving faster, but I am afraid it won't be fast enough. I have gotten some reassurances from the college that I do not need a totally stellar performance, just adequate. I think what's causing me to drag is I seem to frequently get hung up on solving a problem and I don't want to move on. I am currently studying from Serway's Physics for Scient & Eng with Modern Physics. I just got the student guide, and it seems to help. I have found it's faster to read a problem, propose a method for solution in my head, then look at the book solution. Any other tips would be great. I know I need to get into electrodynamics ASAP. I am just starting the Waves unit. Am I totally insane for trying this or what? (Maybe don't answer that!)

BDecker
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2004 12:22 pm

Postby BDecker » Thu Jul 01, 2004 5:00 pm

Janeway,
I'm planning on taking the physics GRE and I'm using a very similar method of studying. I am also using Serway as a quick brushing up of skills (however, I'm still a college student so I'm under a bit less stress than you, although I am working on my undergrad thesis). I've taken two of the practice tests from the old hard to find book that has three actual tests in it.
The thing about the tests that surprised me was that there seemed to be a decent number of knowledge questions (i.e. when do maxwell's equations apply, what does the Hall Effect demonstrate) as opposed to straight problem solving skill questions. Does anyone here know if the modern tests still have those kinds of questions?

However, Serway seems to provide the proper background for actual homework problems.

I just started reviewing a bit ago and I am in the middle of the Gravitational Orbits chapter in Serway, but I am not working the extra problems. I intend to go back and do that once I finish orbits (I'm going to make a cheat sheet for my homework and just run with it so I can apply whatever techniques I want to any problem instead of being stuck using only kinematics or only energy depending on whatever chapter I am in).

And you're not that crazy...maybe a little, but all physicists are.

Keep us posted with your progress!

Schrodinger's Cat
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:45 pm

In the same boat...

Postby Schrodinger's Cat » Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:58 pm

Janeway,
You're not alone! I'm in a very similar situation to you. I have been out of college 5 years, electrical engineering major, and also hope to enter an astrophysics program in Fall 2005 (hmmm....guess I could consider you competition...)
At any rate, I am currently reviewing calculus at a furious rate and plan to start a comprehensive physics review soon.
My fear is that I never had any of the "high level" physics in college. By high-level, I'm referring to Junior/Senior level courses. I took my obligatory 3 semesters of physics required for engineering. I am desperately afraid that no amount of preparation will get me where I need to be by December. I am planning on taking physics courses through Univ. of MD this fall as part of a non-degree enrollment so that I can fill those gaps and to show the grad schools to which I apply that I am serious about my endeveaor. But even doing that, I will still not have had high-level mechanics or quantum by the time the GRE rolls around.
This probably didn't help you much in the way of advice, but I thought you might want to know you're not alone! I don't think you're insane, unless of course, I am insane myself! :D
To anyone who has taken the exam, how much did you rely on your upper-level courses?
(BTW, Janeway, I've also heard that a stellar performance isn't necessary. The person I spoke with informed me that grad schools are more interested in the fact that you took the exam, not necessarily that you aced it).

Best regards,
S.C.

janeway
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 3:11 pm

What a small world!

Postby janeway » Fri Jul 02, 2004 9:12 am

:o Wow, this is UNCANNY. I live in Silver Spring. I am tied to the area for the next few years, so I was looking at U of MD's program and Johns Hopkins- though that's probably far fetched for me. I actually contacted the physics dept at MD (grad students) to inquire about a tutor. I got a response from one student, but they sound mostly too busy. I do have the list with phone numbers if you are interested.
May I ask which course you are taking and if it costs much?

Yes, at least you won't be completely lost on the electrodynamics portion. EE was never my strong suit. I guess what's most frustrating is how much I learned that didn't stay in my head in a more permanent fashion.

BTW- I am Chapter 15 of Serway. I find that the student guide is a great review on my metro rides in the morning to work. I bought some other books including:Marion & Thornton's Classical Dynamics of Particles & Systems to I can learn Lagrangian stuff, SPACETIME PHYSICS by Wheeler and Taylor, and Griffith's Introduction to ELECTRODYNAMICS. I probably won't have enough time to get through this stuff, also it might be too in the weeds. Any opinions?

SC- Do you work full time? Are you taking a night class with UMD? I found classes at NIH I am considering registering for this fall. They have a mass spectrometry class, and organic chemistry. I kind of wanted the organic chemistry because I have a passion for astrobiology, but no where can I study that field in the DC Area. I also love cosmology- I am torn between the physics dept and astronomy dept at MD.
---Janeway

Schrodinger's Cat
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:45 pm

Postby Schrodinger's Cat » Fri Jul 02, 2004 10:24 am

Yikes...very small world!! I live in Rockville! I am also looking at UMD and Hopkins for Fall '05 mostly because I do like the area (though I look at many others as well).

I'm actually *not* working full time these days. I left engineering last year and have been teaching high school physics for about a year and a half. I plan to get a part time job to carry me through fall/spring so that I can take the physics courses I need. For fall semester, I'm planning on taking a mathematical methods (PHYS 374) and first semester of quantum (PHYS 401). Possibly thermo as well (PHYS 404). In the spring, I'll most likely take the second semester of quantum (402) along with classical mechanics (410) and electrodynamics (411). Ha...and you're worried that you're insane??? :)

For my physics review...I have copy of Halliday/Resnick that I plan to start going through, though I've also been looking at Serway's and Reese's texts. How have you found Serway?

I can sympathize with your frustration. Even a lot of the EE stuff has gone completely out of my head. When I worked as an engineer, I was completely immersed in digital logic design which is basically just programming. As a result, I haven't really used electrodynamics since I took the course in college. So even that I'm going to struggle with (but I'm hoping it will start coming back to me once I dive in).

Wow....that's amazing that we live only 15 minutes from each other. Well, if you're looking for someone to study with (or just wallow in GRE misery
:lol: ), I'd be happy to oblige. Sounds like you've got a good jumpstart on me, but no matter.

Good luck.
--SC

Grant
site admin
Posts: 189
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 7:55 pm

Postby Grant » Wed Jul 07, 2004 5:12 pm

I have been out of college 7 yrs, aero eng major

I have been out of college 5 years, electrical engineering major

I left engineering last year

If you have been out of school for a while then I would suggest working through lots of the advanced high school problems referenced on the main site. In particular the multiple-choice Olympiad problems are quite nice. They are a great way to review basic material and to get the rust out of the gears. Schrodinger's Cat, if you know of any other sources of quality multiple choice high school physics problems then please let us know.

For people with an engineering background I would suggest reading the engineering section of the page about ETS subject tests related to physics. I think the problems would be especially good for people with an engineering background because it would allow you to capitalize on your engineering background and how it overlaps with the Physics GRE.

SevenTurns
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 2004 4:31 pm

Postby SevenTurns » Thu Jul 08, 2004 8:59 am

Hey SC and Janeway, this is quite coincidental. I'm in Gaithersburg for the summer working at NIST and studying for the GRE in November. I am also looking at the University of Maryland for grad school. I still have one more year of Undergrad left.

I'm using all my old texts to brush off the cobwebs on the basics as well as taking some practice tests out of a book I bought. I have been hearing that repitition is key so I'm just trying to get practice. I have Serway, Marion and Thorton, Griffith's E&M, and others but will probably rely mostly on these three.

If one or both of you would like to compare notes that would be great. Also, later this month there is an open house type thing for the grad schools at the U of M. I found out through NIST but if you are interested I can see if its open to the public. I have tours set up of both the Physics labs and Electrical Engineering labs. I've also heard that they give out practice GRE tests.

Best,
BS

dimitra
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 9:05 pm

Another Engineering Guy for Astrophysics

Postby dimitra » Sun Jul 11, 2004 9:52 pm

Hi all,

I have completed my B.E. in Electronics & Communication Engineering and am going to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics to work on a space mission. My goal is getting admission for Phd for fall '05 and will be taking the Physics test this november.

I have just started the preparation through Resnick & Halliday and am tensed that whether three months would be enough for the preparation of the exam or not? Is there anyone who is facing a similar situation. And also plz suggest some books for prep so that I can start right from now.

Thanks

Dimitra
dimitraatri@yahoo.com

quantumnicity
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:17 am

Same boat, only totally different background!

Postby quantumnicity » Sun Jul 25, 2004 9:16 am

Hey Janeway and the rest of you headed for the Physics GRE,

i'm so glad i found others here in my situation, this is fantastic! i finished my bachelors degree in math and german nearly 16 years ago and went to germany after that and got another degree in finance and economics. i've been here in germany ever since, working in a bank in risk control. i can totally understand about your job, i am in EXACTLY the same situation here in germany- i've got a job that has become unbearable and incredibly boring, but fortunately, due to all the red tape and zillions of regulations which monitor working hours here in the public sector, i have ample time in the afternoons and evenings to prepare for the GRE. I can't quit my job either- i have to hang on to it until i'm accepted somewhere next fall, and then abide by the guidelines and quit in a timely manner and get back to the states.

Anyway, what i wanted to tell you is about my own preparation for the exam. i don't really have any formal physics background other than the two introductory courses i took back in 1986- i was an immature brat then, and didn't study- as a result, i got a c in physics I and failed physics II (i did do well in the labs, however!)....so i'm going to have to avenge all that stuff from back then. i'm currently working through the physics I book from Halliday/Resnick/Krane- a chapter per day, reading the chapter, working the multiple choice problems after each chapter (there are usually 12 to 15 of them) and making a note of all the formulas i encounter. i also purchased the student solutions' manual, which has a good number of problems worked out- that way, i can see if i've done the problem correctly. i've discovered that the more i do, the quicker i get. i have the ETS book with the 3 physics examinations, but i'm saving those until i've completed the two books from HRK and Tipler's Modern Physics. i've read on some other sites that covering one of the basic books and Tipler's book (or a similar book on Modern Physics) should be enough to answer more than 50% of the questions correctly. a lot of people have also recommended the other introductory book by Halliday/Resnick/Walker. i use both sometimes, but i prefer HRK because of the multiple choice problems it has. as much as i would like to, i'm not even going to fool around with Griffiths or Marion/Thornton- the time is too short now. i just hope my math skills can help me answer some of the more advanced questions without really knowing the physics! if anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to let me know- i'd appreciate it!

i sure do envy and respect all of you with engineering/physics backgrounds- had i pulled my head out of my rear back in the day and studied physics or some other subject instead of German that would've nicely complemented the math, it probably wouldn't be such a task for me to learn the physics now!

quantumnicity
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:17 am

oh, by the way

Postby quantumnicity » Sun Jul 25, 2004 9:21 am

oh, and by the way- ANYBODY who wants to study physics is just plain smart, not crazy- i think you're all brilliant, because you obviously realize how beautiful and interesting it is!!!! Good luck to all of you.

quantumnicity
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:17 am

oh, by the way

Postby quantumnicity » Sun Jul 25, 2004 9:24 am

oh, and by the way- ANYBODY who wants to study physics is just plain smart, not crazy- i think you're all brilliant, because you obviously realize how beautiful and interesting it is!!!! Good luck to all of you.

quantumnicity
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:17 am

a "reasonable" score on the physics GRE....

Postby quantumnicity » Tue Aug 03, 2004 2:58 am

Hi folks!

i'm applying to an M.A.T. program in physics (master or arts in teaching physics) that is actually a graduate program, but consists only of undergraduate physics courses and the corresponding math courses, if you haven't taken them yet, and graduate level education courses. in fact, the entrance requirement is a year of freshman physics. i guess it's designed for people in related fields (like myself, a math/german major in undergrad) who want to learn physics and become teachers, or get the necessary background for later work in a full bonified graduate physics program. i know i have a fairly good chance of gaining admission to the program, but something the graduate advisor recently wrote to me in an email kinda shook me up- he said i shouldn't worry about being admitted with my background, as long as i get a "reasonable" score on the physics GRE. When i voiced my concerns about not having a physics background, he said that i shouldn't worry about that, because a lot of the degree candidates in the program don't even know calculus. So does anyone know how to interpret the meaning of a "reasonable" score on the GRE subject test? I'm a bit confused by that, because, on the one hand, he says there are people already in the program that don't know calculus, but on the other hand, i need a reasonable score on the test. maybe i'm crazy and am doing everything wrong, or maybe i've missed something- but the last time i worked through the problems on one of the practice GRE exams (which was last night), it seemed to me that you would most definitely need to know calculus to work a good deal of the problems (Schrödinger's equation, setting up the hamiltonian or lagrangian, e.t.c.). Let me know what you guys think!

janeway
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 3:11 pm

Reasonable Score

Postby janeway » Thu Aug 05, 2004 1:47 pm

Dear quantumnicity & Others,
Who knew there were so many of us in the same boat... Anyway, I have been struggling with the same question myself. U of MD told me more or less that for the Astronomy Program I really just needed to pass the Physics GRE- no flying colors or anything. But I must make a confession. I pretty much had a meltdown a few weeks back. I just didn't see how I was going to make everything work by November. So I am just trying to reassess my situation. I think I am going to take the exam in December just to see how it goes and how well I do, and not commit to going to grad school next year. I have been in the military since I left college, so I think when I get out in May I might take some time to take a few more undergrad classes. We will see. I think you are right about trying to tackle Marion/Griffith etc. before the exam- there's just not enough time to biuld up expertise, and I think if you know the basics really well that;s enough to pass. Question is, what is considered a "survivable" score? I don't know.

Schrodinger's Cat
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:45 pm

Postby Schrodinger's Cat » Thu Aug 05, 2004 6:33 pm

Janeway....agreed, it's reassuring to see many others doing the same thing! And don't give up yet!! Sorry to hear of your meltdown. I definitely feel the same way periodically....just overwhelmed at the amount of material I feel I need to cover to even survive the GRE, much less pass it.

I've been going at a breakneck pace the past few weeks....doing one chapter a day from Halliday and Resnick (up to Chapter 22 now) plus reviewing calculus (finishing a quick review of vector calc, about to move on to dif q's).

Since there seem to be several people posting here in the Maryland area, is there any interest in some sort of group study session? Even perhaps setting up a regular day/time to meet and work/discuss problems? Please respond and let me know what the interest is in this!

Okay, back to my calculus....

Regards,
SC

janeway
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 3:11 pm

Meet up

Postby janeway » Fri Aug 06, 2004 2:38 pm

I have an interest in it, but it may be tough to coordinate. Maybe our best bet is to say we meet every Sunday or something from 1 to 5 and rotate the places, and whomever is available to come can come. We could pick a different subject for each Sunday to cover and discuss between now and November time-frame or so if people are interested. I would be willing to have people over on August 29th if this idea appeals to anyone.

NuclearGirl
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2004 12:53 pm

Help Finding Solutions

Postby NuclearGirl » Sat Aug 07, 2004 11:37 pm

Hey Y'all,

I'm in the same boat as many in this forum: UnderGrad in Physics 7 years ago, but after these years of working administrivia (pays really great!) I found that I have forgotten far more than I realized I knew! My job will send me to get my PhD if I score well enough on the GRE so there's my motiviation. I am finding Serway (physics) and Zill/Cullen (eng. math) to be very helpful.

What I'm not finding helpful is the GRE practice tests from their website. :roll: Does anyone know where to go and get the solutions? My download didn't include the answers so I don't know how I did (of course, you always think "you've got it.")

:!: By the Way, most of you already know this, but for any newbies: PLEASE, if you are getting your undergrad take the GRE at the end of your junior year. You'll score better. My school offered it for free and I thought I'd be slick and take it senior year. Physicists do tend to think they know better, don't they? After all, I'd have the more advanced courses, and so would score better. I took the GRE senior year and went into despair when I discovered that all of my advanced senior study courses did me no good- in fact, they only pushed out all of the general information I needed!

I said all that to say this: Does anyonke know a good reference for these types of problems, worked out to refresh my memory?

Thanks!

NuclearGirl

Schrodinger's Cat
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2004 6:45 pm

Re: Help Finding Solutions

Postby Schrodinger's Cat » Sun Aug 08, 2004 12:12 am

NuclearGirl wrote: I took the GRE senior year and went into despair when I discovered that all of my advanced senior study courses did me no good- in fact, they only pushed out all of the general information I needed! l


NuclearGirl,
Well, I can't help you much with solved GRE problems (I haven't gotten quite to that point yet!) but your insight into the GRE is much appreciated. Since I was an engineering major, I stopped taking Physics courses (besides some advanced E&M for my major) at the end of my sophomore year. Though I'm taking some additional courses and trying to play catch-up, almost all my physics knowledge comes from the general material taught in the first two years. If the actual GRE concentrates more on that, I feel like I *may* actually have a shot at not having my head explode mid-exam. :D

So, thanks for the much needed boost!

Regards,
SC

Grant
site admin
Posts: 189
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 7:55 pm

solutions to physics problems

Postby Grant » Tue Aug 10, 2004 11:17 am

Does anyone know where to go and get the solutions? My download didn't include the answers so I don't know how I did

I believe the ETS download includes the answers (i.e. "a", "b", "c", or "d") but it does not include solutions. It might be worthwhile to ask for help on solutions to some of the problems by posting on the ETS Physics Problems forum.

Does anyonke know a good reference for these types of problems, worked out to refresh my memory?

If I were out of physics for a while and looking for a refresher then I would get an AP physics review book and work every example and problem in the book. I happen to have one such book written by Princeton Review and I think it is very good.
[isbn=0375763872]Cracking the AP Physics B & C Exams, 2004-2005[/isbn]
but older editions are usually cheaper used:
[isbn=0375762272]Cracking the AP Physics B & C Exams, 2002-2003[/isbn]

The chapters on the 2004-2005 book are 1) vectors 2) kinematics 3) newton's laws 4) work, energy, and power 5) linear momentum 6) rotational motion 7) newton's laws of gravitation 8) oscillations 9) thermal physics 10) electric forces and fields 11) electric potential and capacitance 12) direct current circuits 13) magnetic forces and fields 14) electromagnetic induction 15) waves 16) optics 17) atomic and nuclear physics (i.e. basic quantum) 18) fluid mechanics.

Each chapter has roughly 10 or so practice multiple choice questions with solutions (roughly 180 questions). There are also some practice tests that have a total of 140 multiple choice problems with solutions as well. Basically, the book contains 300+ fundamental multiple choice problems with solutions. The book also has short reviews of the material in each chapter and also lots of examples and also a number of free response questions.

The book is basic and doesn't cover all material that can be on the Physics GRE but I would find it difficult to imagine that anyone would consider the book a waste of time. For the person in need of a refresher it will work very nicely for that purpose. For a well oiled Physics GRE problem solving machine it will be a speed bump that can be completed in a day but it can help with problem solving speed, accuracy, and endurance and it can also identify certain equations that need to be memorized for the exam instead of wasting your exam time deriving them. Also, working the problems may even catch fundamental concepts that you need to work on.

holovision
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Aug 17, 2004 9:42 pm

working wannabe physicst in nyc...

Postby holovision » Tue Aug 17, 2004 10:20 pm

Hi all,
Like all of you I am considering applying to physics grad and need to take the GRE this Fall for that purpose. I've been out of undergrad for a few years and definitely need to study up. Does anyone know how the GRE works with respect to taking the test a second time? Is it like the SAT (best score trumps)? Or do they take an average? I work full time in finance in NYC and barely have the time to sleep, let alone study physics. If anyone from NYC is in the same boat I'd love to hear from you!

Good luck.

quantumnicity
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:17 am

Finally- another one going from finance to physics!!!

Postby quantumnicity » Wed Aug 18, 2004 10:24 am

Hey Holovision,

I like your style- I'm pretty much in the same boat, only i don't have the physics background (not yet anyway), and i work in finance in Germany- it's good to see more finance to physics instead of physics to finance! As far as my preparation goes, i'm just chugging through the Halliday book, trying to keep up with completing a chapter per day. i'm scheduled to test on Nov. 13th in Berlin, so i don't have a whole lot of time. i've found lots of tips and information on the internet, and most of them seem to recommend working through the Halliday book as being the best preparation. so as hard as that is for me to do (i like to work on the stuff in the advanced books from time to time), i just trust it's the best thing for my situation.

Everyone: what is it like for you guys as physics majors to see this material after such a long time? have you forgotten everything, or do you catch up really fast once you've started studying again? just curious!

Astro
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:08 am

Postby Astro » Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:45 am

Looks like nobody has posted here for a while, hopefully someone will read this... janeway and schrodinger, I live in the Rockville/Potomac area, and am planning on taking the physics gre in november in order to apply to grad school in astronomy. Weird. I never thought that I would find anyone around here who was planning on taking the test, much less for astrophysics! i don't know if either of you will read this, but if you want to get together and study, that'd be great. I really don't feel like I am ready for this test, but I think I'll have to take it anyway if I want to apply for '05.

NuclearGirl
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2004 12:53 pm

Re: solutions to physics problems

Postby NuclearGirl » Sat Oct 09, 2004 12:54 pm

Thanks for this suggestion! Before I visited this site, I shunned the AP books- thinking they weren't "high level" enough.

I picked up one of these AP books yesterday and it is really bringing back old memories! I'm amazed at how it's all coming back, and even more amazed at how much I'd forgotten!!

For those who were curious- the answers key WAS in the back of my download, but I hadn't realized -for days- the printer was out of paper - :oops:

----------------------------------------------------------
If I were out of physics for a while and looking for a refresher then I would get an AP physics review book and work every example and problem in the book. I happen to have one such book written by Princeton Review and I think it is very good.
[isbn=0375763872]Cracking the AP Physics B & C Exams, 2004-2005[/isbn]
but older editions are usually cheaper used:
[isbn=0375762272]Cracking the AP Physics B & C Exams, 2002-2003[/isbn]




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