PeterH1 wrote:Well I certainly wouldn't say that all the math we need in Physics is covered in the PGRE. It only covers enough for the most basic graduate work. If one were to pursue (propery), say, GR, one would definitely need much more advanced techniques. That's neither here nor there though, as I never suggested that either of these tests cover more than the most general material for each degree.
I am also well aware that the GREs are not a technical "entrance exam" as such (I apologize for the ambiguity). Nevertheless, it is an independent test that is required to be written, and in general, a minimum score achieved, to be admitted to most US and some European graduate programs. What I meant to say was that I am unaccustomed to a mandatory standardized test system (going to a local university, I never had to write the SATs).
Sorry -- maybe I wasn't clear! I was trying to say that the PGRE is a test of stuff you would have learned in the first 2 to 3 years in a typical 4-year US Physics program. In my opinion, I don't think the PGRE score is supposed to measure your knowledge about graduate level work. GR is typically not part of a BSc in Physics (in my program, it was an optional elective in 4th year), which is why you don't see it on the PGRE! So, I don't mean to say that all the math you need for graduate level physics is covered in the PGRE. What I meant is that the math you need for the PGRE is representative of the math you need for the first 3 years of a Physics BSc. Sorry again for any confusion.
Also, I think it is the 4th year level courses that are typically meant to prepare students for graduate level work. At least in my experience, I felt that there was a big difference between a 4th year physics class and a 3rd year physics class, and also that the 4th year courses tend to have the same textbooks as the graduate version of the course. In some cases, the courses are even cross-listed (i.e. same lectures for the 4th year undergrad and first year graduate version of the course).
Again, the PGRE mainly covers materials from the first 2-3 years of the degree. So, I think it is a test to measure how much you know about the introductory materials. Instead of measuring your knowledge about graduate level work, it measures your preparation for such work (i.e. so that you are capable of learning the Physics/Math required to do graduate level work). The only real reason I think it needs to exist is to help admissions committee reconcile the fact that different countries (or even schools) can have different undergraduate physics programs. So a school can, for example, set a minimum PGRE score to set some kind of minimum preparation expected of its new students.
In this sense, I would say that the PGRE is more of an "exit exam" (exit from undergrad) rather than an "entrance exam" for graduate school. I use "exit exam" not in the sense that you have to pass it to get your BSc, but more like "exit polls" they do at elections etc.
PS -- for your last question about the 200 km thing...I had a similar experience writing my PGRE as well. The nearest testing centre was just under 200km though, so I wouldn't qualify for the supplemental testing centre anyways. If you end up not getting to do the test in your current location, then I would really recommend traveling to the testing town on the night before and getting a good night's sleep in a motel or a friend/relative's place to be fully prepared and fresh for the 8:30am test start time!! It certainly added to my testing costs but I think it's worth it (still cheaper than doing the test twice, for example).