GRE physics subject test:


GRE Physics subject test is one of the tests offered by the Educational testing service (ETS). The students who aspire for higher education in the field of physics and other related functional areas take up this subject test.

The exam actually tests the candidate’s basic understanding of the Physics concepts in his undergraduate level and his potentiality to apply the concepts in solving various problems. To be brief, it just tests the candidate’s ability of logicalapplication of Basic Fundamental Physicslearned in college.

It is not that all Universities demand Physics subject test score, but this score is an added advantage and makes the student’s chance of admission distinct. GRE physics subject test plays a vital role when comes to career ambition of pursuing higher education in Physics, Engineering, MS and Ph.D. courses.

Structure and content

Question type:

GRE physics subject test consists of approximately 100 multiple choice questions with five choices to choose from.

Content and their percentages:

Content Percentages Sub Topics
Classical mechanics 20%
  • Kinematics
  • Newton’s laws
  • Work and Energy
  • Oscillatory motion
  • Rotational motion
  • Dynamics of particles
  • Celestial mechanics
  • 3D particle dynamics
  • Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalism
  • Non-Inertial reference frames
  • Fluid dynamics
Electromagnetism 18%
  • Electrostatics
  • AC and DC circuits
  • Magnetic fields in free space
  • Lorentz force
  • Induction
  • Maxwell’s equations and Applications
  • EM waves
Wave phenomena and optics 9%
  • Wave properties
  • Superposition
  • Interference
  • Diffraction
  • Geometrical optics
  • Polarization and Doppler effect
Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics 10%
  • Laws of TD
  • TD processes
  • Equations of state
  • Ideal gases
  • Kinetic theory
  • Ensembles
  • Statistical concepts and Calculation of TD quantities
  • Thermal expansion
  • Heat transfer
Relativity, atomic and nuclear physics 10%
  • Electron properties
  • Bohr model
  • Energy quantization
  • Atomic structure
  • Atomic spectra
  • Black body radiation
  • X-Rays
  • Atoms in electric and Magmetic fields
Special relativity 6%
  • Introductory concepts
  • Time dilation
  • Energy and Momentum
  • Lorentz transformation
  • Velocity addition
  • Length contraction
  • Simultaneity
Quantum mechanics 12%
  • Fundamentals and Solutions of Schrodinger equation
  • Spin
  • Angular momentum
  • Wave function symmetry
  • Elementary perturbation theory
Laboratory techniques 6%
  • Data and Error analysis
  • Instrumentation
  • Radiation
  • Detection
  • Counting statistics
  • Interaction of charged particles and Matter
  • Laser and Optical interferometers
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Probability and Statistics
Specialized topics 9%
  • Nuclear and Particle physics
  • Condensed matter
  • Astrophysics
  • Mathematical methods
  • Computer applications

Also mathematical concepts like complex variables and functions, matrix and determinants, calculus, vector algebra, partial differential equations, Fourier series may appear under specialized topics category.

Duration of the test:

Two hours and 50 minutes (2h and 50 minutes).

There is no particular time allotted for each topic. A smart way to deal with the question paper is to answer the question to which the candidate is very confident and then move on to the other “not so confident” test questions.

There is no negative marking like the math subject test. Therefore all the test questions can be guessed and answered too . If a student desires to change his answer, he should be careful in unmarking the previously marked answer, as two answers for one question will be graded as an incorrect answer.

Score range:

200 to 990 in an increment of 10 points.


The score is valid for five years.


The fee for GRE physics subject test is $150 worldwide.

Registration for Physics GRE subject test:

  1. The first step would be to have an ETS account. If an account has been already opened for the GRE general test that can be used as well.
  2. The registration process can be made either online or through regular mail.
  3. How to Register guide from ETS
  4. The name used will be very important as it has to match with the ID document that needs to be shown in the test center on the test day. Please check out this link for further clarification. Guidelines on how to use Name during Registration from ETS

Reschedule or Cancellation of registration:

If there is a cancellation or rescheduling of the test date, it must be done at least four days before the test date. Do check out this link for more reliable details Rescheduling GRE from ETS.

Test dates:

The test takes place all around the world three times a year during the months of September, October and April. Test center and Dates for GRE Subject Tests from ETS

Practice tests:

There are many free practice test links available online for Physics GRE. Some of them are listed below:

  1. It would be an ideal move to start working out with the practice book which is made available by ETS as they are the ones who conduct the test. The link is given below for your reference: GRE Physics Practice Book from ETS
  2. This practice book is designed by the Ohio University and hence can be considered as a good reliable practice booklet link. GRE Physics Practice Book from Ohio University.
  3. Varsity tutors practice tests are framed and simulated in such a way so that the student gets the feel of taking up the real GRE physics subject test. Do check out this link. Physics Practice Tests from Varsity Tutors
  4. This space is predominantly availablefor physics GRE aspirants. Physics GRE Practice Tests

Preparation for GRE physics test:

  1. The first and foremost step would be to register. Once registered, a booklet will be sent which will have all the necessary information about the test. Give a thorough reading of the booklet.
  2. Make yourself familiar with the topics covered and kind of questions that would be asked.
  3. Take enough practice tests available online which are free. Follow the links mentioned above. If possible, can take up paid coaching classes too for better understanding.
  4. Evaluate the performance and grade yourself.
  5. Work harder on the areas which need more attention and improvement.
  6. Give a thorough reading of whatever was taught at the undergraduate level.

Books for reference:

  1. 3000 Solved Problems in Physics (Schaum Outline Series)

  2. Pros:

    This book is considered as a very helpful one.


    Some feel that it is not up to the level of Schaum’s masterpieces.

  3. Conquering the Physics GRE

  4. Pros:

    It is one of the best books available for Physics subject GRE test.


    It has some printing mistakes.

  5. GRE physics test secrets

  6. Pros:

    Excellent tips and good explanations.


    Nothing much.

Test day tips:

Calculators and logarithm books:

Calculators and log books are not allowed. Wherever necessary, logarithmic values will be listed in the question itself. Therefore it is not required for the candidate to carry a log book to the test center.

Formula sheet:

Formula sheet will not be provided and must not be carried with either.

Wrong answers:

As mentioned above, wrong answers will not be penalized.

Time taken to send the scores:

It takes five working business days for the score to get processed and sent.

Average GRE score:

The average score for GRE physics subject test is around 777 for the students of the USA, which is tentative concerning the university’s standards.