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Physics GRE


Understanding what the GRE is

When you apply for admission to a graduate school of your choice, you need to demonstrate qualities that will make the admission committee sit up and take notice of your application. If your skills and qualifications are average, you will just be another applicant in a long list of applicants of the same level. A large number of colleges across the US and in many other countries utilize GRE scores as a benchmark for evaluating the suitability of a candidate for admissions. Therefore, good scores are a must for securing admission to a reputed graduate program of your choice.

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Apart from the scores of the GRE General Test, you can also submit your scores in the Subject Test in a specific subject area, like Physics. All graduate schools may not require the Subject Test score, but taking this Subject Test is an excellent way to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your subject specific skills to the admission committees. Moreover, you can take the this tests pertaining to a specific academic field to assess your own skills and capabilities in that field and this will guide you to choose subjects for your higher studies accordingly. For instance, your Physics subject test scores can be used to indicate your skills and knowledge level in Physics.

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Taking the Physics GRE Subject Test

The Physics exam is conducted three times a year at paper-based GRE test centres across the world. It is conducted in the months of April, October and November. Before you register for the subject test you need to check the official website of GRE, to indentify the test centre closest to your home and check if the Physics subject test will be conducted there. You must keep in mind that all test centres may not be available on all test dates. Therefore, it is all the more important to download the Test Centre List which is available at the official website of GRE and keep it handy for ready reference. This list is updated regularly; so ensure that you have the latest version of the list. Plan on taking the Subject Test well in advance as it can be taken only three times in a year and you need to keep aside at least two to three months for studying for the test.

  • Note: While registering for taking the Physics exam, be sure to check out when the scores will be mailed for the date on which you plan to take the test. This is a very crucial aspect of taking the GRE, as all efforts put by you in doing well in the GRE will go futile if the scores do not reach the intended recipients in time.

Scope of the Physics GRE Subject Test

  • Skills being evaluated: Understanding of the fundamental principles of Physics and the ability to solve related problems by effectively using these principles.
  • Knowledge level: First three years of undergraduate physics.
  • Number of questions: Approximately 100 five-choice questions.
  • Subject areas being evaluated:
  • Classical mechanics:Accounts for 20% of the questions.
  • Electromagnetism: Accounts for 18% of the questions.
  • Optics and wave phenomena: Accounts for 9% of the questions.
  • Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics: Accounts for 10% of the questions.
  • Quantum mechanics: Accounts for 12% of the questions.
  • Atomic physics: Accounts for 10% of the questions.
  • Special relativity: Accounts for 6% of the questions.
  • Laboratory methods: Accounts for 6% of the questions.
  • Specialized topics: Accounts for 9% of the questions.
  • Note: If you are taking the Physics test, you should also be proficient in various aspects of Mathematics that are required for solving problems in Physics. For instance, vector algebra, coordinate systems, Fourier series, partial differential equations etc. are some such aspects.

5 Steps to a foolproof preparation plan for taking the Physics GRE!

  • Step 1

Download the Physics Test Booklet from the official website. This booklet will also be sent to you when you register for the test. It contains a detailed description of the subject areas of Physics that will be evaluated by the Physics GRE and the types of questions that will be asked.

  • Step 2

Go over the details of the types of questions that will be asked in the GRE and the scope of the Physics subject.

  • Step 3

Take the practice test given in the booklet.

  • Step 4

Analyse your performance in the practice test and identify the areas where you need improvement.

  • Step 5

Study for taking the GRE! An excellent way to prepare for the exam on your own would be by reviewing the basic concepts of Physics studied by you so far. You can also prepare for taking the GRE by attending coaching classes.

  • Note: The scoring system for Physics is such that you will be penalised for incorrect answers. Therefore, do not rely on guessing for getting the correct answers. You will have to study well and be sure of the answers if you wish to score high in Physics.

Scoring in the Physics GRE Subject Test

You may have foolproof plans for preparing to take the GRE, but you also need to be clear about how your scores are calculated because then only can you work towards achieving that aim. Your scores on the Physics subject are calculated on the basis of raw scores. One-fourth of the number of questions you have answered incorrectly is deducted from the total number of questions you have answered correctly to arrive at your raw score. This raw score is then converted to a scaled score that appears on the score report. This conversion depends on various factors, the details of which can be found at the official website. It is necessary to convert the raw score into a scaled score so that the scores achieved by test takers in different test administrations are comparable. This means that your scores on the subject Physics are comparable to those of the other test-takers irrespective of the edition of the GRE taken by you.

  • Note: The GRE scaled scores earned in different subject tests are not comparable. For instance, your scores in the Physics Subject Test cannot be compared with the scaled scores in the Chemistry Subject Test. So if you need to demonstrate your skills in Chemistry, you will need to take the Chemistry GRE and the admission committee will not consider your scaled scores in Physics as an indication of how skilled you are in the subject area of Chemistry.

The Final Word!

Although the scores of the Subject Test may not be required by most colleges, it will go in your favour if you present your Physics scores as evidence of your skills and knowledge in Physics. Considering how you are going to use your GRE scores, it becomes imperative that you prepare well for the test. Low scores will not be able to assist you in any way for getting admission to the graduate program of your choice. Therefore, go in for preparatory classes if you feel that you may not be able to prepare for taking the Physics by studying on your own. A thorough and dedicated preparation plan will go a long way in ensuring that you are able to attain your goal in life!

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