Fall 2015 Physics GRE Study Sessions

We are now offering a physics GRE study session for SPS members. If you're interested, please send an e-mail to SPS president Adam Catching, or sign up in physical sciences 110.

We meet every Saturday at 3pm in Physical Sciences 106.

Links to Study Materials

Expect more soon!

About the GRE

"The GRE physics test is an examination administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The test attempts to determine the extent of the examinees' understanding of fundamental principles of physics and their ability to apply them to problem solving. Many graduate schools require applicants to take the exam and base admission decisions in part on the results." - Wikipedia

The test consists of approximately 100 five-choice questions, some of which are grouped in sets and based on such materials as diagrams, graphs, experimental data and descriptions of physical situations.

The aim of the test is to determine the extent of the examinees' grasp of fundamental principles and their ability to apply these principles in the solution of problems.

Most test questions can be answered on the basis of a mastery of the first three years of undergraduate physics.

The International System (SI) of units is used predominantly in the test. A table of information representing various physical constants and a few conversion factors among SI units is presented in the test book.

The approximate percentages of the test on the major content topics have been set by the committee of examiners, with input from a nationwide survey of undergraduate physics curricula. The percentages reflect the committee's determination of the relative emphasis placed on each topic in a typical undergraduate program. These percentages are given below along with the major subtopics included in each content category. In each category, the subtopics are listed roughly in order of decreasing importance for inclusion in the test.

Nearly all the questions in the test will relate to material in this listing; however, there may be occasional questions on other topics not explicitly listed here.

Major content topics

1. Classical mechanics (20%)
* kinematics
* Newton's laws of motion
* work and energy
* rotational motion about a fixed axis
* dynamics of systems of particles
* central forces and celestial mechanics
* three-dimensional particle dynamics
* Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalism
* noninertial reference frames
* elementary topics in fluid dynamics

2. Electromagnetism (18%)
* electrostatics
* currents and DC circuits
* magnetic fields in free space
* Lorentz force
* electromagnetic waves (electromagnetic radiation)
* AC circuits
* magnetic and electric fields in matter

3. Optics and wave phenomena (9%)
* wave properties
* superposition
* interference
* diffraction
* geometrical optics
* light polarization
* Doppler effect

4. Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (10%)
* laws of thermodynamics
* thermodynamic processes
* equations of state
* ideal gases
* kinetic theory
* ensembles
* statistical concepts and calculation of thermodynamic quantities
* thermal expansion and heat transfer

5. Quantum mechanics (12%)
* fundamental concepts
* solutions of the Schrödinger wave equation
* square wells (Particle in a box)
* harmonic oscillators
* hydrogenic atoms
* spin
* angular momentum
* wave function symmetry
* elementary perturbation theory

6. Atomic physics (10%)
* properties of electrons
* Bohr model
* energy quantization
* atomic structure
* atomic spectra
* selection rules
* black-body radiation
* x-rays
* atoms in electric and magnetic fields

7. Special relativity (6%)
* introductory concepts of special relativity
* time dilation
* length contraction
* simultaneity
* energy and momentum
* four-vectors and Lorentz transformation

8. Laboratory methods (6%)
* data and error analysis
* electronics
* instrumentation
* radiation detection
* counting statistics
* interaction of charged particles with matter
* lasers and optical interferometers
* dimensional analysis
* fundamental applications of probability and statistics

9. Specialized topics (9%)
* nuclear and particle physics
o nuclear properties
o radioactive decay
o fission and fusion
o reactions
o fundamental properties of elementary particles
* condensed matter
o crystal structure
o x-ray diffraction
o thermal properties
o electron theory of metals
o semiconductors
o superconductors
* mathematical methods
o single and multivariate calculus
o coordinate systems (rectangular, cylindrical, spherical)
o vector algebra and vector differential operators
o Fourier series
o partial differential equations
o boundary value problems
o matrices and determinants
o functions of complex variables
* miscellaneous
o astrophysics
o computer applications