For the most part, I don’t like to do a lot of excessive rebroadcasting and blockquoting in this blog. However, I ran across a very interesting entry by John Conway at the Cosmic Variance blog about his experiences on the Physics GRE super secret executive problem choosing council.

Since I run the occasional workshop in my own department, I’m very interested in this sort of thing. In case my own students don’t believe my advice, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:

My first piece of advice to students studying for this exam is to focus on reviewing the textbook from your freshman introductory physics course. In my years on the GRE committee, when I have needed to consult a text, it is that text at least 80% of the time. If you master every example in there and review the basic equations, you will do really well on the GRE.

and

The other piece of advice I give students is to be disciplined in your approach to actually taking the exam. You only have an average of 1.7 minutes per problem! If you get bogged down on a long algebraic calculation, you risk not being able to complete the exam, including items that you would correctly answer in a few seconds.

And the implications?

[H]ow important is the Physics GRE for your career? It turns out that it is in fact quite important. Some of the top programs in the US even go to the extent of requiring a GRE score above some threshold for considering the applicant.

Just a little food for thought.

**-Dave**

I think by the freshman text he might mean the general physics textbook freshman level physics is taught. It includes some more modern stuff toward the back, etc.

The textbook I used for my freshman sequence I don’t think would have helped nearly as much as the general population one for non-majors. But that could just be my alma mater be quirky.

College Physics by Serway vs. Matter and Interactions by Chabay.