Preparing for the Physics GRE

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Both the General GRE and the Physics Subject Test GRE are required for admittance into a Ph.D. or Master's Degree program for physics.  The General GRE is offered all year long and the Physics GRE is offered only in April, September, and October.  Most physics majors take the Physics GRE September or October of their senior year.  Students can register for either test by going to the GRE website.

Physics GRE Test Dates

September Test
Registration Deadline: August 9, 2019
Test Date: September 14, 2019
Scores Reported: October 14, 2019

October Test
Registration Deadline: September 20, 2019
Test Date: October 26, 2019
Scores Reported: November 25, 2019

April Test
Registration Deadline: February 28, 2020
Test Date: April 4, 2020
Scores Reported: May 4, 2020

Physics GRE Material

The below list includes examples of possible question topics. Not all sub-topics will be covered in every GRE Physics Subject Test.

  • Classical Mechanics - 20%
    Kinematics, Newton's laws, work and energy, oscillatory motion, 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.
  • Electromagnetism - 18%
    Electrostatics, currents and DC circuits, magnetic fields in free space, Lorentz force, induction, Maxwell's equations and their applications, electromagnetic waves, AC circuits, magnetic and electric fields in matter.
  • Optics and Wave Phenomena - 9%
    Wave properties, superposition, interference, diffraction, geometrical optics, polarization, Doppler effect.
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics - 10%
    Laws of thermodynamics, thermodynamic processes, equations of state, ideal gases, kinetic theory, ensembles, statistical concepts and calculation of thermodynamic quantities, thermal expansion of heat transfer.
  • Quantum Mechanics - 12%
    Fundamental concepts, solutions of the Schrodinger equation (including square wells, oscillators, and hydrogenic atoms), spin, angular momentum, wave function symmetry, elementary perturbation theory.
  • Atomic Physics - 10%
    Properties of electrons, Bohr model, energy quantization, atomic structure, atomic spectra, slection rules, black-body radiation, x-rays, atoms in electric and magnetic fields.
  • Special Relativity - 6%
    Introductory concepts, time dilation, length contraction, simultaneity, energy and momentum, four-vectors and Lorentz transformation, velocity addition.
  • 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.
  • Specialized Topics - 9%
    Nuclear and Particle physics, Condensed Matter physics, mathematical methods, computer applications, astrophysics.

Physics GRE Sample Tests

The below tests have been retired and can be used to prepare for the Physics GRE.