Conquering the Physics GRE represents the combined efforts of two MIT graduate students frustrated with the lack of decent preparation materials for the Physics GRE subject test. When we took the exams, in 2007 and 2009, we did what any student in the internet age would do – searched the various online bookstores for “physics GRE prep,” “physics GRE practice tests,” and so on. We were puzzled when the only results were physics practice problems that had nothing to do with the GRE specifically or, worse, GRE practice books having nothing to do with physics. Undeterred, we headed to our local brick-and-mortar bookstores, where we found a similar situation. There were practice books for every single GRE subject exam, except physics. Further web searches unearthed www.grephysics.net, containing every problem and solution from every practice test released up to that point, and www.physicsgre.com, a web forum devoted to discussing problems and strategies for the test. We discovered these sites had sprung up thanks to other frustrated physicists just like us: there was no review material available, so students did the best they could with the meager material that did exist. This situation is particularly acute for students in smaller departments, who have fewer classmates with whom to study and share the “war stories” of the GRE.
This book endeavors to fix that situation. Its main contribution is a set of three full-length practice tests and fully worked solutions, designed to be as close as possible in style, difficulty, content distribution, and format to the actual GRE exam. We have also included review material for all of the nine content areas on the Physics GRE exam: classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, optics and waves, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, atomic physics, special relativity, laboratory methods, and specialized topics. To our knowledge, this is the first time that reviews of standard undergraduate subjects such as classical mechanics and thermodynamics have been paired with less standard it material such as laboratory methods in the same text, specifically focused on aspects of these subjects relevant for the GRE. Exam-style practice problems and worked solutions are included for each review chapter, giving over 150 additional GRE-style practice problems in addition to the 300 from the exams. The shorter chapters have review problems at the very end, while the longer ones have review problems distributed throughout the chapter.