GRE Physics Test

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. This puts pressure on undergraduate programs to teach the topics students will need to succeed on the GRE.

The scope of the test is largely that of the first three years of a standard United States undergraduate physics curriculum, since many students who plan to continue to graduate school apply during the first half of the fourth year. It consists of 100 five-option multiple-choice questions covering subject areas including classical mechanics, electromagnetism, wave phenomena and optics, thermal physics, relativity, atomic and nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, laboratory techniques, and mathematical methods. The table below indicates the relative weights, as asserted by ETS, and detailed contents of the major topics.

Major content topics

1. Classical mechanics (20%)

2. Electromagnetism (18%)

3. Optics and wave phenomena (9%)

4. Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (10%)

5. Quantum mechanics (12%)

6. Atomic physics (10%)

7. Special relativity (6%)

9. Specialized topics (9%)

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