{Grad Apps} PGRE Round-Up

When you walk into a room inhabited by one human and two guinea pigs, you might expect it to at least smell like guinea pig. Every time I walk into my room, it smells like dates.

This is concerting. But not as concerting as if I didn’t have dates in my room. Thankfully, I do have dates in my room, but I am still confused and distressed that I cannot smell the guinea pig and can only smell dates.

Other than the strange odours in my room (read: of dates) I have also been Sick. Actually, I have been several sicks, but if sickness is a unitary transformation then Sick is the composite transformation of all the individual sicks to leave me at the Sick I have suffered through up to today. Between a cold, anemia, and dizziness, headaches, head hurt, nausea, light headed, weakness, spirals, spirals on skin, spirals in head, spiral on arms, weird head feelings, head shock feelings, head zaps, and more spirals (shhhh, spirals makes sense to me) this has not been a very pleasant two weeks. Two weeks being the amount of time that passed before I realised everything that was not the cold and the anemia was because I’d been skipping my medication for two weeks. Hm. My cold is now (mostly) better, I have iron supplements and have been force fed large quantities of meat and other iron things, and as of yesterday, I’m slowly easing myself onto my medication again. We’ll see.

I meant to talk about the Physics GRE weeks ago – well, when I’d finished writing it. I’ve been Busy (and Sick). But with midterms over, yay, time!

First of all, if you have time, write the April one. Aim to do great on the April one. Then you have (9-4)=5 whole months to freak out and study to ace the September one for real. ….Yeah. Okay. Might not work. Especially if you’re like me, and you won’t remember much beyond two weeks before the test date. That said, if you do start studying early but don’t want to shell out the money for the April test, at least save the 2008 or 2001 practice test and do a mock run. I was dumb and did all 5 tests and didn’t have a good gauge going in.

The October 2013 PGRE was definitely harder than the September one. Scores aren’t out yet, so I don’t know how I did, but if there were raw score reports, I’m pretty sure I did far worse. In terms of difficulty, it was closer to the 2001 test, but many of the questions were different from what’d appeared previously – much of the September test was similar in format if not content to the old tests.

(The McMaster test center was also somewhat disorganized… All the different subjects were mixed up in the same room. There were also two girls who didn’t fill in their bubble sheets until the end, and had their scantrons taken away before they finished because…time was up. Don’t do that! Always fill it in as you go along!)

If I could do it all over again, what would I do?

Well, first of all, I’d try to write the entire GRE thing towards the end of my third year – aka April. Most of the material is covered by then. In fact, you’re not going to learn anything useful in that first month of 4th year. I’d hazard to say that most of the material is covered by second year – a few stat mech questions aside… Well, my best friend was a 1st year physics textbook, if that says anything.

Speaking of 1st year physics textbooks, I was told by a graduate student that if you went through the entire Serway, you’d be set. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to do that. Looking back, I can see why that’d help.

The formula sheets that are floating around online are great – but daunting at first. This is where I found the Conquering the Physics GRE book immensely helpful. A textbook is long, a formula sheet is too brief – a prep book is a good place to get started. That said, like I mentioned in my review, the book leaves out certain topics and over-works others, and should be treated as a starting point.

Flash cards are also great. After a point, it feels like the key to doing well is memorising formulas and relationships, and being able to “see tricks”. Since sometimes seeing the tricks takes time, memorising formulas can save a lot of time. Why derive the magnetic field due to a ring of current if you can just write it down? Unfortunately, making flash cards takes time u___u I guess it’s also a good learning process, so do it…along with the learning! And not the week of the GRE 😀

Lastly…………………………………………… be good at writing tests???? What I have learned is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and I guess I was expecting miracles, when I’ve always done pathetically on standardized tests. (I have been told my Sept result for the PGRE is respectable, but I am Unsure.) Practice tests also aren’t always a great indication of how well you’ll do on the actual test – from anecdotal evidence. Being good at taking tests helps. Being good at taking standardized tests, from anecdotal evidence, seems to do wondrous things to higher PGRE scores. This is not really a surprise. What do the rest of us do? I don’t know. I’m just glad I never have to take another standardized test in my life……….I hope.

Now that the brunt of my midterms are over, I have went and bought myself a reward:


Reward. Good. Reward for being good. Go me.

When will I have time to actually open the seal? Who knows. For now, I guess I’ll tackle that assgt due Thursday, the two due Friday, and are you even allowed to assign an assignment by email on Tuesday afternoon and set the due date by Wednesday night????? (“Is it a language course?” a classmate asks. “Because yes. Yes they can.”)


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