Tips for Taking the GRE


  • Since the General Revised GRE Test is taken on a computer, it is best to familiarize yourself with the format of the test, as it is not your average paper test. The GRE website offers a free download of POWERPREP® II software, which allows you to take two practice tests in the computer format you will expect on the test day.
  • Geisel has several GRE test prep books available for you to borrow! USE THIS RESOURCE! FREE PRACTICE TESTS!
  • Magoosh has a very useful list of vocabulary words that frequently occur on the GRE. Practice using these words in contexts of sentences, instead of merely memorizing definitions.


  • Start studying in the summer  before the GRE!
  • The raw score is based on how many questions you’ve answered correctly minus one-fourth of the number you answer incorrectly. Thus, while the Physics GRE does not penalize you for not answering a question, it does penalize your for guessing. Statistically, if you can eliminate a few choices and guess, you may do better than not answering it at all.
  • Since this test is 100 questions, and you have 170 minutes to finish, you get 1.7 minutes per question. This means it is essential that you get through these questions as quickly as possible without compromising your accuracy. The tips below are specifically for this.
    • As with all tests, if you do not know the answer to a question within a reasonable amount of time, skip it and come back to it in the next round.
    • A lot of the questions can be solved by looking at the units, order of magnitude calculations, or just checking the boundaries of the problem.
    • If you find yourself doing heavy calculations or extensively deriving an equation to solve a problem, there is probably an easier way to do the problem. If you cannot think of the easier way, skip that problem and save the heavy calculation for last. It’s better to get more questions correct than get hung up over getting one correct.
    • As much as you are taught not to memorize formulas, you will want to have concepts, formulas, and solutions to typical problems memorized, since you want to move through the problems quicker.
  • Make sure to target studying classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics (which comes along with atomic physics). These are the largest portions of the exam, and thus require the most amount of your knowledge.
  • While we were always encouraged to derive our own equations to avoid memorizing them, it might be best in this case to actually memorize equations, since you need to recall them quickly for use in the exam. Do not waste time deriving equations.
    • is a great independent site with lots of tips and advice on how to prepare for the exam.
    • The Ohio State University has a great physics GRE study site. Their site has all of the released tests.
    • has detailed solutions to all of the physics GRE questions.