What should a Physics Major Know?

An incomplete list

Based on quick analysis of two old Physics GRE exams

Atomic - Bohr model (energies)
Atomic - Bohr Model - Def'n of K transition
Atomic - Bohr model, 1/n2 dependence for energy
Atomic - Emission lines in a magnetic field, general properties
Atomic - filling the levels (order, total number)
Atomic - first order Stark effect for H in ground state.
Atomic - ground state spin of Helium atom
Atomic - Hydrogen atom - energy levels
Atomic - life-time broadening
Atomic - notation ("3S ground state")
Atomic - notation (1s2 2s2 2p6 , etc)
Atomic - positronium (Bohr model for)
Atomic - Scattering - cross section, differential (order of mag. from data)
Atomic - selection rules (electric dipole)
Atomic - typical K series transition energies

Circuits - RC time constant
Circuits - RLC circuit with damping - natural frequency of
Circuits - current divider
Circuits - finding currents in branches
Circuits - impedance matching
Circuits - LR Time constant
Circuits - Ohm's law
Circuits - P = I2 R
Circuits - parallel and series resistors, equivalents
Circuits - voltage divider, voltages in simple

Constants - Speed of light
Constants - hc (or equivalent)
Constants - mass of electron (511 keV/c2 )

E&M (Waves) - reflection of plane waves from conductor
E&M - accelerating charge through a potential (Energy = qV)
E&M - boundary conditions at conductor
E&M - Capacitor - energy stored
E&M - charged particle in E and M fields, general properties of motion
E&M - Coulomb's law (in MKS)
E&M - Current in wire, drift velocity
E&M - current loop is magnetic dipole (far away)
E&M - Cyclotron Frequency
E&M - definition of capacitance
E&M - direction of M field from current carrying wire
E&M - effect of dielectric on capacitance
E&M - F = q v cross B
E&M - fall off of fields from dipole
E&M - field from finite charged rod, along axis
E&M - Gauss's Law - indicator of charge present
E&M - Gauss's law, field inside sphere
E&M - general knowledge - exp. to determine exponent in coulomb's law accurately
E&M - image charges (for infinite conducting plane)
E&M - internal resistance of battery
E&M - Magnetism - Ampere's law (simple path)
E&M - Magnetism - Faraday's law of induction
E&M - Magnetism - force between two (parallel) wires
E&M - Magnetism - Lenz's law
E&M - Maxwell's equations
E&M - Maxwell's equations - meaning of terms
E&M - polarization of dielectric, surface charge density
E&M - Potential difference - from electric field and distance (simple cases)
E&M - radiation from accelerating charge (general properties)
E&M - Radiation from oscillating charge, general properties
E&M - Superposition principle
E&M - surface charge density on conductor with charges nearby

General - Angular frequencies (omega)
General - Circumference of circle
General - Complex exponentials
General - Exponentials and natural logarithms - time constants
General - field lines, interpreting
General - Fourier series - simple cases (odd/even fcn, odd/even harmonics)
General - Matrices - moving rows and columns
General - Matrices - recognizing eigenvalues
General - meaning of "divergence is zero"
General - Right Hand Rule for cross products
General - Units (checking)
General - Vectors - i, j, k notation
General - Vectors - resolving components
General - Volume of sphere

Mechanics - accel near earth = g
Mechanics - Circular motion - separating components
Mechanics - Circular motion - uniform, description in x,y coordinates.
Mechanics - Circular motion, uniform, F=ma for
Mechanics - Collisions, Simple
Mechanics - Cons. Of Energy
Mechanics - Conservation of angular momentum
Mechanics - Conservation of momentum
Mechanics - Constant acceleration
Mechanics - Eigenfrequencies (of normal modes)
Mechanics - elastic collisions (cons. of p)
Mechanics - extremums (variational methods)
Mechanics - F=dp/dt , mass not constant (rocket problem)
Mechanics - Falling body (constant acceleration)- with initial conditions
Mechanics - Falling body with air resistance - general properties
Mechanics - Forces - resolving components
Mechanics - Forces - resolving components - tension in string
Mechanics - frequency of harmonic oscillator (mass on spring)
Mechanics - Friction - simple model, maximum static
Mechanics - friction, dynamic
Mechanics - getting F from V
Mechanics - Gravitation - Force inside spherical shell is zero
Mechanics - Gravitation - Universal Law (1/r2 dependance)
Mechanics - Hamiltonian, writing down for simple case
Mechanics - Impulse - change of speed by
Mechanics - inelastic collision
Mechanics - Kinetic energy ( 1/2 mv2)
Mechanics - Lagrangians - def'n of generalized momentum
Mechanics - Lagrangians - what is for simple cases (including simple constraint)
Mechanics - Lagrangians - when is generalized momentum conserved
Mechanics - Mass - computed from volume and density
Mechanics - Moment of inertial - simple systems
Mechanics - Moments of Inertia - Rod about its end
Mechanics - Normal Modes
Mechanics - Orbits, relating periods for different radii
Mechanics - Oscillations, velocity from A and f
Mechanics - Pendula
Mechanics - Potential energy from F(r)
Mechanics - Reduced mass (positronium)
Mechanics - Rigid pendulum - frequency for small oscillations (changing I)
Mechanics - Rolling bodies (down incline)
Mechanics - Rolling bodies - contact point acceleration
Mechanics - Rotating bodies - kinetic energy (1/2 I omega2)
Mechanics - Rotation bodies - tau = I alpha (for constant alpha)
Mechanics - satellite orbits, perturbing circular
Mechanics - Simple pendulum - omega = sqrt(g/l)
Mechanics - Small angle approximation (pendula)
Mechanics - Small oscillation approximation - getting frequencies of
Mechanics - Speed = distance/time
Mechanics - Symmetry - use of
Mechanics - Torques - as vectors
Mechanics - Torques - balancing
Mechanics - Torques - r cross F
Mechanics - Work, simple computations
Mechanics - work-energy theorem
Mechanics - zero of potential arbitrary

Nuclear - basic nuclear decay equations
Nuclear - binding energies, general trends in periodic table
Nuclear - Cerenkov Radiation - conditions for
Nuclear - pair production, general
Nuclear - Radioactive decay - half life from counts per minute
Nuclear - scattering cross section
Nuclear - types of decay

Optics - diffraction gratings
Optics - diffraction limit
Optics - group vs phase velocity in materials
Optics - how do holograms work?
Optics - lens coating thickness, understanding non-reflective
Optics - lens formula (simple telescope)
Optics - Michelson interferometer (basic idea, conditions for fringes)
Optics - multiple polarizers in path
Optics - phase velocity in dielectric
Optics - polarizers, behavior of
Optics - refractive index (speed of light)

Particles - Muon, general properties
Particles - what is a "decay due to the weak interaction"

Practical - Amplifier gain fall-off from log-log plot
Practical - Count rate errors ( N 1/2 ), nuclear counting
Practical - Errors, combining two uncorrelated errors for total error
Practical - Ideal Diode behavior
Practical - Lissajous figures - interpreting
Practical - Mass of Earth - estimate within 3 orders of magnitude given radius
Practical - nuclear radiation - typical penetration depths for various types
Practical - OR gate, what is
Practical - Oscilloscope (what it shows)

Quantum - adding angular momenta (max and min possible)
Quantum - Bohr magneton (mass dependance)
Quantum - common particles, fermion or boson?
Quantum - commutation - simultaneous eigenvalues
Quantum - Compton scattering - basics of
Quantum - computing probabilities
Quantum - deBroglie wavelength
Quantum - Ephoton = hc/lambda (Need to know value for hc or equivalent!)
Quantum - finite square well - general form of wavefunctions
Quantum - form of wavefunctions for H.O. (Odd/Even parity)
Quantum - Franck-Hertz experiment, what does it show?
Quantum - ground state energy (infinite square well)
Quantum - ground state wavefunction of H.O., recognizing
Quantum - Hamiltonian from classical Hamiltonian
Quantum - Harmonics Oscillator - ground state energy of
Quantum - how operators used to get expectation values
Quantum - Hydrogen atom - Spherical harmonics and orbital quantum numbers
Quantum - impact of (electron) spin on properties (of materials)
Quantum - infinite square well - energy eigenvalues
Quantum - infinite square well - momentum of eigenstate = 0
Quantum - infinite wall boundary conditions
Quantum - infinite well, n dependence of E
Quantum - infinite well, perturbation theory, general (odd/even)
Quantum - infinite well, recognize n from graph of wavefunction
Quantum - normalizing a wavefunction, rigid rotator
Quantum - orthogonality (def'n off).
Quantum - Pauli Exclusion Principle
Quantum - photoelectric effect
Quantum - spacing of rotational levels (free rotor)
Quantum - two particle wavefunctions, fermions vs bosons
Quantum - Uncertainty principle
Quantum - Wavefunction of free particle

Solid State - Bragg Reflection
Solid State - conductivities for semiconductors vs metals, general trends and magnitudes
Solid State - Debye and Einstein theory, specific heat from
Solid State - Effective mass from E(k)
Solid State - Fermi temperature - kinetic energy of conduction electron
Solid State - Hall effect, general
Solid State - types of binding in
Solid State - Why E of conduction electrons > kT ?

Special Relativity - conditions to move at c (on mass, spin)
Special relativity - E2 = (pc)2 + (mc2)2
Special Relativity - Length contraction
Special relativity - Lorentz transformation (invarients)
Special relativity - x2 + y2 + z2 - t2 = frame independent
Special relativity - space-time interval - computing from coordinates
Special relativity - speed of light = constant
Special relativity - time dilation (half-lives)
Special relativity - Transformation of EM field, general properties

Thermo - (differential) relations between thermo quantities
Thermo - ave energy of particles with 3 states
Thermo - Average energies in equilibrium
Thermo - Blackbody radiation - T4 law
Thermo - Boltzmann to quantum transition, fermions vs bosons, general
Thermo - Carnot cycle, general properties
Thermo - diatomic gas, specific heat for dumbbell vs masses on spring, general properties
Thermo - entropy of ensemble of two-state particles - high and low T
Thermo - Entropy related to laws of thermo
Thermo - Heat capacitance from internal energy vs T
Thermo - Heat engine - Carnot cycle (work done during)
Thermo - ideal gas, specific heats (why const. Vol & const. Press. Different?)
Thermo - isotherms, def'n
Thermo - phase transitions (qualitative), critical temperatures, co-existence (from diagram)
Thermo - probability of occupation of states
Thermo - Probability related to entropy
Thermo - Specific Heat - diatomic molecule (masses on spring model)
Thermo - Work done by expanding gas (reversible, isothermal)

Waves - Dopplar effect (sound), general properties
Waves - group velocity and phase velocity (from dispersion curves)
Waves - group velocity from dispersion relation
Waves - Interference - from soap film (explain)
Waves - Interference - two slit, finite width slit
Waves - Interference from two coherent sources, diff. phases
Waves - reflection of
Waves - single slit diffraction (circular hole)
Waves - Transmission lines - characteristic impedance, terminating in
Waves - Travelling Waves - plane waves
Waves - wavenumbers (k)

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