GRE Subject Test: The Basics

Learn the basics of the GRE Subject Test.

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Take the GRE Subject Test to stand out among the hundreds of other graduate school applicants. Although most graduate schools do not require applicants to take the exam, many recommend it so that students can prove their passion for the subject. Prospective students should contact their graduate school to see if taking the GRE Subject Test is required.

There are eight subject tests that students may choose from including:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Keep in mind that this is a comprehensive exam, so you should have a considerable amount of knowledge on the subject before signing up for the test. The test is designed for applicants who have either earned their bachelors degree or have taken a few college courses in the field.

Who Should Take the GRE Subject Test?

Traditional applicants pursuing a masters degree or PhD should consider taking the GRE Subject Test because it will provide them with a leg up against the rest of the applicants. It demonstrates to the admissions committee that you are dedicated to the subject and proves your aptitude in the subject. If you achieve a high score, you will look favorably among the admissions committee.

Some graduate school admissions committees will allow students to submit their GRE Subject Test Scores as a supplement to letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, or other admissions requirements. This option is great for non-traditional students who might have earned their bachelors degree in another field, or recent college graduates who do not have much or any work experience.

When Can You Take the GRE Subject Tests?

There are a total of three GRE Subject Test dates with one in the months of October, November and April. If you are taking the test in the United States, US Territories or Puerto Rico, the test will cost you $140. However, if you take the exam in any other location, the test will be $160. Additional fees may be required. Many forms of payment are accepted including:

  • Credit/Debit card
  • PayPal
  • E-Check
  • Money order/certified check/voucher
  • UNESCO Coupons
  • Western Union Quick Pay
  • Check
  • Foreign currencies

How Should You Prepare for the GRE Subject Test?

You can visit the ETS GRE Subject Test website for a complete bulletin of each subject, as well as download a .PDF practice booklet. Other GRE Subject Test syllabus and practice books may be available by various third party sources.

In addition, you should take a prep course if it has been a while since you have taken a standardized test, or you need the extra push to get the most out of your studying. Courses are generally expensive and you should expect to pay hundreds of dollars. However, most people agree that GRE Subject Test prep courses are worth the money.

If you want the interaction that a course provides, but need to learn on your own time, purchase a GRE Subject Test software program.This type of software is designed to have a tutorial and a test mode. In the tutorial mode, students are provided test questions with explanations of the answers. Test mode allows students to practice their skills.

How is the GRE Subject Test Scored?

The GRE Subject Test differs from the general GRE exam because it can only be completed in the paper-pencil format. This allows test-takers to go back to questions that they might not know right off the bat, as well as skip questions.

The GRE Subject Test uses multiple-choice format with five options to choose from. For every correct answer, you receive one point; for every incorrect answer you lose a quarter of a point. You are not penalized for leaving a question blank, so if you do not know the answer, it is best to not answer rather than guess.

Your raw GRE Subject Test score is calculated by adding all of your correct answers and then subtracting one-quarter of a point for each question you answered incorrectly. This raw score is then converted on a scale from 200 – 900.

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