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THE USA: Applying to University

What is a GRE Subject Test?

Postgraduate application processes can be competitive. As a result, taking a specialist exam may improve your chances of being accepted. Learn more as we explain the GRE Subject Tests.

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Being accepted to study at postgraduate level is a dream for which you may face strong competition. Advanced qualifications require more focused study of a subject, and that attracts the most passionate students. As such, demonstrating your deep interest and proficiency in a field is vital. One way to do this is with a rigorous, specialised exam that only the most invested people could pass. Learn more about how you can find one here, with our guide to GRE Subject Tests.


What is a GRE Subject Test?

GRE Subject Tests are a subject-specific alternative to the GRE General Test. While they are less well-known, they can help you get a place on a postgraduate course. Check the requirements of any institution to which you are interested in applying to find out if they are something you will need.


What do I need to take a GRE Subject Test?

Anyone can take a GRE Subject Test. However, they are intended as evidence to support applications to postgraduate courses. If you are not thinking of making such an application, they may not yet be necessary.


What subjects are tested?

At the moment, there are GRE Subject Tests in three disciplines: Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. Find out how they work below.



Format: 66 multiple-choice questions in 170 minutes. You will be assessed on your grasp of fundamental mathematical principles and your ability to apply them to the solution of problems.


Content: Half of the questions involve calculus and its applications, reflecting the content of most undergraduate mathematics degrees. Beyond this, a quarter of the questions focus on elementary algebra, linear algebra, abstract algebra and number theory, while the remaining quarter are on other mathematical topics.



Format: 70 multiple-choice questions in 120 minutes. You will be assessed on your understanding of content commonly taught in an undergraduate physics degree.


Content: Questions cover several different fields of physics, including quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and classical mechanics. The latter takes up 20 per cent of the test, with the weightings given to all fields having been decided by a committee of examiners. Their aim in doing so was to reflect the composition of an undergraduate degree.



Format: 144 multiple-choice questions in 120 minutes. You will be assessed on your knowledge of topics typically taught on undergraduate psychology courses.


Focus: The test covers five different divisions of psychological study – biological, cognitive, social, developmental and clinical – in addition to measurement and methodology. Questions will call for a knowledge of factual information, as well as an ability to analyse on the basis of given data.


How are the tests scored?

First, a raw score is computed. This is based on the number of questions you answered correctly on the test. Then, the raw score is converted to a scaled score, which accounts for variations in difficulty among different test editions.


This score is your final score, and will be reported on a scale of 200-990. Although the scale always goes up and down in ten-point increments, the range of possible scores will vary by subject, and is unlikely to extend to its entirety.


When and how can I take a Subject Test?

GRE Subject Tests are only available to take in three months of the year: September, October and April. All tests are taken on a computer.


Not sure which postgraduate admissions exam is for you? Read our guide to whether you should take the GRE or GMAT test. For a closer look, we also have individual guides to the GRE and GMAT.

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