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The basics
THE USA: Applying to University

What is a GRE Subject Test?

Why should you take a GRE Subject Test? Find out what a GRE Subject Test is, the advantages it can provide and the subjects which you can be tested in...

GRE Subject test

Obtaining a place to study at (post) graduate level in America can be difficult due to the fierce competition. A postgraduate qualification means a more focused study of an area, which attracts the most passionate students as a result. Therefore demonstrating your deep interest and proficiency in a specific field is vital. This is where a GRE Subject test can help to get across to an admissions team that you are passionate about an area.


What is a GRE Subject test?

GRE Subject tests are an additional test to the main GRE Revised General Test. They are optional, not mandatory. Subject tests may be useful for placement purposes should you enrol with an institution. However you should always consult the institution you are applying to, to find out exactly what their entry requirements are.



What do I need to take a GRE Subject test?

As you would expect to study a subject at (post) graduate level, you’ll normally need to have an undergraduate degree in a related subject. Alternatively you would need to demonstrate an extensive background or knowledge of this area in order to progress onto graduate study.



What GRE Subject tests can I choose from?

At the moment, there are GRE Subject tests for 8 subjects:

Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology

Format: 175 multiple-choice questions.

Focus: There is an emphasis on questions requiring problem-solving skills (including mathematical calculations that do not require the use of a calculator) as well as content knowledge. Content is based on three major areas: Biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology and genetics. Questions assess descriptions of laboratory situations, diagrams or experimental results.



Format: 200 five-choice questions

Content organised into three major areas: cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology and ecology and evolution. Equal weight is given to each of these three areas. Questions assess descriptions of laboratory situations, diagrams or experimental results.



Format: Approximately 130 multiple-choice questions.

Focus: The content of the test emphasises the four fields into which chemistry has been traditionally divided and some interrelationships among the fields. Because of these interrelationships, individual questions may test more than one field of chemistry. You will be given a periodic table as well as a table of information presenting various physical constants and a few conversion factors among SI units. However, use of calculator is not allowed.


Computer Science

Format: 70 multiple-choice questions

Focus: Content of the paper is based on such materials as diagrams, graphs and program fragments. 40% of the exam is on Software Systems and Methodology, 15% on Computer Organisation and Architecture, 40% on Theory and Mathematical Background, 5% on Other Topics, but these percentages may vary depending on the paper.


Literature in English

Format: 230 questions on poetry, drama, biography, the essay, the short story, the novel, criticism, literary theory and the history of the language.

Focus: The test content draws on literature in English from the British Isles, the United States and other parts of the world. It also contains a few questions on major works, including the Bible, translated from other languages. Some questions are based on short works reprinted in their entirety, some on excerpts from longer works. The test emphasises authors, works, genres and movements. The questions may be classified into two groups: factual and critical.



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

Focus: Content of the test: 50 percent of the questions involve calculus and its applications which is common to the backgrounds of almost all mathematics undergraduate degrees. About 25 percent of the questions in the test are in elementary algebra, linear algebra, abstract algebra and number theory.



Format: 100 five-choice questions,

Focus: Most test questions can be answered on the basis of a mastery of the first three years of undergraduate physics. Questions are based on such materials as diagrams, graphs, experimental data and descriptions of physical situations. The International System (SI) of units is used predominantly in the test.



Format: 205 multiple-choice questions.

Focus: Core modules of Psychology undergraduate degrees. You will be presented with stimulus materials, such as a description of an experiment or a graph, may serve as the basis for several questions. Questions may require recalling factual information, analysing relationships, applying principles, drawing conclusions from data and/or evaluating a research design.


Read more about the content of each of the subject-based exams here.



How is a GRE Subject test scored?

First, a raw score is computed. The raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly minus one-fourth the number of questions you answered incorrectly. Then, the raw score is converted to a scaled score which accounts for differences in difficulty among the different test editions.

One total score is reported on a 200-990 score scale, in 10-point increments, although the score range for any particular Subject Test is usually smaller.



When and how can I take a Subject test?

GRE Subject tests are only available to take 3 times a year, in September, October and April.

The GRE Subject test is paper-based.



What now?

Register for a MY GRE account so you can schedule your GRE Subject Test.



Read more:

Not sure whether to take the GRE or GMAT test? Read our comparison guide to help you decide the right exam for you.

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Top tips on how to apply to universities in the USA

The application system for universities in America is unique in several ways and can be quite hard to grasp. But don’t worry, we’ve spoken to international students and professionals from within the industry, to give you all the information you need. After reading this, you’ll know everything about how to put together the best application to universities, so that you can make your dream of a study abroad adventure in America finally come true!