What are the GRE Subject Tests?

3 minute read

In addition to the GRE General Test, the Educational Testing Service offers GRE Subject Tests in the eight disciplines. A GRE subject test measures your analytical thinking skills/knowledge in a specific field and is much more specialized and subject oriented than the standard sections of the GRE which are Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. Students can take subject tests to showcase their learning in the field they majored in during undergraduate school. The GRE offers subject tests in these following areas

  1. Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  2. Biology
  3. Chemistry
  4. Computer Science
  5. Psychology
  6. Literature in English
  7. Mathematics
  8. Physics

The Subject Tests are designed to showcase your understanding of a specific academic area. Thus, if you are applying to a program covered by the Subject Tests, having a strong Subject Test score can make your profile look very strong to admissions committee. For example, say you are applying for a Masters degree in Chemistry, GRE General Test does not cover Chemistry, and the mathematical reasoning section on the General GRE may be relatively easy for a Chemistry degree applicant. By taking the Chemistry Subject Test and scoring well, a candidate can indicate to the admission committee that his/her knowledge of chemistry is quite profound.

These tests are offered only three times in a year – April, October, and November. The tests are only offered in the paper-and-pencil format. Duration of each test is two hours and fifty minutes. These tests are scored on a scale that ranges from 200 to 990 points; in ten-point increments.  In addition, some tests (Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, and Psychology Subject Tests) have an additional set of sub score results that reveal your abilities in certain specific areas. The Subscores are on a 20-99 scale, in one-point increments. On these Tests, you earn one point for each question you answer correctly and lose 0.25 points for each question you answer incorrectly.

The most important consideration is the guidelines of the School/University that you wish to apply to. You must check with college website to get this information or contact the college’s admission office directly. This information will help you make this important decision. If atleast 2-3 schools require or strongly recommend the score of Subject Test, then you should go for it because doing so could increase your chances of admission. But, if all those schools/ universities that you’re aiming, clearly state that they don’t need Subject Test scores, then there’s no reason for you to take one.

For more information, check out: https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about

Almost all schools and universities have admission committees consisting of faculty members and sometimes even students from the individual departments that you would be applying to. So, what section do you think those admissions groups are going to look at first? Most of them would place more weight on your subject tests than your standard score, but not all of them.

In the nutshell, when you apply to a specific program, Admission Committees look at your GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, Statement of purpose, Interview etc. all to answer one question: Will this student be successful in the field they are applying? If Yes, then you’re in! If No, you’re not! At some schools, it really is that simple. Performing well on a subject test may answer that question better than any other factor of your application. But, before you take the GRE, contact your prospective schools and ask them if they require a subject test and how they consider it.


Chinu Vasudeva,

Head-Academics | Leverage Edu

[email protected] | www.leverageedu.com

Making Higher Education Intelligent & Awesome!





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