GRE Subject Tests: Definition, Content, and Why You Should Take It

The GRE Subject Tests are supplementary tests that are designed to evaluate applicants’ readiness for postgraduate study in specific fields, including Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. Each test assesses topics taught in undergraduate programs that are necessary for specific disciplines in the graduate study. The test is intended for students who have an extensive background or undergraduate major in the subject.

Contents

What are the subject areas in the GRE Subject Tests?

Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology are the subject areas in the GRE Subject Tests.

Chemistry Test

The GRE Chemistry Subject Test has 4 fields including analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. Each field has more specific contents or topics under it. These topics are the following [1]:

Analytical Chemistry – 15%

  • Data Acquisition and Use of Statistics
  • Solutions and Standardization
  • Homogeneous Equilibria
  • Heterogeneous Equilibria
  • Instrumental Methods
  • Environmental Applications
  • Radiochemical Methods

Inorganic Chemistry – 25%

  • General Chemistry
  • Ionic Substances
  • Covalent Molecular Substances
  • Metals and Semiconductors
  • Concepts of Acids and Bases
  • Chemistry of the Main Group Elements
  • Chemistry of the Transition Elements
  • Special Topics

Organic Chemistry – 30%

  • Structure, Bonding and Nomenclature
  • Functional Groups
  • Reaction Mechanisms
  • Reactive Intermediates
  • Organometallics
  • Special Topics

Physical Chemistry – 30%

  • Thermodynamics
  • Quantum Chemistry and Applications to Spectroscopy
  • Dynamics

How many questions are there in the GRE Chemistry Subject Test?

Approximately 130 multiple-choice questions are in the GRE Chemistry Subject Test.

Mathematics Test

The GRE Mathematics Subject Test has 3 fields comprising calculus, algebra, and other additional topics. Each field has more specific contents or topics under it. These topics are the following [2]:

Calculus — 50%

  • Material learned in the usual sequence of elementary calculus courses — differential and integral calculus of one and of several variables — including calculus-based applications and connections with coordinate geometry, trigonometry, differential equations, and other branches of mathematics.

Algebra — 25%

  • Elementary algebra: basic algebraic techniques and manipulations acquired in high school and used throughout mathematics
  • Linear algebra: matrix algebra, systems of linear equations, vector spaces, linear transformations, characteristic polynomials, and eigenvalues and eigenvectors
  • Abstract algebra and number theory: elementary topics from group theory, theory of rings and modules, field theory, and number theory

Additional Topics — 25%

  • Introductory real analysis: sequences and series of numbers and functions, continuity, differentiability and integrability, and elementary topology of R and Rn
  • Discrete mathematics: logic, set theory, combinatorics, graph theory, and algorithms
  • Other topics: general topology, geometry, complex variables, probability and statistics, and numerical analysis

How many questions are there in the GRE Mathematics Subject Test?

Approximately 66 multiple-choice questions are in the GRE Mathematics Subject Test. These questions cover only courses at the undergraduate level.

Physics Test

The GRE Physics Subject Test has 9 fields, including classical mechanics, electromagnetism, optics and wave phenomena, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, atomic physics, special relativity, laboratory methods, and specialized topics. Each field has more specific contents or topics under it. These topics are the following [3]:

Classical Mechanics — 20%

  • Kinematics
  • Newton’s Laws
  • Work and Energy
  • Oscillatory Motion
  • Rotational Motion about a Fixed Axis
  • Dynamics of Systems of Particles
  • Central Forces and Celestial Mechanics
  • Three-Dimensional Particle Dynamics
  • Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Formalism
  • Noninertial Reference Frames
  • Elementary Topics in Fluid Dynamics

Electromagnetism — 18%

  • Electrostatics
  • Currents and DC circuits
  • Magnetic fields in free space
  • Lorentz force
  • Induction
  • Maxwell’s equations and their applications
  • Electromagnetic waves
  • AC circuits
  • Magnetic and electric fields in matter

Optics And Wave Phenomena — 9%

  • Wave properties
  • Superposition
  • Interference
  • Diffraction
  • Geometrical optics
  • Polarization
  • Doppler effect

Thermodynamics And Statistical Mechanics — 10%

  • Laws of thermodynamics
  • Thermodynamic processes
  • Equations of state
  • Ideal gases
  • Kinetic theory
  • Ensembles
  • Statistical concepts and calculation of thermodynamic quantities
  • Thermal expansion
  • Heat transfer

Quantum Mechanics — 12%

  • Fundamental concepts
  • Solutions of the Schrödinger equation (including square wells, harmonic oscillators, and hydrogenic atoms)
  • Spin
  • Angular momentum
  • Wave function symmetry
  • Elementary perturbation theory

Atomic Physics — 10%

  • Properties of electrons
  • Bohr model
  • Energy quantization
  • Atomic structure
  • Atomic spectra
  • Selection rules
  • Black-body radiation
  • X-rays
  • Atoms in electric and magnetic fields

Special Relativity — 6%

  • Introductory concepts
  • Time dilation
  • Length contraction
  • Simultaneity
  • Energy and momentum
  • Four-vectors
  • Lorentz transformation
  • Velocity addition

Laboratory Methods — 6%

  • Data and error analysis
  • Electronics
  • Instrumentation
  • Radiation detection
  • Counting statistics
  • Interaction of charged particles with matter
  • Lasers and optical interferometers
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Fundamental applications of probability and statistics

Specialized Topics — 9%

  • Nuclear and Particle physics (e.g., nuclear properties, radioactive decay, fission and fusion, reactions, fundamental properties of elementary particles)
  • Condensed Matter (e.g., crystal structure, x-ray diffraction, thermal properties, electron theory of metals, semiconductors, superconductors)
  • Miscellaneous (e.g., astrophysics, mathematical methods, computer applications)

How many questions are there in the GRE Physics Subject Test?

Approximately 100 five-choice questions are in the GRE Physics Subject Test. A number of questions are grouped in sets and are answered based on descriptions of physical situations and experimental data, diagrams, or graphs.

Psychology Test

The GRE Psychology Subject Test has 6 fields, including biological, cognitive, social, developmental, clinical, and measurement/methodology/other. Each field has more specific contents or topics under it. These topics are the following [4]:

Biological (17–21%)

  1. Sensation and Perception (5–7%)
  • Psychophysics, Signal Detection
  • Attention
  • Perceptual Organization
  • Vision
  • Audition
  • Gustation
  • Olfaction
  • Somatosenses
  • Vestibular and Kinesthetic Senses
  • Theories, Applications and Issues
  1. Physiological/Behavioral Neuroscience (12–14%)
  • Neurons
  • Sensory Structures and Processes
  • Motor Structures and Functions
  • Central Structures and Processes
  • Motivation, Arousal, Emotion
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuromodulators and Drugs
  • Hormonal Factors
  • Comparative and Ethology
  • States of Consciousness
  • Theories, Applications and Issues

Cognitive (17–24%)

  1. Learning (3–5%)
  • Classical Conditioning
  • Instrumental Conditioning
  • Observational Learning, Modeling
  • Theories, Applications and Issues
  1. Language (3–4%)
  • Units (phonemes, morphemes, phrases)
  • Syntax
  • Meaning
  • Speech Perception and Processing
  • Reading Processes
  • Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
  • Bilingualism
  • Theories, Applications and Issues
  1. Memory (7–9%)
  • Working Memory
  • Long-term Memory
  • Types of Memory
  • Memory Systems and Processes
  • Theories, Applications and Issues
  1. Thinking (4–6%)
  • Representation (Categorization, Imagery, Schemas, Scripts)
  • Problem Solving
  • Judgment and Decision-Making Processes
  • Planning, Metacognition
  • Intelligence
  • Theories, Applications and Issues

Social (12–14%)

  • Social Perception, Cognition, Attribution, Beliefs
  • Attitudes and Behavior
  • Social Comparison, Self
  • Emotion, Affect, and Motivation
  • Conformity, Influence, and Persuasion
  • Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships
  • Group and Intergroup Processes
  • Cultural or Gender Influences
  • Evolutionary Psychology, Altruism, and Aggression
  • Theories, Applications and Issues

Developmental (12–14%)

  • Nature-Nurture
  • Physical and Motor
  • Perception and Cognition
  • Language
  • Learning, Intelligence
  • Social, Personality
  • Emotion
  • Socialization, Family and Cultural
  • Theories, Applications and Issues

Clinical (15–19%)

  1. Personality (3–5%)
  • Theories
  • Structure
  • Personality and Behavior
  • Applications and Issues
  1. Clinical and Abnormal (12–14%)
  • Stress, Conflict, Coping
  • Diagnostic Systems
  • Assessment
  • Causes and Development of Disorders
  • Neurophysiological Factors
  • Treatment of Disorders
  • Epidemiology
  • Prevention
  • Health Psychology
  • Cultural or Gender Issues
  • Theories, Applications and Issues

Measurement/Methodology/Other (15–19%)

  1. General (4–6%)
  • History
  • Industrial-Organizational
  • Educational
  1. Measurement and Methodology (11–13%)
  • Psychometrics, Test Construction, Reliability, Validity
  • Research Designs
  • Statistical Procedures
  • Scientific Method and the Evaluation of Evidence
  • Ethics and Legal Issues
  • Analysis and Interpretation of Findings

How many questions are there in the GRE Psychology Subject Test?

Approximately 205 five-choice questions are in the GRE Psychology Subject Test. An examinee must select the best answer among these options.

Who needs to take the GRE Subject Tests?

Applicants who want to stand out from others should take GRE Subject Tests. This test is a great way to show the admissions committee that an applicant has extensive knowledge on specific subjects.

Who accepts GRE Subject Tests?

Thousands of graduate schools accept GRE Subject Test scores. It is not usually part of the requirements for admission but committees consider it when submitted. When in doubt, it is best to callyour prospective university’s admissions office or department and ask if they accept GRE Subject Test scores.

Where can I take GRE Subject Tests?

There are test centers worldwide where you can take your GRE Subject Tests. You must select a date and a location before proceeding with registration.

When can I take GRE Subject Tests?

September, October, and April are the testing dates for the GRE Subject Tests.

How to register for GRE Subject Tests?

Registration for the GRE Subject Test can be done online and via mail enrollment.

How to register for the GRE Subject Test online?

To register for the GRE Subject Test online, follow these steps:

  1. Create an ETS account. Ensure that all information input is correct.
  2. Process payment. Payment can be done through online banking, E-check, and Paypal. Credit card/Debit card is also accepted which includes American Express, Diners Club International, Discover, JCB, MasterCard and Visa.

Here are some points to remember in registering for the GRE Subject Test online:

  • Only VISA and PayPal are the only accepted payment options in Nigeria. American Express, Discover, JCB, and MasterCard are not accepted.
  • Examinees who requested for a fee reduction cannot register online.
  • Test takers with disabilities or health-related needs who requested for accommodations cannot register online.

How to register for the GRE Subject Test through mail?

To register for the GRE Subject Test via mail, follow these steps:

  1. Form Completion. Download and complete the registration form, which can be downloaded from www.ets.org. Keep in mind that processing time can take up to four weeks.
  2. Payment and Form Mailing. Mail the registration form along with the payment. Payment can be via credit or debit card, money order or certified check.

Here are some points to remember in registering for the GRE Subject Test via mail:

  • VISA and voucher numbers are the only accepted payment options in Nigeria. American Express, Discover, JCB, and MasterCard are not accepted.
  • Remember that the registration form must be received by ETS on or before the registration deadline.

GRE Subject Tests: Registration Checklist [5]

Before beginning the registration process, review the checklist below to familiarize yourself with the various policies and procedures, available services and registration options.

  • Check the test fees.
  • Read the reschedule and cancellation policies.
  • Read and understand the ID requirements. You are responsible for bringing valid and acceptable ID when you report to a test center, and it must exactly match the first and last name you used when creating your account and registering for your test.
  • Check test dates to decide when you would like to take the test. Be sure to allow sufficient time for score reporting when scheduling your test so you can meet the admissions deadlines for the schools to which you are applying.
  • Create an ETS account to get the most up-to-date test center information. Not all test centers are open on all dates. Watch a quick video on how to create your ETS account.
  • Check the online registration system for the most up-to-date test center information. Not all test centers are open on all dates.
  • Determine which graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors you want to receive your scores. As part of your test fee, you may request that scores be sent to as many as four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors. You will choose score recipients when registering for a Subject Test.
  • Decide which ScoreSelect® option you will choose when registering for a Subject Test.
  • If you prefer to send score reports later or want to send score reports to more than four recipients, you can send additional score reports for a fee.
  • Learn about the FREE GRE® Search Service. You will have the option to sign up for the Search Service when you register for a Subject Test.

GRE Subject Tests: ID Requirements [6]

GRE Subject Test takers’ identification cards must meet the following requirements:

  • ID must be original. Photocopied documents will not be accepted and documents cannot be presented on mobile devices or other electronic devices.
  • ID must be issued by the government. It may be a national, state, or province card as long as it is recognized by the country where you are a permanent resident or a citizen.
  • ID must be valid. Expired documents will not be accepted.
  • ID must bear the first and last name exactly as written on the registration form.
  • ID must include a recent, recognizable photograph.
  • ID must include a signature.

Identification cards must be presented by all test takers both online and at a test center. All Identification Card criterias must be followed to be eligible for the GRE test.

GRE Subject Tests: Reschedule or Cancel Test

An examinee may reschedule the test via online through the ETS account, via phone, fax, or mail by calling GRE Services.

How many days before the exam can I reschedule the GRE Subject Test?

Reschedule no later than four days before the scheduled GRE Subject Test date. Test fee will be forfeited if rescheduled beyond the given days.

How much is the GRE Subject Test rescheduling fee?

$50 is the GRE Subject Test reschedule fee. Fees between the GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test are not exchangeable.

How much is the GRE Subject Test fee?

$150 is the cost of the GRE Subject Test.

How long are the GRE Subject Tests valid?

5 years. Scores from the GRE Subject Test are valid for up to five years.

How are GRE Subject Tests administered?

Paper-delivered is the test format of GRE Subject Tests.

How are the GRE Subject Tests scored?

An examinee’s raw score is calculated by the number of questions that are answered correctly. Questions that are answered incorrectly or left blank are counted as incorrect. Then, this raw score is converted to a scale by means of equating. Equating is a process where minor variations in the difficulty is accounted for. Thus, regardless of the edition of the test taken, a given scaled score reflects roughly the same level of ability; the same number of correct responses on different test forms will not ultimately come in the same scaled score.

A total score of 200 to 900 score scale, in 10-point increments is yielded for every Subject Test. The Biology and Psychology Tests yield subscores on a 20 to 90 score scale, in one-point increments.

How to prepare for GRE Subject Tests?

In preparing for the GRE Subject Tests, one must devote time and effort to succeed in passing this test. There are lots of resources available – online and offline – for those who aspire to prepare for the exam. Even the organization who administers the GRE Subject Tests, the Educational Testing Services (ETS), provides downloadable practice tests and sample questions.

Below are two ways to prepare for the GRE Subject Tests:

  1. Examine relevant college courses. Review old textbooks and notes to read up on the material.
  2. Take a practice GRE Subject Test, which is available on the ETS website (www.ets.org) for each test. This will help in becoming acquainted with the types of questions on the GRE Subject Test.

Where can I find study materials for the GRE Subject Tests?

Subject Test materials are available on the ETS website (www.ets.org). The organization offers a free practice book with full-length practice test and answer key. It also includes test-taking strategies and details to help an examinee understand how the test is scored.

How long is the testing time of GRE Subject Tests?

2 hours and 50 minutes is the total testing time of GRE Subject Tests. Compared to the GRE General Test, it has no separately timed sections.

Can I take GRE Subject Tests at home?

No, the GRE Subject Tests cannot be taken at home. It must only be taken in the accredited test centers. It is administered worldwide three times a year – September, October, and April.

Which GRE Subject Test do I need to take?

Take the GRE Subject Test that will demonstrate your expertise in your chosen field or program. This test is an elective GRE supplement test that is great to show the admissions committee that you are knowledgeable of a specific field.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for engineering?

Any of the three Subject Tests may be taken for engineering. It will only depend on the major to be taken.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for electrical engineering?

Physics Subject Test may be taken as a supplement test by aspiring electrical engineering students.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for chemical engineering?

Chemistry Subject Test may be taken as a supplement test for aspiring chemical engineering students.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for civil engineering?

Mathematics Subject Test may be taken as a supplement test by aspiring civil engineering students.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for masters?

Any of the four Subject Tests may be taken for masters. As a matter of fact, Master’s programs do not typically require Subject Test scores compared to PhD programs.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for my PhD?

Any of the four Subject Tests may be taken for PhD programs. This depends on the school and its admission requirements. The chosen program is also a factor.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for computer science?

The Mathematics Subject Test may be taken by aspiring computer science students. Before, there was a Computer Science Subject Test but it was discontinued by the ETS.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for pharmacy?

The Chemistry Subject Test may be taken by students who want to pursue a master’s degree in pharmacy.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for neuroscience?

The Psychology Subject Test is a great supplement test for aspiring neuroscience students.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for economics?

The Mathematics GRE Subject Test may be useful and necessary for students who would like to take a degree in economics.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for psychology?

The Psychology Subject Test may be taken as a supplement test by aspiring psychology students.

Which GRE Subject Test should I take for statistics?

The Mathematics Subject Test is usually required or recommended in statistics programs.

GRE Subject Tests: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Questions frequently asked about the GRE Subject Tests by test-takers are listed below:

What are the disability accommodations of GRE Subject Tests?

Extended testing time, extra breaks, assistance, and alternate test formats are given to test takers with disabilities or health-related needs.

The GRE Subject Tests testing accommodations for examinees with disabilities or health-related needs are further discussed below[7]:

Extended Testing Time

All tests are timed.

  • 25% (time and one-quarter)
  • 50% (time and one-half)
  • 100% (double time; documentation required)

Extra Breaks

Note: Breaks are not included in testing time (can be used for medication, snacks, trips to the restroom, etc.).

Assistance

  • Human Reader
  • Human Scribe

Assistance for Spoken Directions Only

  • Oral interpreter¹
  • Sign language interpreter²
  • Printed copy of spoken directions¹

Assistance for Note Taking

  • Braille slate and stylus²
  • Perkins brailler²

Alternate Test Formats

  • Braille2
  • Large-print test book
  • Large-print answer sheet
  • Recorded audio

1 Only applicants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

2 Only applicants who are blind or have low vision.

Can I retake GRE Subject Tests?

Yes, you may retake GRE Subject Tests. It may be taken as often as it is offered. Students who usually retake the exam are those whose scores are low and those who think that their true abilities are not well represented by their scores.

How are GRE Subject Tests different from GRE General Test?

The GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test have several differences. These are listed below:

Differences:

  • Type of Exam: The General Test is a standardized general test while the Subject Test is a specialized subject test.
  • Purpose: The GRE General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. On the other hand, the GRE Subject Test is taken to prove knowledge on a specific subject area.
  • Sections: The General Test has 3 sections – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment while there are 4 Subject Tests for specific subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Psychology.
  • Test Duration: The GRE General Test may be taken for 3 hours and 45 minutes whereas the GRE Subject Test for 2 hours and 50 minutes.
  • Test Format: In the General Test, test takers may choose whether to take the computer-based or paper-based exam. In the Subject Test, there are no other options but paper-based. 
  • Exam Dates: The GRE General Test – Computer-Based version can be taken throughout the year while the GRE General Test – Paper-Based version and the GRE Subject Test are conducted every April, September, and October. 
  • Cost: The GRE General Test costs $205 while the GRE Subject Test costs $105 per test.

How many GRE subject tests can be taken in a single test date?

Only one Subject Test may be taken per test date.

What schools require GRE Subject Tests?

Notre Dame, NYU, Yale and Stanford are top schools that have programs where the GRE Subject Tests are recommended to be taken. There are select programs that require a Subject Test score. Take note, however, that taking the GRE Subject Test is recommended only by schools and not required [8].

Are the GRE Subject Tests important?

Yes, GRE Subject Tests are important especially to those students who want to demonstrate their expertise in a specific area.

Are the GRE Subject Tests mandatory?

No, GRE Subject Tests are not mandatory unless it is required by graduate programs. More often than not, GRE Subject Tests are not required by most graduate programs.

Is the GRE Subject Test required in MS?

It depends on the university and program to be taken. A GRE Subject Test may be required if you are pursuing a degree that is not not relevant to your bachelor’s degree.

Is the GRE Subject Test required in PhD?

It depends on the university and program to be taken. A GRE Subject Test may be required to take that is relevant to your chosen discipline.

References:

  1. [1] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/chemistry
  2. [2] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/mathematics/
  3. [3] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/physics/
  4. [4] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about/content/psychology/
  5. [5] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/register/checklist/
  6. [6] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/register/id/
  7. [7] https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/register/disabilities/accommodations/
  8. [8]https://magoosh.com/gre/gre-general-vs-gre-subject/#:~:text=More%20often%20than%20not%2C%20however,a%20GRE%20Subject%20Test%20score.