GRE Subject Test in Chemistry: What’s Tested

There are two GRE tests administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). These are the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Test. Prospective students in graduate studies taking admission tests to universities may take the GRE General Test alone. They may also be required by other admissions officers to submit additional GRE Subject Test scores along with the results of entrance exams.

In this article, the main topic will be the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry. Similar to other subject tests, it is required only by some universities for specific programs for admission. This test is designed for students who have studied chemistry in college or have taken extensive coursework in the subject and have accumulated knowledge about the subject over time. The content of the test focuses on the four traditional divisions of chemistry and their relationships. As a result of these connections, some questions may cover multiple aspects of chemistry.

Read More: Educational Testing Service (ETS)

What does the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry Test measure?

The Chemistry knowledge and skills gained over a long period of time, usually in high school, are measured in the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry.

Content Areas Tested on the GRE Chemistry Test

As mentioned previously, the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry covers four broad areas: Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physical Chemistry. According to ETS, the exam’s must-know GRE Chemistry topics, subtopics, and percentages are as follows:

Analytical Chemistry – 15%

  • Data Acquisition and Use of Statistics — Errors, statistical considerations
  • Environmental Applications
  • Heterogeneous Equilibria — Gravimetric analysis, solubility, precipitation titrations, chemical separations
  • Homogeneous Equilibria — Acid-base, oxidation-reduction, complexometry
  • Instrumental Methods — Electrochemical methods, spectroscopic methods, chromatographic methods, thermal methods, calibration of instruments
  • Radiochemical Methods — Detectors, applications
  • Solutions and Standardization — Concentration terms, primary standards

Inorganic Chemistry – 25%

  • Chemistry of the Main Group Elements — Electronic structures, occurrences and recovery, physical and chemical properties of the elements and their compounds
  • Chemistry of the Transition Elements — Electronic structures, occurrences and recovery, physical and chemical properties of the elements and their compounds, coordination chemistry
  • Concepts of Acids and Bases — Brønsted-Lowry approaches, Lewis theory, solvent system approaches
  • Covalent Molecular Substances — Lewis diagrams, molecular point groups, VSEPR concept, valence bond description and hybridization, molecular orbital description, bond energies, covalent and van der Waals radii of the elements, intermolecular forces
  • General Chemistry — Periodic trends, oxidation states, nuclear chemistry
  • Ionic Substances — Lattice geometries, lattice energies, ionic radii and radius/ratio effects
  • Metals and Semiconductors — Structure, band theory, physical and chemical consequences of band theory
  • Special Topics — Organometallic chemistry, catalysis, bioinorganic chemistry, applied solid-state chemistry, environmental chemistry

Organic Chemistry – 30%

  • Functional Groups — Preparation, reactions, and interconversions of alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, dienes, alkyl halides, alcohols, ethers, epoxides, sulfides, thiols, aromatic compounds, aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids and their derivatives, amines
  • Organometallics — Preparation and reactions of Grignard and organolithium reagents, lithium organocuprates, and other modern main group and transition metal reagents and catalysts
  • Reaction Mechanisms — Nucleophilic displacements and addition, nucleophilic aromatic substitution, electrophilic additions, electrophilic aromatic substitutions, eliminations, Diels-Alder and other cycloadditions
  • Reactive Intermediates — Chemistry and nature of carbocations, carbanions, free radicals, carbenes, benzynes, enols
  • Structure, Bonding and Nomenclature — Lewis structures, orbital hybridization, configuration and stereochemical notation, conformational analysis, systematic IUPAC nomenclature, spectroscopy (IR and 1H and 13C NMR)
  • Special Additional Topics — Resonance, molecular orbital theory, catalysis, acid-base theory, carbon acidity, aromaticity, antiaromaticity, macromolecules, lipids, amino acids, peptides, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, terpenes, asymmetric synthesis, orbital symmetry, polymers

Physical Chemistry – 30%

  • Dynamics — Experimental and theoretical chemical kinetics, solution and liquid dynamics, photochemistry
  • Quantum Chemistry and Applications to Spectroscopy — Classical experiments, principles of quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular structure, molecular spectroscopy
  • Thermodynamics — First, second, and third laws, thermochemistry, ideal and real gases and solutions, Gibbs and Helmholtz energy, chemical potential, chemical equilibria, phase equilibria, colligative properties, statistical thermodynamics

These are the topics covered in the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry. The test contains questions from a variety of different branches of chemistry. 15% of the questions will be from analytical chemistry, 25% from inorganic chemistry, 30% from organic chemistry, and 30% from physical chemistry. These are further subdivided into a variety of subtopics.

What is the exam format of the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry?

Paper-based test. This exam, like the rest of the GRE Subject Tests, this exam is administered on paper. As opposed to the GRE General Test, where a student can choose between a computer-delivered test or a paper-delivered test.

What is the testing time for the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry?

2 hours and 50 minutes are given to test takers to answer all 130 questions on the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry.

How is the GRE Chemistry Test scored?

The raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) will be converted to a 200–990 point scale.

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

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

Who should take the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry?

Applicants who want to stand out from others should take the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry. This test is a great way to show the admissions committee that a student has extensive knowledge in the field of study, specifically the field of chemistry. In very rare cases, a graduate program will ask for a score on the GRE Chemistry. When it is required, it is typically for admission to a graduate program at a prestigious university. An example of a program that might require GRE Chemistry is the chemical engineering program.

How to prepare for the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry?

In preparing for the GRE Chemistry Exam, 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 that administers the GRE Subject Tests, the Educational Testing Services (ETS), provides downloadable practice tests and sample questions.

Below are ways to prepare for the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry.

1. Look for a GRE tutor.

There are GRE Subject Tests tutors online that offer one-on-one services. Some even offer in-person classes. For GRE Chemistry, you might want to look for someone who is really knowledgeable about the topics. For example, chemistry instructors or chemistry degree holders.

2. Answer chemistry practice tests.

Complete practice tests that contain chemistry practice questions similar to the actual exam. It is vital to make sure that the practice test you are taking contains chemistry questions similar or close to the types of questions there are in the test. You should also look for a resource that gives detailed explanations on how to get the correct answer.

3. Enroll in a prep program.

There are course providers that offer comprehensive reviews for students who aspire to take the GRE Chemistry Exam. These providers offer different features, so make sure to check each one and look for the best one that fits your needs. Also, don’t forget to look for a program that gives detailed answer explanations.

4. Track review progress.

Taking a diagnostic test will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses prior to starting your preparation. Record all your scores, topics covered, and everything that you study during your review. This helps you keep track of the things you must know.

To prepare for the GRE Chemistry test, examine relevant college courses. Examine old textbooks and notes to brush up on the subject. Make sure to organize your review notes so that it will be easy for you to read back and find topics you might have forgotten.

How to answer the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry?

Below are ways to answer the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry on the test day.

  • Keep your cool when faced with difficult questions.

All questions on the Chemistry GRE Subject Test are equally weighted. That’s why do not spend too much time on difficult questions. A question that takes more than a few minutes to answer should be marked for later and then move on to the next one.

  • Respond to every question.

On the Chemistry GRE Subject Test, there is no penalty for incorrect answers, so if you don’t know the answer to a question, make a guess.

  • Answer the test as fast as possible.

First, work quickly through the test, marking questions you don’t know how to answer any questions you think you could answer with a little more time. After you’ve answered the easy questions, go back and tackle the tougher ones.

  • Make use of the test booklet and answer sheets.

The test booklet can be used to take notes and work out problems, but don’t forget to write down your answers on the answer sheet as well.

What is the best Chemistry book to prepare for the GRE Subject Test?

The GRE Chemistry Test Practice Book by ETS is the best study material to use during the review. This practise book contains one full-length GRE Chemistry Test and test-taking strategies. It helps students become familiar with the test structure and test content. This Chemistry prep book also helps students become familiar with the test instructions and answering procedures.

Do I have to memorize the periodic table for the GRE Chemistry Test?

No, you do not have to memorize the periodic table for the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry. The test booklet includes a periodic table and a table of information containing various physical constants and a few conversion factors between SI units. When needed, the text of the question includes additional values for physical constants.

How are GRE Subject Tests different from GRE General Test?

One of the similarities between the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Tests is that both tests are asked by universities when applying for admission to postgraduate studies. However, these tests also have several differences. These are listed below.


  • 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 skills, quantitative reasoning skills, analytical writing skills, and critical thinking skills. On the other hand, the GRE Subject Test is taken to prove knowledge of a specific subject area. Both tests are submitted to universities for application to graduate studies.
  • 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.

Are calculators needed on the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry?

No, you do not need a calculator for the GRE Subject Test in Chemistry. The test questions are designed to make mathematical manipulations as simple as possible. As a result, neither calculators nor logarithm tables are required. If a problem’s solution requires the use of logarithms, the required values are included in the question.