Have clear goals for subject tests

SUBJECT KNOWLEDGE: GRE scores are evaluated in combination with many indicators.

SUBJECT KNOWLEDGE: GRE scores are evaluated in combination with many indicators.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Murali Kumar K.


More about GRE, which may be a requirement for securing admissions to some institutions abroad.

Those considering repeating a test are advised that large score increases are unusual

Last week, we had discussed the significant aspects of the GRE General Test. Let us now look at the GRE Subjects tests in some detail.

These are paper-based tests in eight areas. The testing time is 170 minutes. Registered candidates will receive free study material. Preparation material is available on the GRE website.


The subjects for the tests and an outline of the contents is given below.

Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology: 180 questions. The questions will be distributed in the three respective areas in the ratio 36:28:36. Students interested in subjects such as microbiology and genetics may also take this test.

Biology: 200 questions divided equally among three areas — cellular & molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology & evolution.

Chemistry: 130 questions distributed roughly as Analytical 15 per cent, Inorganic 25, Organic 30 and Physical 30.

Computer Science: 70 questions. Software systems and methodology 40, Computer organisation and architecture 15, Theory and mathematical background 40, Other areas such as artificial intelligence, cryptology, and social issues 5.

Literature in English: 230 questions on literature in British Isles, U.S. and other countries. Major works including the Bible. Knowledge of writers typically studied in colleges. Interpretative questions to test the student’s ability to read, poetry, drama, fiction, and non-fiction prose perceptively. Literary analysis 40-55 per cent, Identification 15-20, Cultural and historical contexts 20-25, History and theory of literary criticism 10-15.

There is yet another classification. Continental, classical, and comparative literature through 1925 gets 5-10, British literature to 1660 including Milton gets 25-30, British literature 1660-1925 is allotted 25-35, American literature through 1925 gets 15-25, American, British, and World literature after 1925 is allotted 20-30.

Mathematics: 66 questions. Calculus 50, algebra 25, other topics (discrete mathematics and algorithmic processes, differential equations, topology and modern geometry, complex analysis, probability and statistics, logic and foundations, and numerical analysis) 25.

Physics: 100 questions. Classical mechanics 20, electromagnetism 18, atomic physics 10, optics and wave phenomena 9, quantum mechanics 12, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics 10, special relativity 6, laboratory methods 6, advanced topics (nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, and astrophysics) 9.

Psychology: 205 questions. Experimental 40, social 43, other topics (industrial-organisational, measurement and methodology) 17.

When you register

Remember the following when you register for the test:

Register early. Test centres fill up quickly. Appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Check the GRE website > to see the latest updates. Test scheduling forms can be downloaded from > .

All the test centres may not be open for all the dates. Availability of test centres is subject to changes.

You can register for the computerised general test online. Registration is open 24 hours a day. Your registration form and payment should reach ETS at least three weeks before your preferred test date. If there is no slot on your chosen date(s), you will get one on the next available date. Fee for the general test in India is $ 170. Payment for online registration can be made by credit card — American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, VISA. Payment can also be made by cheque payable to ETS-GRE drawn on a bank in the U.S. Postal address: GRE-ETS, P.O. Box 6000, Princeton, NJ, 08541-6000, U.S. If you are sending money by a cheque, do check the updates in the website and confirm the amount to be sent.

Your scores will be sent to as many as four graduate institutions without additional fee. You can furnish the names of your score recipients at the time of registration or on the test day. If you do not give the names at least on the test day, you will have to pay an additional amount of $ 20 for each recipient institution.

At the computer-based test centre, you can view your unofficial Verbal and Quantitative scores in the general test. The score of the analytical writing part can be known only through the score report. Official score reports will be mailed within 10-15 days to test takers and up to four institutions designated by you.

At the test centre, you will have to produce an acceptable document such as your passport or driving licence.

If you feel that your score is not in tune with your accomplishments, you are free to repeat the test. However, you may listen to how ETS advises ‘Repeat Test Takers.’

“Test takers are advised that it may be to an individual’s advantage to take a GRE test more than once if the individual thinks that the scores obtained do not reflect his or her true abilities. Those considering repeating a test are advised that large score increases are unusual, and for some test takers scores will go down. Score reports include all test results obtained within the past five-year period.

“There are several ways in which graduate departments can judge multiple scores for an individual (e.g., use average of all scores, use most recent score, use highest score). Using the mean score may be the best technique because it is the most objective. Whatever approach is adopted, it should be used consistently with all applicants.”

Validity of scores

There is no single measure that can reliably predict a candidate’s promise and potential for success in graduate study or other endeavour. The GRE scores are no exception to this general principle. That is why the scores are evaluated in combination with other indicators like the marks/grades in the degree examination, other distinctions, and attributes such as initiative, passion and commitment as reflected in the statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and so on.

GRE scores play a significant role in the appraisal of the candidate’s ability, during the process of graduate school admission. Goal-oriented preparation is essential for scoring high in this crucial test.

Free search service

You can register your name for this useful service on the GRE website when you take the computer-based general test. Alternatively, such registration can be done when you register for the paper-based general test or subject test.

If you provide adequate information about your background, this service, which is a web-based tool, will send you information about graduate programmes, admission requirements, financial aid opportunities, and fellowships that match your profile.

The more information you provide, the more likely schools will be able to find you. Participating graduate schools and fellowship sponsors can search the database including your GRE score in combination with the other significant elements of your profile.

Providing information about yourself is optional. However, this service helps you to broaden your search and find the best options.

The information provided by you for the search service may cover the following:

Contact details such as name, address, telephone number, e-mail id, gender, ethnic background, citizenship status.

Academic background: educational qualification (college, university, degree, specialisation/electives, scores/grade, year of graduation, special distinctions, project undertaken).

Educational objective/dream: desired field of graduate study, areas of further studies/research, full time/part-time, preferred geographic area of location, desired date of admission.

Forms of financial aid/fellowship/work study or other assistance expected.

Type of accommodation, transport facilities desired.

GRE is a favourite mantra of youngsters with an eye on higher education overseas, a passport to graduate programmes. A good score in GRE, backed by a meritorious academic history, and proficiency in the English language proven through TOEFL will open to you the doors of several universities abroad.

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