Preparing and Taking a GRE Subject Test
Before you enter graduate school, your college may require you to take a test known as a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) to gauge your understanding of a certain subject. Your GRE scores can attest to your level of knowledge and skill in various courses, and help your advisor select the appropriate classes for you.
Think of the GRE as an opportunity to supplement your other school records and bolster your application for graduate school. You can take a GRE in your major field or demonstrate your proficiency in one of the other subjects found in this list of available GREs:
- Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
- Computer Science
- Literature in English
Registering and Paying for the Test
You can take the GRE Subject Tests as often as they are given, for a maximum of three times per year. Testing months are April, October, and November, and you can find specific dates here. All test centers are paper-based.
You may register for a GRE online or by mail, unless you fall into one of several special categories. Always make sure you meet the detailed standards for identification when you walk into the testing center, and remember the name on your valid ID will have to match your registration name exactly.
Current fees for GRE Subject Tests and ancillary services like changing your test center or obtaining a score by phone are found on this page. The Subject Test alone costs $150, wherever you take it. If you cancel your test appointment by the current deadline, you will receive a refund in the amount of half the cost of the test itself. Rescheduling costs $50, late registration is $25, and switching from one subject to another is $50.
As you can see, the GRE fee schedule is designed to take advantage of the indecisive and disorganized student who’s prone to making sudden changes in plans. Unless you really want to give Educational Testing Service (ETS) extra money, pay attention to every detail in scheduling and taking the test, and avoid altering your registration once it’s completed.
Preparation and Other Tips
You can download a practice test booklet for each of the GRE Subject Tests here, and registration is not required to do that. The booklets are free, and they present the material in the same way you would find it presented in a live test. It will reward your effort if you familiarize yourself thoroughly with the test’s format, because that will speed you along and give you extra time to consider your answers while at the test center.
The practice test will also give you a good idea of the level of knowledge expected. If you find yourself floundering midway, you’ll know a complete review of your coursework is in order. Each practice test booklet has an introductory section about the development and content of the test, with sections on how to prepare for and take the test. You cannot go wrong using the strategies recommended by those who know the test best, the educators who devised it.
ETS has a very strict set of procedures that are followed at the test centers, to ensure the integrity of the tests’ administration. There is a long list of items that are not permitted inside, such as prohibited electronic gear (a watch is acceptable but a phone is not, even during breaks).
You will have 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete a test, with no sections that are timed separately. Don’t spend too much time on one troublesome question, because all questions carry the same weight, but work rapidly. Random guessing can hurt your score, because incorrect answers are subtracted from your correct ones. Therefore, not answering a question will not add points, but neither can it remove points.
The practice test booklets contain grading scales. You can use them to determine how many points you’ll need to reach in your raw score to fall into a certain range of scaled scores. For example, on a test with 177 questions you would need a raw score between 129 and 131 to receive a scaled score of 700.
You can obtain your score a month after the test date if you view it online or call in for it (the call costs $12), but you’ll have to wait longer if you insist on the mailed version, which will go out eleven days after the score becomes available online.