Higher education and fellowship institutions in almost 100 countries worldwide use GRE Subject Test scores as part of their evaluation and decision-making for admission and scholarship awards.

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The GRE Subject Test is a viable admission test option for graduate school applicants who wish to gain a competitive advantage for admission to fellowship programmes in a variety of fields such as sciences and humanities.

What is a GRE Subject Test?

Each of the six GRE Subject Tests is a paper-delivered exam administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). While the GRE General Test assesses the critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for successful admission to graduate-level studies, and recently more and more for business and management programmes as an alternative to the GMAT, GRE Subject Tests are designed to measure the knowledge of prospective students in a particular field of study.

Test takers can choose between six specific subjects – Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. All students who have an undergraduate degree or extensive background in one of those fields can opt to take the respective test. Note that the GRE Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Test and the GRE Test in Computer Science were both discontinued several years ago and are no longer available.

Read: What Is a GRE Subject Test?

GRE Subject Test content, structure, and format

Regardless of the subject of your choice, there are some aspects that all GRE Subject Tests share. Firstly, all six subject tests are composed of multiple-choice questions divided into different sections. You can find more information on the specific sub-areas tested for each field of study in the table below.


Approximate number of questions




Cellular and Molecular Biology, Organismal Biology, and Ecology and Evolution



Analytical, Inorganic, Organic, and Physical Chemistry

Literature in English


Literary Analysis, Identification, Cultural and Historical Contexts, and History and Theory of Literary Criticism



Calculus, Algebra, and additional topics



Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Atomic Physics, Optics and Wave Phenomena, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Special Relativity, Laboratory Methods, and Specialised Topics



Biological, Cognitive, Social, Developmental, Clinical, and Measurement/Methodology/Other


Secondly, each exam takes 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete. Unlike the GRE General Test, this format does not time sections separately and you will be responsible for organising your testing time according to your own preferences. Do not worry if your chosen test features more questions than other subject tests – the length of the exam reflects the difficulty level of the content.

Read: What You Need to Know about the GMAT and GRE Tests

Finally, keep in mind that subject tests are delivered only three times a year – in September, October, and April. Prospective students should plan their schedule carefully and well in advance to be able to rely on having their final score when applying to international graduate programmes. If you are not happy with your results or if you do not show up on test day for some reason, you will have to sign up for the next available testing period, which may interfere with your overall application strategy.

How are GRE Subject Tests scored?

Every GRE Subject Test is graded on a 200-990 score scale. The Biology and Psychology exams also yield sub-scores for their respective sections.

Since this is a pencil-and-paper type of test, students are provided with a separate answer sheet where they need to mark their answers for each question. Every question has only one correct answer. Remember that points will not be deducted from your overall score for any incorrect answers so try to fill in your answer sheet right to the end. You can experiment with different time-saving strategies before the day of the test to see which one works for you. For example, the organisers of the exam suggest that it might be a good idea to leave the most difficult tasks for the end. “You are free to skip questions that you might have difficulty answering and come back to them later during the time provided,” they say on the ETS website. “You may change the answer to any question you recorded on the answer sheet by erasing it completely and then filling in the oval corresponding to your desired answer.

So how quickly will you be able to see your results on the test? According to ETS, your official score will be made available within five weeks of your exam and you can report your scores up to five years following your test date.

Upon registration for the exam, test takers may choose not to report their scores when they are available or to request that ETS releases their scores automatically to up to four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors. This service is covered by the test fee, but you can send scores to more programmes for an additional fee. If you have already taken a GRE Subject Test before, you can also decide which scores will be visible for educational institutions.

How should you prepare?

Naturally, test preparation is very different and personal for every student. Some people do well by completely immersing themselves in the content and the topic while others come up with a more systematic approach. Whatever your learning style is, you might want to start by revising your college or undergraduate subject matter thoroughly. Note down which areas of the field are more difficult for you, especially if some time has passed since the last time you revised the material. Still, do not feel overwhelmed as the GRE Subject Test covers a wide range of questions and will not go into too much detail. Check out the official practice tests by ETS to get a feel for the test structure and content.

Since the tests are available only three times per year, you do not have much flexibility for trial and error. In practical terms, it is better to invest all your effort in serious preparation, so that you perform at your best the first time you sit the test.

Read: When to Take the GRE Test

Do you feel ready to start your preparation now for the subject test of your choice? Research the requirements of the Masters programmes that appeal to you to be sure that the subject test score will be a strong addition to your application. Then, feel free to explore different preparation techniques and get ready to ace your test!