GRE General vs. Subject Tests

he GRE is a standardized test that evaluates Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing in graduate school applicants. It is accepted by thousands of graduate and business programs around the world. Some programs also require specific GRE subject tests. The seven subject tests are intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in these disciplinces: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. The GRE Computer Science Test was discontinued in April 2013.

GRE Subject Tests provide a common measure for comparing student qualifications, and are intended to supplement undergraduate records, recommendations, and other qualifications for graduate-level study. Subscores indicate strengths and weaknesses in an individual student's preparation and may also be useful for guidance and placement purposes. While the GRE General Test is used primarily as a criterion for admission to gradute programs, the GRE Subject Tests also enable graduate programs to begin customizing student curricula to build on their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

ETS, the administrator of the GRE General Test as well as the GRE Subject Tests, is continually revising its testing material to better reflect the needs of graduate programs and the modern economy. Thousands of researchers collaborate with universities around the country and with top scientists around the world to ensure that the content of each subject test will be useful both to the individuals who take it and to the institutions that accept it. Because the frontiers of education in graduate school are constantly changing, it is important to ensure that the tests are also making minor adjustments to help students prepare to make meaningful creative contributions in their chosen field of study.

Subject tests are offered at paper-delivered test centers worldwide three times per year, in September, October, and April. They are accepted by thousands of graduate schools and departments. Although scores may not be required for a particular program, admissions committees are likely to consider the scores if they are submitted.

The Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology test consists of 170 multiple choice questions in three sections: Biochemistry, Cell Biology, and Molecular Biology and Genetics. The Biology test consists of 190 multiple choice questions in three sections: Cellular and Molecular Biology, Organismal Biology, and Ecology and Evolution. The Chemistry test consists of 130 multiple-choice questions in four sections: Analytical, Inorganic, Organic, and Physical Chemistry. The Literature in English test consists of approximately 230 multiple-choice questions in four sections: Literary Analysis, Identification, Cultural and Historical Contexts, and History and Theory of Literary Criticism. The Mathematics test consists of 66 questions drawn from Calculus, Algebra, and additional topics. The Physics test consists of 100 questions covering Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Atomic Physics, Optics and Wave Phenomena, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Special Relativity, Laboratory Methods, and Specialized Topics. The Psychology test consists of 205 questions covering Experimental, Social, and General Psychology topics.

ETS Major Field Tests

ETS Major Field tests are designed to measure undergradate accomplishment in a major field of study. ETS has developed tests to cover the topics of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Economics, Literature in English, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. In addition, ETS also has tests for students who have earned an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree in business. Institutions use the Major Field Tests to evaluate students mastry, to assess the effectiveness of different major programs, and to improve curricula and instruction methods. Students typically take their Major Field Tests in their final year of study after completing the majority of their required coursework.

In addition to measuring factual knowledge in a subject area, Major Field Tests also evaluate students' ability to analyze and solve problems, understand relationships, and interpret material from their major field of study. ETS offers comprehensive national data for their tests, enabling institutions to evaluate student performance and compare the effectiveness of their programs to other similar institutions worldwide. While the GRE General Test and GRE Subject tests are intended to benefit students by helping them gain access to graduate education and networking, the ETS Major Field Tests are more useful to undergraduate institutions and business schools who are looking to assess their own students, compensate for any weaknesses in their instruction, and increase their international competitiveness in the education market.

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