GRE or the Graduate Record Examinations is perhaps the most widely accepted exam for graduate students planning to take up their masters from abroad. Accepted across various top universities around the world, even for management programs, there is no wonder that you are planning to write one. However, most students find the presence of GRE Subject Tests rather confusing and want to understand which GRE Subject Tests they should write for pursuing a certain master’s program. For example, what is the GRE Subject Test a student should write for MS in Instrumentation and Design? Or the GRE Subject Tests for MS in Computer Software Engineering and so on. But before we answer which GRE subject to write for which specialization, let us understand what GRE Subject Tests are, their structure/ pattern as well as when to write them.
GRE Subject Tests
Simply put, GRE Subject Tests are specially written exams that aim at understanding the knowledge and skill of the candidate in a particular subject. For instance, a GRE Mathematics test would test the level of knowledge of the student in the said subject.
Unlike the GRE General Tests, GRE Subject Tests are specific and limited to one subject. These often have drawn out a syllabus that tests the students on various aspects of the subject. Again, citing the same example, a GRE Mathematics Test has sections for calculus, algebra and other topics like set theory, etc. Similarly, the GRE Chemistry test would have sections on organic, inorganic chemistry, etc.
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Designed to test the skill level in a particular subject area or field, these tests are an excellent way to showcase your understanding of a specific subject, as suited to the career of your choice.
How, When and Where are the Exams Conducted?
The GRE Subject Tests are paper-based tests and are conducted only thrice every year across designated test centres. They are conducted in
It is important to note that not all centres would have all the subject tests during the given months and students must check the centres near them for availability of the desired tests.
Kinds of Subject Tests
In total, four (4) GRE Subject Tests are available. These are:
- Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (discontinued)
- Biology (discontinued)
- Literature in English (discontinued)
Why write GRE Subject Tests
Now that we understand what these subject tests are, we move to the more important question - Why write them? While these tests are an excellent means to portray your skill level in a particular subject, they are often not “required” or “mandatory” at even the top tier universities. They might, at most recommend a GRE Subject Test but would not insist on it. Hence, while GRE General might be a requirement, GRE Subject Tests are optional. So should a student write them?
The answer is, that it would depend on what you want to showcase. A good GRE Subject Test score is the easiest way to prove your understanding of the subject. This in turn significantly improves your academic credibility and might add to the application on a whole. This is more the case if you believe that your academic background requires a bit of a boost or not.
While many people suggest that giving a GRE Subject Test improves your chances of selection, we recommend otherwise. If you believe that your application, on its own, has enough merit, you need not look for reinforcements. But, at the same time, if you are looking for applying for a rather intensive program which recommends (even though not require) a GRE subject test, it would certainly add to your chances of getting a seat in that program.
So sit back, take an honest look at your candidature, your background and also the University profile and decide whether or not to write it. Remember that you have a choice of not sharing the Subject Test score, so no harm in having a backup. Also, most of the PhD courses require a GRE Subject Test.
Which GRE Subject Tests to write?
This is perhaps the toughest question for many students and yet the simplest one to answer. You need to write the Subject Tests that refer to the subjects of choice. For pure sciences students, the answer is simple enough. Chemistry majors would write a Chemistry Test and Molecular Biology students would need a GRE Molecular Biology Test. The worry arises when we look at applied sciences and other such courses. For these students we recommend a combination of two or more GRE Subject Tests. This combination might be based on the core competencies required for those subjects.
For instance, a masters in mechanical engineering would necessarily require a student to have excellent understanding of mathematics and physics while a student desirous of pursuing masters in pharmacy might find a GRE in Molecular Biology and Chemistry to be more relevant.
Important to note:
Since the GRE Subject tests of Computer Science have been discontinued, students can opt for GRE Mathematics instead, since the principle behind both the subjects remains similar.
So, take your pick, decide which is the relevant Subject Test for your chosen field and accordingly prepare. All the best!
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