What Subjects are on the GRE?

Home » Blog » GRE Prep » What Subjects are on the GRE?

What Subjects are on the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a condition for admission in several graduate schools. The GRE is a standardised exam and is offered in two different categories: The General GREs and the Subject GREs.

The General GRE is the most widely written version. It is written by all applicants to grad school regardless of programme and is divided into three sections – Verbal section, Quantitative section and Analytical Writing. 

[wptb id=25435]

On the other hand, the Subject GRE, which is not as popular as the General GRE, is written by applicants with a background or undergraduate knowledge in a specific area. Applicants write the Subject exams to prove their proficiency and knowledge in a particular subject to bolster their admission chances. What subject is on the GRE then? Currently, the available Subject GRE are:

  •    Biology
  •    Literature in English
  •    Psychology
  •    Chemistry
  •    Physics
  •    Mathematics

The ETS used to offer subject exams on Computer Science and Biochemistry, Cell and molecular biology but stopped offering them in April 2013 and December 2016 respectively.

The GRE subject exams are quite different from the General GRE, which is scored over 340 and differs subject to subject. To render a better understanding, here is a breakdown of all subjects offered and their scoring method.


This exam has about 188 multiple choice questions and is divided into three sections – Cellular and Molecular Biology, Organismal Biology and Ecology and Evolution respectivelyThe first section contains topics like cell function, the structure of cells, DNA as well as plant and animal viruses. The next section includes questions about reproduction and development of plants and animals and the interaction of plants and animals with their environment. The last section sees that the exam takers are tested on their knowledge of the evolutionary process with behavioural ecology and ecosystems.

All sections mentioned above take an equal percentage of the exam at 33-34% each. Also, apart from the total score, a subscore in each section is reported.

What Subjects are on the GRE


This exam is for students to test their knowledge of superb literary works. It has a total of 230 questions and is divided into four sections: Literary Analysis, Identification, Cultural and Historical Contexts and History and theory of Literary Criticism in that order.

The Literary Analysis section requires the students to interpret passages in both prose and poetry, to recognise the conventions and genres, the grammatical structures and rhetorical strategies of the passages, the allusions, references as well as meaning and tone of the passage.

This section is about 40-55% of the exam.

The Identification section wants the students to recognise the date, author or work by the style or content and is about 15-20% of the exam.

The Cultural and Historical Contexts section takes about 20-25% of the exam. It challenges the students’ literary, cultural and intellectual historical knowledge expecting them to recognise an author or an academic work by a critical statement or biographical information. The History and Theory of Literary criticism section are for the identification and analysis of different critical and theoretical approaches, looking at their characteristics and methods and counts for 10-15% of the test.

The literary-historical scope of the exam covers Continental, Classical and Comparative Literature through 1925, British Literature to 1660(including Milton), British Literature 1660-1925, American Literature through 1925 and American, British and World Literature after 1925.


This exam contains about 205 questions and is categorised in 6 sections: Biological, Cognitive, Social, Developmental, Clinical and Measurement/Methodology/Other. This exam tests on the history of psychology as well as their analysis of relationships with their ability to apply psychological principles to conclude research data. Behavioural neuroscience, memory, perception and abnormal psychology are also included. Each section mentioned above cover 17-21%, 17-24%, 12-14%, 12-14%, 15-19% and 15-19% respectively.

What Subjects are on the GRE


This exam has about 130 multiple choice questions and covers Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physical Chemistry. These four sections cover the four fields of Chemistry and the interrelationships between them. Questions on Organic and Physical Chemistry covers the bulk of the questions at 30% each while Analytical and Inorganic Chemistry covers 15% and 25% respectively.


The Physics exam aims to know the candidate’s grasp of the fundamental principles of Physics as well as their ability to use those principles to solve problems. The exam has about 100 questions and has nine sections: Classical Mechanics covers 20% of the questions, Electromagnetism 18%, Optics and Waves Phenomena 9%, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics 10%, Quantum Mechanics 12%, Atomic Physics 10%, Special Relativity 6%, Laboratory Methods 6% and Specialised Topics round it off at 9%. For this exam, candidates must be knowledgeable on Coordinate Systems, partial differential equations, vector algebra and calculus.


The Mathematics exam has about 66 questions with 50% of these questions on Calculus and its applications, Algebra and Additional Topics round it off at 25% each. Both integral and differential calculus and concepts of calculus are to be applied for this section. Calculus-based applications, connections with geometry, trigonometry, and differential equations are all in the Calculus section. Basic, Linear and Abstract algebra is in the algebra section, and the Additional Topics section has questions in probability, logic, set theory and algorithms, among others.

What Subjects are on the GRE

When to take the Subject GRE and how long is it for?

The Subject GREs are paper-based and are available to be taken at test centres worldwide three times a year. In:

  • September
  • October
  • April

The GRE Subject exam, unlike the General test, does not have specified time allotted to each section and is for two and a half hours without a break.

Subject GRE Scoring System

These exams are scored collectively, and specific subjects release the subscores for sections to indicate the strength and weakness of the individual, and this may be used for placement purposes. The Subject GRE is scored on a scale of 200-900 in a 10 point increment. The scores are available after a month of taking the exam and can be sent to the Grad school after 10-12 days of release. The scores can be sent to 4 Grad schools for free with a fee of $27 for each additional Grad school. These scores are available for use for five years.

Are the Subjects GRE Necessary?

The Subjects GRE is not a requirement by Universities per se but can help bolster the applicant’s application as it proves their intelligence and knowledge about a specific subject. It also gives them an edge over applicants who only wrote the General GRE. For an exceptionally competitive graduate course, it can help tip the tide in the applicant’s favour and is advisable for candidates to write as far as they have enough time to prepare for it. For a course that is not so competitive, however, it is not advisable due to the extra stress and cost it comes with.

What Subjects are on the GRE


The Subject GRE is different from the General GRE and is written by applicants who want to show their knowledge of a specific subject. It can help boost their Graduate school application and give them an edge over other applicants that only wrote the General GRE. What subjects are on the GRE? They are Biology, Physics, and Literature in English, Mathematics, Psychology and Chemistry.

About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.