The GRE comes in two sets; The GRE General test and The GRE Subject Test. As an aspiring applicant for the GRE test, you may be wondering which of the GRE tests you should take. You may also be wondering what the difference is between these two tests. This article aims to shed more light on the difference between the tests and what test you should take.
The GRE General Test
Graduate schools have made the GRE General test a requirement for applying for admission into their school. Top-tier graduate schools regard this as a standard way to compare candidates. This way, they can objectively select suitable candidates they will award admissions into their various graduate programs. But it is to be noted that other requirements are also put into consideration. These requirements may include; Past GPA, work experience, etc. These schools do not rely on the GRE test scores alone, but it constitutes an essential requirement for admission.
The ETS has designed the GRE General test to evaluate applicants in various skills. They test applicants in the areas of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical and logical thinking and Analytical writing.
The verbal reasoning section is further sub-sectionalised into; Text Completion, Reading comprehension and Sentence equivalence. The quantitative reasoning section covers quantitative comparison and problem-solving. The Analytical Writing section asks applicants to “analyse an issue” and “analyse an argument” by giving them passages to work on.
The verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are made up of multiple-choice questions, while the analytical writing section consists of essay questions.
The verbal reasoning section generally covers the English language. It puts a lot of focus on vocabulary and grammar. The sentence completion sub-section requires an applicant to fill in the given blank spaces with the appropriate words. Therefore, as the name implies, you will be required to complete the incomplete sentences provided in the section. The empty spaces in each sentence could be one, two or three.
Sentence equivalence is also similar to test completion. But this section requires you to pick two different words to fill in one blank space. This then creates two sentences with the same meaning.
Reading comprehension, on the other hand, requires you to understand the whole text given. Afterwards, you’re expected to answer questions on it.
Analytical writing is somewhat similar to the verbal reasoning section in terms of vocabulary, but it is more of essay writing than the reading comprehension section. Here you are expected to arrive at a hypothesis after drawing logical inferences while answering your questions.
The GRE quantitative section covers mathematics. Questions from various topics in maths are asked, such as algebra, geometry, fractions, ratios, etc. It also makes use of two quantities, whereby the applicant is expected to compare them and identify the relationship between them. It is essential to pay attention to the guide provided by the ETS, as it covers all areas that the applicant will be tested in.
The GRE Subject Tests
It is rare for a graduate program to make this requirement. This is because, unlike the GRE General Test, the GRE subject tests only highlight an applicant’s ability in a specific area. Such areas could be; Maths, Literature, Biology, physics, etc.
The few exceptional cases where a GRE subject test may be a requirement are if the institution you are applying for is a top-tier university. Some of these universities include; Yale, Stanford, NYU and University of Notre Dame. To be sure whether or not the graduate program you wish to apply for, do value a GRE subject test score, you should contact the school for more information.
What GRE Subject Test to Choose
Some applicants wish to take the GRE subject test to boost their chances of getting admitted into a graduate program of their choice. If this is the case, choose a GRE subject test that is closely related to the field you are applying for. The ETS has provided GRE subject tests in six different subjects. They include subject tests in
The biology test evaluates an applicant’s knowledge in; evolution, ecology, organismal biology and cellular and molecular biology.
The chemistry test evaluates the applicant’s skill in organic and physical chemistry, analytical chemistry and inorganic chemistry.
The physics test evaluates the applicant’s knowledge in areas such as nuclear and particle physics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, wave phenomena, quantum mechanics and atomic physics, among others.
The literature-in-English test evaluates the applicant’s knowledge and skill in classical and comparative literature, British literature, Continental as well as world literature.
The Mathematics test tests the applicant’s experience in calculus, geometry, statistics, algebra, etc.
The psychology test measures the applicant’s ability in measurement and methodology, cognitive, social, biological, developmental and clinical psychology.
Preparing for a GRE subject test is pretty much the same procedure in preparing for a GRE General Test. You can decide to take either the GRE General Test, the GRE subject test or both. But this decision should be based on several factors. Some of these factors include; the requirement of the graduate school, the competitiveness of the school, etc.
If a graduate school only requires a GRE general test, then stick to the GRE General Test. If the graduate school you are applying for requires a GRE subject test, then take a GRE Subject Test. If the school is highly competitive, then taking a GRE Subject test in addition to the General test could boost your chances of getting the admission. But if the school is a mid-tier graduate school, then an additional GRE subject test may be unnecessary.
As an applicant, knowing what GRE to take is very important. But a few factors need to be put into consideration when making this decision. You need to ask questions like; what are the specific requirements for applying for a graduate program into such university? Does the school require an additional subject test? Is the school a top tier school? Once you answer these questions, you can now proceed to make your decision on whether you want to take one or both the GRE tests in the end.