The GRE Subject Tests
GRE subject tests are designed to test your knowledge of a particular subject area to determine if you have a foundation strong enough for graduate-level work. In order to perform well on a subject test, you should have a considerable background in the particular subject area—the background you would be expected to have if you had majored in the subject.
The weight that a subject test carries in admissions decisions varies considerably from school to school and program to program. However, many schools use subject tests, along with the GRE and GPA, as a means of winnowing applicants. Failing to score well can damage your admission chances, especially for a competitive program.
Should You Take a GRE Subject Test?
Not every graduate school or program requires a subject test, so check with your target schools. But even if not required to do so, you should consider taking a subject test if you are prepared and think you score well. This is especially true if you are applying to graduate programs that are in a field other than your undergraduate major or if there is some significant weakness elsewhere in your application.You can gauge your performance on a subject test by taking a released one under test conditions. These are available from ETS and in many bookstores.
The Basics on GRE Subject Tests
Except for the music test, subject tests consist exclusively of multiple choice questions designed to assess knowledge of the core areas included in the typical undergraduate curriculum. On the tests, you'll earn 1 point for each multiple choice question that you answer correctly, but lose 1/4 point for each incorrectly answered question. Unanswered questions are not counted in the scoring. This raw score is then converted into a scaled score, which can range from 200 to 990. The range varies from test to test.
Some subject tests also contain subtests, which provide more specific information about your strengths and weaknesses. The same questions that contribute to your subtest scores also contribute to your overall score. Subtest scores, which range from 20 to 99, are reported along with the overall score.
Registration for GRE Subject Tests
ETS has tentatively said that GRE Subject Tests will generally be administered in April, October and November of each year. Check with ETS to find out specific test dates. It's recommended that you take the general test and your subject test(s) on different days. Schedule them when you have had enough time to prepare and can still meet the application deadlines.