gre subject tests the ultimate guide

The GRE Subject Test Ultimate Guide

GRE Subject Tests are elective GRE supplement tests that demonstrate your expertise in a particular field. The GRE Subject Tests currently offered are:

Each test is 2 hours and 50 minutes long, and is offered at GRE paper delivered test centers in April, September, and October of each year. GRE Subject Tests are offered in a multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil format. You can take multiple GRE subject tests, but only one per test date. Each test costs $150.

COVID-19 GRE SUBJECT TEST UPDATE: GRE Subject Tests are not offered in an online, at-home format. They can only be taken at in-person GRE testing centers.

Who should take GRE subject tests?

GRE Subject Tests are intended for graduate school applicants who have majored or taken extensive coursework in the subject of the test. Some graduate programs require you to take a specific GRE Subject Test to be considered for admission, but even programs that don’t require a GRE Subject Test will usually consider your score in their holistic review of your application. 

How are GRE Subject Tests scored?

The number of questions you answer correctly is converted to a 200-990 point score, with scores reported in 10 point increments. Be aware, though, that although all tests use the 200-990 point scale, scores should not be compared across subject tests. For example, a 660 score on the Psychology GRE Subject Test is not equal to a 660 on the Literature in English GRE Subject Test. There are no points subtracted for incorrect answers, so answer every question. 

Several tests also report one or more subscores in addition to the overall score. Research your individual test to find out more information about subscoring. 

As with the general GRE, you have the option to identify which scores you want to send to institutions through the ETS ScoreSelect® option. You have the option to cancel your scores after the test, but there’s rarely a need to do this, even if you feel you tested very poorly, since ScoreSelect® allows you to pick and choose what scores get sent out. Your GRE Subject Test scores are valid for 5 years following your test date.

How can I prep for a GRE subject test?

Remember that GRE Subject Tests are designed for students who have already completed extensive coursework in the test field. ETS says, “GRE Subject Test questions are designed to measure skills and knowledge gained over a long period of time.” Thus, deciding last-minute to take a GRE subject test and cramming quickly will likely be unfruitful. 

The two best ways to prep for a GRE Subject Test are as follows:

  1. Review your related college courses. Skim old textbooks and notes to freshen up on the content. 
  2. Take a practice GRE Subject Test, available for each test through ETS. This will help you familiarize yourself with the types of questions on the GRE Subject Test.

GRE Subject Test Registration

You can register for GRE Subject Tests online or by mail. ETS periodically updates the testing date options coinciding registration deadlines, late registration deadlines, and scores back dates on their website

Online GRE Subject Test Registration

  1. Create an ETS Account. Be sure the name you use to create this account exactly matches the name on the photo identification documents you’ll use for admission into your test(s).  
  2. On your ETS Account homepage, click the “Register / Find Test Centers, Dates” button and follow the steps to choose a test, test date, and test location.
  3. Acceptable forms of payment include major credit cards, e-checks drawn against U.S. bank accounts, and vouchers. 
  4. If you require accommodations on your GRE Subject Test, you must register by mail. Online registration is unavailable for testers requiring accommodations. 

Mail GRE Subject Test Registration

  1. Complete the Registration Form for the GRE Subject Tests and mail it with payment to the address printed on the form. ETS must receive the form and payment by the registration deadline
  2. Acceptable forms of payment include major credit cards, e-checks drawn against U.S. bank accounts, and vouchers. 

Learn more about GRE subject tests: