GRE® Subject Matter Test in Literature in Biology

Completing the GRE® Subject Matter Test in Biology will help the prospective graduate student showcase his or her knowledge and expertise in upper division Biology subjects.

All GRE® Subject Matter Tests are accepted at most colleges and universities and offer additional standardized information about the applicant. While a Subject Matter Test may not necessarily be required for admission, an exceptional score in a certain subject can serve to elevate the student’s summary and records during the graduate admissions process.

The GRE® Subject Matter Test in Biology contains approximately 200 five-choice questions and is assembled into 3 divisions: ecology and evolution, cellular and molecular biology, and organismal biology.

Each of the three parts is accorded equal weighting on the test scoring (approximately 33 to 34% for each part), but each part may not necessarily consist of exactly the same number of questions.

Some of the questions will utilize diagrams, experimental results, and laboratory and actual situations and will be in groups of questions near the end of the test. These questions will be grouped together by subject and the evidence used for the pool of questions.

Questions may require the interpretation of quantitative mathematical models. While certain principles of the three parts may be assumed to be interconnected, some questions may consider sensitivities to existing environmental concerns. Students will be awarded a total test score and also three subscores, one for each of the three different divisions of the test.

  • Part One, cellular and molecular biology, includes questions on: cell structure, function, compounds, enzymes, membranes, cell surfaces, organelles, cytoskeletons, cell cycles, and growth; genetics and molecules, chromosomes, genomes, gene expression and regulation (mechanisms and effects), immunobiology, viruses, bacteriophages, and recombinant DNA.
  • Part Two, organismal biology, consists of questions relating to animal and plant structure, function, organization, development, reproduction, growth and behavior; diversity of life, archaea, bacteria, protista, fungi, animalia, and plantae.
  • Part Three contains questions regarding ecology: environmental organism interaction, behavioral ecology, populations, structures and functions, communities, ecosystems; and evolution: genetic variability, evolutionary processes, and consequences as well as history of life.

While the test is lengthy, no student is expected to be familiar with all subject matter or be able to answer all questions correctly. Many short, multiple choice questions, along with the lengthy scope of the test, have been proven to work to the student’s advantage in allowing the student to fairly, accurately, and systematically evaluate his or her knowledge of the test material. The student may obtain a maximum score on the GRE® Subject Matter Test in Biology without actually answering all the questions correctly.

The GRE® Subject Matter Test is offered worldwide in October, November, and April. Registration may be completed online at: To begin the registration process, create a My GRE® Account and choose a date and a testing location, making certain that the chosen test date will be sufficiently early enough that your test scores will be received by the educational institution in time to be considered as part of your college application. Registration and payment may also be completed by mail by downloading and completing the registration form from the GRE® Bulletin online.

Regular registration for a test in the United States, U.S. Territories, and Puerto Rico is $140 US per Subject Test; all other locations, $160 US. Payment may be made by credit or debit card, PayPal, E-Check, money orders, certified checks, and Western Union, or by mailing a check to ETS-GRE. Payments may be made in British pounds, Japanese yen, Euro, or Canadian dollar. Late registration can be requested online for an additional fee of $25 up to one week after the regular registration deadline. Standby or change (changing test center OR changing subject test) fee is $50 per situation. Scores may be requested by phone ($12) or you may request an additional score report ($23 per recipient).

All Subject Matter Test preparation study materials are free and are sent to the registrant after registration is complete. Service Candidate Profile Listing is also free for registrants, matching your profile with fellowship sponsors.

On the day of the test, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before the test is scheduled to begin. Late arriving test takers may not be admitted to the test site nor will fees be refunded. Bring with you: your admissions ticket, 2 forms of acceptable identification, 3 or 4 sharpened number 2 pencils, and a good eraser. You will mark your answers on a machine scored answer sheet separate from the test booklet. You may not bring mechanical pens or pencils, any food or drink, tobacco, weapons, cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, or any electronic devices. Personal items other than your identification are not allowed and no personal storage will be offered. Scarves, hats, jackets, etc., may be searched. Seating is assigned. The test will take 2 hours and 50 minutes; allow for up to 3 1/2 hours total time at the testing site. If you require any health-related special accommodations, these must be requested in advance. The procedures for this request are available on the GRE® ETS website.

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by Enoch Morrison | Last Updated: January 9, 2019