The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a global level entrance test that is considered a criterion for admission to universities abroad. More than 1000 universities accept the GRE score globally, which makes this test more competitive. Most importantly, proper preparation and planning is required to score high in the GRE exam. The first step towards your preparation is understanding the GRE syllabus. The test is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is offered in two formats — General test and Subject test.
The syllabus helps you understand the content of questions asked in the exam. Besides, the GRE subject tests and General tests have separate syllabuses. First, let us take a look at the general test syllabus.
GRE General Test Syllabus
The GRE General test consists of six measures — one analytical writing section, two quantitative sections, two sections of verbal reasoning, and an additional unscored section. Analytical writing always appears first in the exam, while the other sections follow any order.
Here’s a brief overview of each section in the GRE syllabus 2023.
Analytical Writing – The Analytical Writing section consists of two separately timed writing tasks — Analyze an Issue and Analyze an argument with 30 minutes duration given for each. Each task tests your ability to evaluate and examine the arguments and provide responses based on that. Here’s a brief overview of each task:
- Analyse an Issue – The task provides an issue that can be discussed from various perspectives. You must carefully analyze the issue, write your response regarding the topic and present specific examples to support your claims. The task measures how well you critically think about a topic and express your opinion in writing.
- Analyse an Argument – Unlike the Analyse an Issue task, here you are provided with a short passage, in which the author presents a claim backed by evidence and reasons. You must critically analyse the given evidence by the author and write whether it is logically correct or not.
The objectives of these two tasks are different. Analyse-an-issue task requires you to construct an argument and provide evidence and reasons to support your argument, wherein, the second task asks you to analyse the author’s argument by evaluating the claims and evidence presented to support the claim. Moreover, the writing section of GRE is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 point increments.
Quantitative Reasoning – The Quantitative Reasoning section is divided into two sections with 20 questions each, and you get 35 minutes to complete this section. The questions are designed to test your understanding of the basic high-school level mathematics concepts. Besides, the quant section tests your ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems, that are mainly from topics such as Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry and Data Analysis. There are 4 types of questions that are either posed in a real-life setting or based on pure mathematics. The question types are:
- Quantitative Comparison Questions – Quantitative Comparison questions present two quantities. You must carefully compare the two quantities and select one of four possible answer choices. These questions always have the same answer choices (quantity A is greater, quantity B is greater, the two quantities are equal or the relationship cannot be determined from the information given).
- Multiple-choice Questions (Select One Answer ) – These are basic multiple-choice questions that are seen in most competitive exams. The questions could be word problems, equations or more, accompanied with answer choices. You must solve the problem and select one answer from the five answer choices.
- Multiple-choice Questions (Select One or More Answer) – These questions are different and more complicated than the classic MCQs. Each question presents a problem and you must choose all the possible answers from the answer choices. However, you will get scores only if all your selected answers are correct. While some questions specify how many answers you can pick, others leave that decision on you.
- Numeric Entry Questions – Numeric Entry presents questions without answer choices. Instead, you have to find the solution and type your response in the box given. If your solution is an integer or a decimal, you must type it in a single box, and if it is a fraction, you’ll be given separate boxes for the numerator and the denominator.
Here’s a table that’ll give you an overview of the mathematical concepts asked in the Quant section.
|Math Concepts||Related Topics|
|Arithmetic||Exponents and roots|
Estimation, Sequence of numbers
Types of integers (prime numbers, divisibility, remainders etc)
The number line etc.
|Geometry||Triangles (all types)|
Parallel and perpendicular lines
The Pythagorean theorem
|Algebra||Solving Linear Equations |
Rules of Exponents
Solving Quadratic Equations
Graphs of Functions
Solving Linear Inequalities etc
|Data analysis||Standard deviation|
Quartiles and percentiles
Interpretation of data in multiple formats
Combinations, permutations etc.
In addition to these question types, there will be a set of questions called Data Interpretation/Analysis in the GRE Quantitative section. All the questions — asked in the form of Multiple-choice (both types) or Numeric Entry — from GRE Data Analysis are based on the same data presented in tables, graphs or any other data representation.
Verbal Reasoning – Verbal Reasoning consists of two separately timed sections with 20 questions each. The questions from the GRE verbal syllabus assess your ability to analyse and interpret a written discourse and integrate the information obtained from it. The section also tests your skill to understand the connections between the parts of a sentence and its words and concepts. You get 30 minutes to solve questions from each section of GRE Verbal Reasoning. The questions are of 3 types:
- Reading Comprehension – Reading Comprehension questions tests how well you understand the meaning of words and sentences, summarise a passage, or analyse a text to draw conclusions from that. Each question presents a short passage based on any general topic. You must carefully examine the passage to answer the questions.
- Text Completion – Text Completion questions assess how well you interpret a text, analyse it and reason from what you have understood. Each question features a short passage — which is five sentences long — with 3 or 4 blanks. You must fill in these blanks by selecting the most appropriate option from a set of word choices given.
- Sentence Equivalence – The sentence equivalence section presents a single sentence with just one blank which has to be filled. You have to choose the two best choices that fit the meaning of the sentence. The questions aim to check your ability to identify words with similar meanings.
The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is scored on a range of 130-170 with 1-point increment. This, along with the Quantitative score contributes to your overall GRE score.
Besides these sections, you can expect an unidentified section or an identified research section in the GRE paper. These sections are unscored and are used for research purposes.
GRE Subject Tests
Unlike the GRE General Test, the subject tests are content-specific and tests your knowledge of any particular field of studies such as Mathematics, Psychology, Chemistry or Physics. This test is taken if you wish to highlight your specialised knowledge in any of these areas of study. Besides, this test helps the admission committees to compare your qualifications with other applicants. The Subject tests are not a replacement for the general GRE exam. Instead, this test is taken in addition to the general test to show your expertise in a particular subject.
Not all schools require subject test scores. Hence, before applying for masters or PhD abroad, we recommend you inquire about the admission requirements of the universities of your choice.
The syllabus of subject tests are vast and includes the concepts you’ve learnt at your undergraduate level. However, knowing the syllabus for the subject test you are going to appear for is pivotal to plan your preparation. To begin with, here’s a brief overview of the GRE Math, GRE Physics, GRE Psychology and GRE Chemistry syllabus.
- GRE Maths Syllabus
The GRE mathematics subject test measures your knowledge of basic elementary level mathematics and advanced concepts you’ve learnt in the undergraduate course. The test consists of 66 MCQ questions of which 25% are from elementary Algebra, and 50% focuses on calculus and its applications. Here’s a table that will help you understand the GRE mathematics syllabus in detail.
|Math Concept||Percentage Of Questions||Topics Asked|
|Algebra||25%||Elementary Algebra, Linear Algebra (Matrix Algebra, Vector Spaces, Systems Of Linear Equations Etc), Abstract Algebra, Number Theory|
|Calculus||50%||Differential And Integral Calculus, Differential Equations, Coordinate Geometry, Trigonometry|
|Additional Topics||25%||Introductory Real Analysis (Continuity, Differentiability And Integrability, Etc.), Discrete Mathematics (Graph Theory, Algorithms, Combinators Etc), Other Topics (Probability And Statistics, Geometry Etc)|
- GRE Physics Syllabus
The GRE Physics subject tests comprises 100 questions, of which some are based on experimental data, graphs, diagrams and descriptions of physical situations. The questions aim at testing you on the fundamental concepts of Physics. It also tests your ability to apply these concepts to find solutions for the problems.
Below is a table of the GRE exam topics and concepts that are included in the GRE Physics syllabus.
|Concept||Percentage Of Questions||Topics|
|Classical Mechanics||20%||Newton’s Laws, Kinematics, Work And Energy, Rotational Motion About A Fixed Axis, Oscillatory Motion, Central Forces And Celestial Mechanics Etc.|
|Electromagnetism||18%||Electrostatics, Magnetic Fields In Free Space, DC Circuits, AC Circuits, Lorentz Force,Maxwell’s Equations And Their Applications, Induction, Electromagnetic Waves Etc.|
|Quantum Mechanics||12%||Solutions Of The Schrödinger Equation, Angular Momentum, Wave Function Symmetry Etc.|
|Optics And Waves||9%||Superposition, Diffraction, Interference, Geometrical Optics Etc.|
|Thermodynamics And Statistical Mechanics||10%||Laws Of Thermodynamics, Thermal Expansion And Heat Transfer, Ideal Gases, Equations Of State Etc.|
|Atomic Physics||10%||Properties Of Electrons, Energy Quantization, Bohr Model, Atomic Structure, Selection Rules, Atomic Spectra, Black-Body Radiation, X-Rays Etc.|
|Special Relativity||6%||Time Dilation, Length Contraction,Four-Vectors And Lorentz Transformation, Energy And Momentum, Simultaneity Etc.|
|Laboratory Methods||6%||Electronics, Radiation Detection, Instrumentation, Interaction Of Charged Particles With Matter, Counting Statistics, Lasers And Optical Interferometers Etc.|
|Specialized Topics||9%||Nuclear And Particle Physics, Condensed Matter And Other Miscellaneous Topics.|
- GRE Chemistry Syllabus
The GRE Chemistry subject test measures your knowledge in four subject areas — Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry and Physical Chemistry. The test consists of 130 multiple choice questions approximately, and a periodic table is given in the test booklet for the reference.
Given below is a table that will help you understand the GRE Chemistry syllabus.
|Concept||Percentage of questions asked||Topics|
|Organic Chemistry||30%||Reaction Mechanisms, Functional Groups, Structure, Bonding and Nomenclature, Organometallics, Reactive Intermediates, Special Topics — Resonance, Catalysis, etc.|
|Inorganic Chemistry||25%||Covalent Molecular Substances, Ionic Substances, General Chemistry, Concepts of Acids and Bases, Metals and Semiconductors, Chemistry of the Main Group, Elements, Special Topics such as environmental chemistry, applied solid-state chemistry etc.|
|Physical Chemistry||30%||Quantum Chemistry and Applications to Spectroscopy, Thermodynamics, Dynamics|
|Analytical Chemistry||15%||Solutions and Standardization, Data Acquisition and Use of Statistics, Heterogeneous Equilibria, Homogeneous Equilibria, Environmental Applications, Instrumental Methods, Radiochemical Methods|
- GRE Psychology Syllabus
The Psychology subject test has 205 multiple-choice questions that are drawn from the concepts you have learnt at the undergraduate level. Each question in the test will have five options from which you have to select the best option.
Here’s a table that will help you understand the GRE Psychology syllabus in detail.
|Concept||Percentage of questions asked||Topics|
|Cognitive||17-24%||Learning (3-5%)Language (3-4%)Memory (7-9%)Thinking (4-6%)|
|Biological||17-21%||Physiological/Behavioral Neuroscience (12–14%)Sensation and Perception (5-7%)|
|Developmental||12-14%||Perception and CognitionNature-NurturePhysical and Motor etc.|
|Social||12-14%||Social Perception, Cognition, Attribution, Beliefs, Emotion, Affect, and Motivation, Social Comparison, Self Attitudes and Behavior etc.|
|Clinical||15-19%||Clinical and Abnormal (12-14%)Personality (3-5%)|
|Measurement/Methodology/Others||15-19%||Measurement and Methodology (11-13%)General (4-6%)|
Now that you have understood what the GRE exam pattern and syllabus of the General test and Subject tests are, here is a table summarizing the format and sections of the GRE exam.
|Types||GRE General Test GRE Subject Test|
|Examination Fees||General Test – $250 Subject Test – $150|
|GRE Test Sections||General Test – Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing and Verbal ReasoningSubject Tests are available in four disciplines – Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Psychology|
|Mode of Exam||Paper based/Computer based|
If you need more details regarding the GRE test syllabus, you can visit the official ETS website. Additionally, you may also download the GRE syllabus pdf from the website.
We have outlined all the basic information regarding the GRE exam syllabus in this article. Whether you are appearing for the general test, subject test or both, familiarising yourself with the concepts asked helps you come up with a good study plan accordingly. Hence, use this article as a reference guide to the syllabus for GRE, create a plan that aligns with your strengths and weaknesses and start your GRE prep. Good luck!
- Which universities accept GRE Subject Test scores?
Thousands of graduate schools across the globe accept the GRE subject scores. However, the importance may vary based on the course you choose. Hence, we suggest you contact the admissions committee of the college you’re interested in and get information about the acceptance of the subject test score.
- What is the cost of taking the GRE Subject Test?
The fee for the GRE Subject Test is US$150 all over the world.
- Can I use a calculator during the GRE General test?
The ETS provides an on-screen calculator for use in the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE. You can use this calculator to do the calculations.