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 .: GRE Subject test descriptions :.

GRE Subject test descriptions


Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Geology
Biology Literature in English
Chemistry Mathematics
Computer Science Music
Economics Physics
Engineering Psychology

BIOCHEMISTRY, CELL AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. This test consists of about 180 questions and is intended for students who are interested in graduate programs in biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology, along with related programs such as microbiology and genetics. The questions are distributed among three subscore areas: Biochemistry (36%), Cell Biology (28%), and Molecular Biology and Genetics (36%).

  1. Biochemistry
    Chemical and physical foundations; biomolecules: structure, assembly, organization, and dynamics; catalysis and binding; major metabolic pathways; bioenergetics; regulation and integration of metabolism; methodology
  2. Cell Biology
    Cellular compartments of prokaryotes and eukaryotes; cell surface and communication; cytoskeleton, motility, and shape; protein synthesis and processing; cell division, differentiation, and development
  3. Molecular Biology and Genetics
    Genetic foundations; chromatin and chromosomes; genomies; genome maintenance; gene expression; gene regulation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes; bacteriophages, animal and plant viruses; methodology

BIOLOGY. The test contains approximately 200 questions that are about equally divided among three subscore areas:

  1. Cellular and Molecular Biology
    Cellular Structure and Function: biological compounds, enzyme activity, metabolic pathways and regulation, membrane dynamics and cell surfaces, organelles, cytoskeleton, motility, and cell cycle
    Genetics and Molecular Biology: genetic foundations, chromatin and chromosomal structure, genomic organization and maintenance, gene expression and regulation, immunobiology, viruses, and recombinant DNA methodology
  2. Organismal Biology
    Animal and plant structure, function, and organization; reproduction, growth, and development; characteristics and phylogenetic relationships of organisms in the kingdoms Archaebacteria, Eubacteria, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia
  3. Ecology and Evolution
    Ecology: environment/organism interaction, behavioral ecology, population structure and function, communities, and ecosystems
    Evolution: genetic variability; evolutionary processes, e.g., natural selection, genetic drift; evolutionary consequences, e.g., fitness and adaptation, speciation; history of life.

CHEMISTRY. The test contains about 136 questions designed to cover much of the content of the chemistry courses completed by students before the middle of the senior collegiate year. The questions are classified approximately as follows: analytical chemistry (15%), inorganic chemistry (25%), organic chemistry (30%), and physical chemistry (30%).

COMPUTER SCIENCE. This test consists of about 70 questions and is intended for students who plan to seek a graduate degree in computer science and who have taken courses in computer science at least to the level of an undergraduate major in computer science. The questions are classified approximately as follows: software systems and methodology (35%), computer organization and architecture (20%), theory (25%), mathematical background (15%), and advanced topics such as artificial intelligence, modeling, and simulation (5%).

ECONOMICS. The test consists of about 130 questions primarily concerned with assessing a student's ability to understand basic economic analysis. About 60% of the test is divided between microeconomic and macroeconomic analysis, 5-10% is devoted to basic statistics, and the remaining 25-30% covers the other fields of economics, including econometrics, labor, industrial organization, public finance, money and banking, international economics, development, comparative systems, economic history, history of thought, finance, and urban and regional economics.

ENGINEERING. The test contains about 140 questions and yields an engineering subscore based on about 105 questions and a mathematics subscore based on about 35 questions. The engineering questions emphasize material studied by most engineers during their first two college years. Major emphasis is on basic physics and chemistry, mechanics (statics, dynamics, and mechanics of materials), electric circuits and devices, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics. There are also questions dealing with transfer and rate, engineering economics and judgment, and statistics. The mathematics questions are of two kinds: those that deal with mathematical facts and manipulations needed to work efficiently in engineering and those that deal with applying calculus concepts.

GEOLOGY. The test includes approximately 185 questions, most of which relate to core courses typically included in the undergraduate curriculum. The content of the test is divided among eight content areas. About 60% of the questions are evenly divided among three major areas: stratigraphy and sedimentology, structural geology and tectonics, and mineralogy and petrology. The remainder of the questions deal with general geology (about 8%), hydrogeology (about 10%), paleontology (about 8%), surficial processes/geomorphology (about 6%), and geophysics (about 8%). These topics are generally dealt with at a level presented in a physical geology course or other core course.

The three subscores reported for this test are stratigraphy and sedimentology, structural geology and tectonics, and mineralogy and petrology. Test questions not in one of these three major areas would contribute to the total score but not to a subscore.

LITERATURE IN ENGLISH. The test contains approximately 230 questions on literature in English from the British Isles, the United States, and other countries. It also contains a few questions on major works, including the Bible, in translation. Factual questions test a student's knowledge of writers typically studied in college courses; for example, a student may be asked to identify a writer or work described in a brief critical comment or represented in a short excerpt. Interpretive questions test a student's ability to read passages of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction prose perceptively; such questions may address meaning, use of language, form and structure, literary techniques, and various aspects of style.

MATHEMATICS. The test consists of about 66 questions and is intended to measure both knowledge of the content of undergraduate mathematics courses for mathematics majors and the mathematical abilities traditionally expected of anyone who intends to seek a graduate degree in mathematics. In addition to the usual sequence of elementary calculus-based courses, the examinee should have had the mathematics-major courses in abstract algebra, linear algebra, and real analysis that require students to demonstrate the ability to prove theorems and create counterexamples. About a quarter of the questions require knowledge in other areas, such as complex analysis, topology, combinatorics, probability, statistics, number theory, and algorithmic processes.

MUSIC. The test consists of about 111 multiple-choice questions and 23 free-response questions. Section I of the test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and 15 free-response questions. The multiple-choice questions are based primarily on the history and theory of music from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The free-response questions are based on the fundamentals of theory: scales, key signatures, cadences, intervals, clefs, transposition, notation, chord-spelling, and harmonic analysis. Section II of the test consists of 61 multiple-choice questions grouped into 12 sets, each of which is based on a recorded excerpt of music, and 8 free-response questions. The multiple-choice questions are based on musical excerpts from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century; the questions cover such topics as phrase structure; cadences; stylistic elements; modulations; key relationships; rhythmic, harmonic, and contrapuntal devices; instrumentation; form; and historical style analysis. The free-response questions consist of one single-voice and one two-voice dictation, two harmonic dictations, two part-writing exercises, and two counterpoint exercises. The test has three subscores: subscore 1, History and Theory; subscore 2, Listening and Literature; and subscore 3, Aural Skills. Information on the scoring of both the multiple-choice questions and the free-response questions is given in the descriptive booklet for the Music Test.

PHYSICS. The test consists of approximately 100 questions, most of which relate to the first three years of undergraduate physics. Topics include classical mechanics (20%), fundamentals of electromagnetism (18%), atomic physics (10%), physical optics and wave phenomena (9%), quantum mechanics (12%), thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (10%), special relativity (6%), and laboratory methods (6%). The remaining 9% of the test covers advanced topics such as nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, and astrophysics.

PSYCHOLOGY. The test has about 215 questions drawn from courses most commonly offered at the undergraduate level, in three categories:

  1. Experimental or natural science oriented (about 40% of the questions), including learning, language, memory, thinking, sensation and perception, physiological psychology, ethology.
  2. Social or social science oriented (about 43% of the questions), including clinical and abnormal, developmental, personality, and social psychology.
  3. General (about 17% of the questions), including the history of psychology, applied psychology, measurement, research designs, and statistics.

The test's total score includes the questions in all three categories. The test has two subscores: an experimental psychology subscore consisting of category 1 questions only and a social psychology subscore consisting of category 2 questions only.



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