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GRE Biology


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Graduate Record Exam is a standardized entrance exam administered by ETS which stands for Educational Testing Services, a non-profit private agency responsible for preparing and administering a large number of entrance tests across US. It is essential for those who intend to take admission to a graduate course to take the GRE as it determines the merit for admission. Colleges and universities across US give great value to the results of this exam in order to scan students for admission. The General Test of the GRE determines if a student has the basic abilities which are crucial for undertaking a graduation course. The Subject Test of GRE tests if a student has knowledge and skills to pursue a specific subject in graduation. There are in all eight subject tests that a student can choose from. Biology Subject Test is one of them.

All of the eight subject tests are only paper based. This means that you will have to look for a center where paper based tests are administered. You can either register through the internet or by mail. On registering for this test you shall be provided with free test preparation material. Also you must register for the test in time so that you can be contacted well in time to be informed about any changes in the test. Furthermore, if you register well in advance then you have enough time to mentally prepare yourself for the test. Then on you can plan well about what mode of preparation you should apply and you shall have sufficient time for revision.

The Biology Subject Test has 200 multiple choice questions to be answered in two hours and fifty minutes. These multiple choice questions typically have five answer choices out of which you have to choose the correct answer. Towards the end of the Biology Subject Test the form of these questions changes. You will be asked varied types of questions. In one case some 3-5 questions are clubbed together. These will be based on one description. This description could be about laboratory and field situations, diagrams or experimental results. You will have to observe the results carefully to answer these questions. Additionally, you need to know how to interpret data presented in the form of tables, charts, graphs or diagrams. Another variation in the multiple choice questions is that you will be given some 3-4 statements which correspond to the same five answer choices. You have to match the correct answer option with the correct statement. Each statement is numbered as a separate question.


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The Biology Subject Test is broadly based on three main content areas: Cellular and Molecular Biology, Organismal Biology and Ecology and Evolution. Each of these sections constitutes 33-34% of the test questions. Since these three classifications can not be exclusive and independent of each other there shall be some questions in the test which will be related with more than one of these content areas. However the scores of these three sections are reported separately, along with the total score.

The questions from the Cellular and Molecular Biology can be further classified into two: Cellular Structure and Function (16-17%) and Genetics and Molecular Biology (16-17%). Main topics under cellular structure and function are biological compounds, enzyme activity, major metabolic pathways and regulation, membrane dynamics and cell surfaces, organelles, cytoskeleton, motility, and shape and cell cycle, growth, division, and regulation. Main topics under genetics and molecular biology are genetic foundations, chromatin and chromosomes, genome sequence organization, genome maintenance, gene expression and regulation in prokaryotes and eurokaryotes, immunobiology, bacteriophages, animal virus and plant viruses and recombinant DNA methodology.

Organismal Biology can be classified into Animal Structure, Function, and Organization (9-10%), Animal Reproduction and Development (5-6%), Plant Structure, Function, and Organization with Emphasis on Flowering Plants (6-7%), Plant Reproduction, Growth, and Development with Emphasis on Flowering Plants (4-5%), Diversity of Life (6-7%).

Ecology and Evolution can further be classified into Ecology (16-17%) ad Evolution (16-17%). Under ecology there will be environment/organism interaction, behavioral ecology, population structure and function, communities and ecosystems. Under evolution there will be genetic variability, evolutionary processes, evolutionary consequences and history of life.

It is likely that most of these topics have been covered in your undergraduate days, nonetheless you will have to prepare for the Biology subject test. Each topic will have to be studied in detail. Mere superficial ideas will not serve the purpose. Remember that there are 200 questions in the test and hence there are chances of each subtopic being covered in some proportion or the other.

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