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.
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.
Most students prefer to overview their own text books in the initial stages of their preparation. It is ideal to get hold of the text books which you studied in school. Once you have brushed up the concepts which you were familiar with before then you must take up other books which cover the remaining topics. You must look for a book in which all the remaining topics are covered. It is ideal to stick to one such book, but you might require two in order to cover all the topics in details. While selecting the books make sure that you are not leaving out any topic. Going through the sample papers will give you a better idea of how much weightage is given to each topic and you can accordingly select the books.
The Biology subject test is objective. Hence you have to make it a point to study accordingly. Do not ignore the small details while studying. If you do not read carefully and do not memorize with concentration then you shall certainly get confused in the test. A slight difference in spelling or meaning can lead to a wrong answer in the exam. Biology as a subject involves a lot of learning. The terms and names used in biology can be very confusing. So keep aside separate time every day for learning drills. You can firstly understand the concepts and then learn the details separately after taking a break. This will also help you in quick recall during the test.
The questions towards the end of the Biology subject test shall be based on interpretation of results from graphs, labeling diagrams, comparison of two or more graphs, identification of different stages of a process shown in diagrams, interpretation of results of experiments from given data etc. Here you might be given diagrams, graphs, tables, charts etc which you haven’t studied before. Thus it becomes important for you to know how diagrams represent processes, how data is interpreted from charts, graphs, tables etc. and how inferences are drawn from the information given. Be mindful about going through the diagrams, graphs and figures in the books while revising all the related concepts. Many a times we tend to ignore the diagrams if we have a clear understanding of the concept, here you can not afford to do that.
In case you are not confident about your ability to prepare on your own you can seek professional help. A large number of coaching institutes run classes for the preparation of the Biology subject test. You shall get guidance from experts in the subject in such institutes. Also they will monitor your performance and give special attention to the topics you need to revise better. Moreover you can choose to hire a private tutor or study online from the coaching institutes’ teachers. You shall have 3-4 options to choose from depending on how much of your time and money you are ready to spend in an institute like this.
The Biology subject test is in the paper format and thus it is easy for you to navigate through the paper. You can start with the questions which are easy and then take up the difficult questions. Read every question with full concentration, ponder over it, mark the answer confidently and then forget about it. Deliberate on each question so that you don’t have to get back to it again. This will save you time. Further, all the questions in the test are of equal weightage, so you must endeavor to answer the ones which you know carefully and correctly.
On the day of the test you must have prior of the requirements and the rules followed at the test center. Go through the guidelines well in advance in order to avoid confusion at the test center.
Your scores in this subject test are calculated in a two stages. The raw scores are calculated first and then the scaled scores. One fourth of the total number of questions answered incorrectly is calculated. This number is subtracted from the total number of questions answered correctly. This gives the raw score. This raw score is then converted into scaled score. The scaled scores are within limits of 200 and 990. On an average, a student scores between 490 and 790. Correspondingly, you are given subscores in the three subject areas of Biology subject test. Each of these scores ranges from 20 to 99. These raw subscores are also calculated in the same manner, in which the total raw score is calculated. The raw subscores are then converted into scaled subscores. If a student performs equally well in all the three sections, and then his subscores are roughly one tenth of his total scores. Apart form all these scores the percentiles are also reported. A percentile score indicates the percentage of students who score less than the corresponding scaled score. Say your percentile in the test is 89. It means that 89% of the total examinees scored lesser than you. The percentile scores are very important for admission authorities to determine how capable a student is in comparison with others who appear for the same test. Thus it becomes a better indicator of your performance.
Register for the Biology subject test as soon as you make up your mind. This will give you sufficient time to plan your strategies and study accordingly. Remember to download the free PDF form the official website. This will give you the latest and the most reliable information about the test syllabus, pattern, types of questions etc. Also you must see the practice test questions before preparing for the test. There is no substitute to hard work and timely preparation, so start right away.