GRE General Test vs Subject Test – What are the Differences?

02 February, 2024
parthiva mewawala

One of the critical components of your Master’s application abroad is the GRE test. It’s a standardised requirement that impacts the admission process in more ways than one. Scholarships, grants, fellowships, and postgraduate jobs and internships – a good GRE score can open up many opportunities. But before you can do that, you must understand which GRE test to take. There are two types of GRE tests, and you need to know the differences between both – the GRE General Test vs Subject Test. Both of them serve different purposes, and knowing which one is suitable for your end goal is necessary. 

Read more: What Is A Good GRE Score – Find Out The Average GRE Score And Range

So, let’s dive straight into the GRE General Test vs subject test discussion. 

What is the GRE General Test?

The GRE General Test is a more sweeping test that seeks to analyse your logical, reasoning, analytical, critical thinking, and verbal skills. Its approach is holistic and portrays a well-rounded description of your college-ready skills. 


The test itself is divided into three parts:


    • Verbal reasoning to test your ability to read, comprehend, critique, and analyse information. 
  • Quantitative reasoning to test how well your grasp of basic maths concepts is. It also assesses how well your logical and analytical reasoning is. 
  • Analytical reasoning to test your argumentative, debating, observation, and expression skills. 


What is the GRE Subject Test?

The subject test is more subject-focused. As opposed to testing students across a spectrum of skills, it only covers one subject with the goal of evaluating the student’s understanding of the material. 


This test is available for four key subjects further linked to other disciplines. Subjects include Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and Psychology. 


This test is an excellent choice if you are seeking admission to a highly specialised course such as an MS in Physics or an MA in Psychology. In fact, you can also pair it with the general test to improve your chances of getting into a highly selective program. But if you intend to apply for Engineering or Business degrees, it’s better to stick to the general test. Only physics or maths may not be enough to prove your aptitude for postgraduate studies to admissions committees. 

Difference between the two- GRE General Test vs Subject Test


ParametersGRE General TestGRE Subject test
  1. Verbal reasoning 
  2. Quantitative reasoning 
  3. Analytical writing 
Tests are based on different subjects, including:

  1. Maths 
  2. Physics 
  3. Chemistry 
  4. Psychology 
ModeComputer-based Paper-based
Duration 3 hours 45 minutes2 hours 50 minutes
DatesConducted all year longOnly held in April, September, and October
Score range 130-170 per section in increments of 1

0 – 6 for writing in increments of 0.5

200 – 990 based on the subject
CostRs. 19,110 approx. Rs. 12,417 approx. 
Purpose To assess if the test-taker has the basic skills necessary for postgraduate education. To assess if the test-taker has a clean, in-depth understanding of the subject material. 


Which one should you give – the GRE General Test or Subject Test?


So, let’s get back to the original question. 


GRE General Test vs Subject Test – which one should you give? 


Most universities and programs abroad require you to take the GRE General Test. But it’s not a blanket rule. You need to make the right choice based on the factors listed below. 


  • Purpose 


Why are you taking the test? Which course are you seeking admission to? Most courses will have the exact requirements listed on their websites. If not, you can always email the university representatives and ask. 


But a general rule of thumb is to choose the general test if you’re applying for a program that is not focused on just one subject. 


If you’re going to major in one of the four listed subjects, then go for the subject test. 


  • Time


Do you have time to take more than one test? If not, it’s better to stick to the General test. But if you have time, you can take a relevant subject test apart from the General test to stand out from the crowd. 


  • Profile 


If your profile is weak in a specific subject, you can use the subject test to shore up your weaknesses. For instance, giving the subject test for physics when applying for M.Tech can add weight to your application in case your graduate grades in courses related to Physics were low. 


If you’re still confused, you can always contact one of our education advisors by filling out the form here

And if you’re sure about giving the general test, IMS has one of the most comprehensive GRE courses in both formats – classroom and live online – with over 44 hours of live classes, 75 hours of videos and masterclasses, 9 hours of doubt-solving, 2 hours of AWA sessions, and over a 1000 questions and 4 full-length mock tests. Nearly 500,000 students take the GRE every year, and the right study material and guidance can help you beat them all. Fill out the form here to learn more about IMS and how it can help you score 320+ on the GRE.

Read more: How Important Are GRE Mock Tests To Scoring 320+?

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