What is the GRE Math Subject Test?
There is some confusion here, because often when people
speak of the "GRE Math Test" they are referring to the Quantitative
section of the General GRE. Here we refer to the GRE Subject Test in
Mathematics, sometimes called "The Mathematics Subject Test
(Rescaled)," an examination for students seeking admission to graduate
programs in math. The two tests could not be more different.
The GRE Math Subject Test is a separate exam, not part
of the General GRE. Those who want to take the Math Subject Test sign
up for it specifically. While the Quantitative Section of the General
GRE tests mathematical aptitude, the GRE Math Subject Test looks for
knowledge learned as part of an undergraduate education in mathematics.
Who Creates the GRE Math Subject Test?
The test is created and distributed by Educational
Testing Service . They are also responsible for a number of other
standardized tests, including the General GRE Test, numerous other
Subject Tests, and the TOEFL English-language test.
When is the Math Subject Test Available?
The test is generally offered three times a year: in
October, November, and April. Most students interested in apply for
admission to graduate programs in the Fall will want to take the
October or November test, as the majority of schools have made their
fall admission decisions before the April test dates. Specific dates
for the current year are available at the ETS registration site .
Who Takes the Math Subject Test?
Anyone with a strong mathematical background and an
interest in applying to graduate programs in mathematics. Besides
budding mathematicians, a good score on the test may also help
potential physicists, statisticians, and those interested in
math-intensive technical or quantitative programs.
Why Take the Math Subject Test?
Many graduate programs require it for admission,
especially for students interested in studying pure mathematics. Even
if the program does not, the score may help to create a stronger
application package. When a program requires the math subject test,
students who apply without providing a score are often considered much
later in the admissions process (if at all). So while a poor score may
hurt your chances of admission, skipping the test may not improve
What Does the Math Subject Test Cover?
ETS is very clear about what the test covers, as can be
seen here at their website. Generally speaking, half the test questions
focus on your knowledge of Calculus, one-quarter on Algebra (including
Linear and Abstract), and the remainder on various other topics such as
probability and complex numbers.
How Can I Practice the Math Subject Test?
ETS makes a Practice Test available on their
registration site, or you can download it directly here . Other
previous tests have been made available for student use. We have access
to four versions of the test released by ETS:
While these are actual tests (since retired from service), it is
important to remember that ETS is constantly modifying the content and
format of the Math Subject Test, so these may not be a completely
accurate indicator of your ability.
Also, be very careful of tests created before 2001! In
that year ETS substantially increased the difficulty of the material
presented on the test. This means that, while older tests may help you
become comfortable with the ETS format, they are not a good indicator
of actual test performance. If you have a question about the age of a
test, look at the Form Number: the first two digits indicate the year
of use. So of the four tests listed above, three of them were published
prior to the rescaling: in 1987, 1993, and 1997. Only one, (0568) was
published after the test difficulty increased. ETS themselves offered
the 1997 test (9768) in its practice materials as late as 2007, so it
may be more relevant than the others, but students should still be wary
of assuming too much from it.
What Books Can Help Me Prepare?
Any book that reviews Calculus, Linear Algebra, and
similar topics will be helpful. The "Schaum's Outline" series is
especially recommended. In addition, there are three books specifically
aimed at preparation for the Math Subject Test. They are:
GRE Practicing to Take the Mathematics Test by ETS
This is the only preparation book released by the test
manufacturer, but at this time even the most recent edition (the 3rd)
is out of print and difficult to find. Even when located, the price is
often hundreds of dollars. According to those familiar with the most
current edition, the two tests included are repeats of those provided
Cracking the GRE Math Test by Princeton Review
At this time, the most current edition is the 4th. It
contains over 400 pages of mathematics review material and one practice
test. The review material is detailed, including English-language
explanation, and numerous examples. Each of the seven chapters of
review material includes a set of sample questions, which are explained
set-by-step in a separate solutions chapter. Students generally agree
the practice exam provided by Princeton Review is somewhat easier than
the actual Math Subject Test adminstered by ETS.
The Best Test Preparation for the GRE Mathematics by
The most current edition at this time is the 5th. While
most students agree that REA's book is far from "the Best," it still
has much to recommend it. The 280-page REA review section is densely
mathematical in contrast to the Princeton Review text, but suitable for
those comfortable with heavy notation. But REA offers *six* complete
exams for students to try. None of these exams duplicate any of those
found in the books above, which makes this a great resource for
students looking for more practice. There is one caveat when using
REA's exams: their questions focus much more on knowledge of concepts
and formulas than those on actual ETS exams (which can be computation
heavy). If you are careful not to be led astray by this issue, there is
a wealth of material here.
What Web Resources Are Available?
There are numerous pages with information on the test,
but a few stand out:
The Official ETS page for the Mathematics Subject
The Mathematics GRE Forum
The Mathematics GRE Section of the Physics GRE Site
A simple web search using terms like "GRE Math Subject
Test Practice" will turn up lots of other pages with tips and