Last Updated: March 13, 2021
Will the GRE Math Subject Test Help with the Application?
The first thing to remember is that the best way graduate schools assess sufficient math background is through traditional coursework. So, candidates will have no other option than to slog through a bunch of tedious lectures. Although masters, especially from programs like LSE, would come in handy, it would be more feasible and even give you an edge to just take some classes as a non-degree student at a reputed university.
Mathematicians for sure need it, but how useful would it be for others to invest the time and money into taking and facing a very challenging test. People might disagree with this, but a good score on the GRE Math Subject test can offset in some instances any bad grades in requisite undergraduate math courses. Still, the math subject test requires mathematical acumen built up over years of studying math. And it is understood that the subject test is no real substitute for taking the actual courses. So, choose the GRE Math Subject Test only if one has to, i.e., due to lack of finances, not enough time, etc. to do courses that may prove the candidate’s skills better.
The GRE Math Subject test can work in the candidate’s favor if they otherwise have a stellar profile when it comes to the research they have conducted or if their GPA and the challenging courses they took (minus the maths ones of course) are not substantial enough. Moreover, it is nice to have a great GRE Math Subject Test score when applying for certain graduate programs such as physics and computer science among others.
Syllabus for GRE Math Subject Test
The topics that are considered for the Math Subject Test range from Calculus I to III. ETS believes that assessing mathematical knowledge is not only about the candidate’s skill in advanced mathematics but about the level to which they know about the foundations of mathematics.
ETS provides a total of 2 hours and 50 minutes for the subject tests in multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil format. It is to be noted that no ‘at-home ' version of the test is available. The test has to taken in-person at any of the ETS test centers.
The 66 questions that are asked have a rough figure of 50% of calculus, 25% of algebra, and another 25% of other miscellaneous topics
. This implies that around 50% of all the questions will be from the foundations that have been taught to the student from school and hence the exam must be halfway easier than having just advanced math. But at the same time, it is considered to be tougher than most exams since students often overlook precalculus and pre-algebra due to the familiarity making them lose points over basic information the knowledge of which was not brushed up for the test.
The content of this roughly divided sections are as follows-
- Differential calculus
- Integral calculus
- Calculus-based applications
- Differential equation
- Elementary algebra
- Linear Algebra
- Abstract algebra
- Number theory
- Other Topics
- Sequences and Series
- Discrete mathematics
- General topology
- Complex variables
- Numerical analysis
How to Ace the GRE Math Subject Test
Around 5000 students take the GRE Math Subject test each year. The test fee is $150
for the subject test whereas it is $213 for the general test. The test has around 66 multiple-choice questions with Calculus taking up around 33 questions, Algebra another 16 questions, and other miscellaneous questions taking up around 17 questions of the total. Candidates will get a score on a 200 to 990 score scale, in 10-point increments. GRE Math Subject Test can be taken in September, October, and April. The score report for this test is valid for 5 years from the date of the test.
A better approach would be to work on as many problems from Stewart Calculus in addition to focusing on individual areas through books like Rudin Real Analysis and Insel Linear Algebra. Candidates who haven't practiced Mathematics after learning Calculus II might need to sign up for classes at a community college or a state school. They could even do summer school and take differential equations or multivariable calculus at a prestigious institution like Harvard. It's nice to be challenged and have a rigorous schedule to follow while competing for a good grade with other students in an academic setting. An "A" grade from Harvard would sure look good in addition to prepping one for the GRE Math Subject Test.
GRE Math Subject Test Tips
The tips that are applicable for the test are similar to the ones that are provided for other math-related examinations available for students. But considering that the time provided is just 2 hours and 50 minutes, preparation should always involve time management of some sort that is most efficient for every candidate.
- Attempt every question. Since the questions are multiple-choice, and since there is no negative marking, attempting every question even when the answer is unknown always provides an increased chance of getting the right answer.
- Move on from difficult questions. If a question seems to be taking more than the time that one can take for it, mark the question for review and move on to other questions. Come back to solve them if there is enough time or always use whatever time is left to pick any answer in case one runs short of time.
- Focus on every phrase in the question. The phrases in the subject-tests of GRE have been purposefully made tricky to assess the amount of attention the student pays to the question. People who hurry to answer the question without reading thoroughly often answer the wrong questions and lose marks.
Retaking the GRE Math Subject Test
It is possible to retake the test if the candidate is sure to improve their scores. But for this, one will have to both strategically plan and prepare for the test since the test is available only thrice a year.
It is to be noted that while taking the GRE subject test is not mandatory, it offers a better standing for one’s college application especially when the student in concern has not done specific math-related courses and wants to compensate for the same. It boosts one’s application along with other merits that have been placed alongside the application. A high-score then increases the chances of getting admitted to the course of choice.