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corvus1

GRE Biology - Study resources

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Hello,

 

I am going to be taking the GRE Biology subject test in 2013 and would like to reach out to all of you for help regarding what study materials to use and how long to prepare for the test. I can either take it in April or October 2013 and still have the scores in time to apply.

My undergrad degree was in engineering but I have taken General Biology and Ecology classes in the past year. I am currently doing an Environmental Science Master's program part time and would like to use the Subject test scores to strengthen my application to Ecology PhD programs, as I am shifting fields.

Look forward to hearing from people who have experience with the Biology Subject test.

 

Thanks

 

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My experience is in not taking it- and I highly recommend not taking the Biology GRE or any subject GRE exam for that matter. It's really not a factor in grad applications at all.

 

Committees look at your 1) undergrad GPA 2) School you came from 3) GRE scores 4) essay and 5) letters of rec, in that order. 

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I took the Biology subject test because I attended a relatively unknown undergrad school and thought the test might add some support to my biology background if admission committees doubted the value of my GPA.

I don't think the test ended up being much of a factor though, at least not for me.

I didn't study for it because I had to take the Biology Major Field Test (also produced by ETS) at my undergrad and figured it would be a similar test (it was).

I have read though that quite a few people have used the Campbell's biology textbook to prepare.

Edited by Pitangus

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I have had multiple people, students, professors, even former admissions committee members say not to take the Biology GRE or any subject GRE for that matter, unless your intended program absolutely requires it. Before I learned this valuable nugget, I basically took my undergrad freshman year biology Campbell book, the list of topics from the GRE website, and bookmarked each topic in my book, making sure I could answer the conceptual questions at the end of the line.  I would suggest taking the practice biology gre on the website first, and identify areas where you are weak, and focus more on those. Retake it after you feel you have studied enough, and see if you have improved, or if you are still weak in some areas. This is my own study method, other things work for other people.

 

Your research experience, strength of LOR's, and personal statement are extremely important.

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I took it and did relatively well, though I wish I would've studied Eco/Evo more.  Basically, the Campbell-Reese textbook (the huge one for Intro Bio) was a godsend.  I also got the Kaplan GRE subject study book on amazon with my General GRE study book.  That one is okay, but only in regards to what you must study, but I would use it along with a bigger book like the Campbell-Reese one.  Using the Kaplan Biology subject book as your sole study tool will get you nowhere.

 

You will also get a booklet from ETS and you can find older booklets online if you look for them.  I recommend looking at this as well after you've done a good amount of studying.

 

I took at least a year off from school and used the Campbell Reese to prepare.  I should've spent more time studying, but I did score in the 88% in Cell/Molecular Bio, which is my focus.  Overall, I got 76% and come from a relatively unknown Bio undergrad.  I only sent my score to one place, so we'll see if it does the charm, as my General GRE was crap.

 

As a note:  I didn't realize this before, but if you pay and send your General GRE score somewhere, I guess you can send the subject test with it and it won't cost anything extra?

Edited by Biohopeful

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As a note:  I didn't realize this before, but if you pay and send your General GRE score somewhere, I guess you can send the subject test with it and it won't cost anything extra?

Yep, I took the general GRE after the subject, and when I sent the general scores I just requested that the subject score be sent too.

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Thanks for the responses. Though some of you feel it does not carry much weight, I have decided to give it a shot because I have a non-bio undergrad degree from overseas and the programs that I want to apply to specifically mention that if you don't have a Biology background, it would help to have subject test scores. Although I've been living and working in the US, I will still be applying as an international student. I feel that as a non-standard, international applicant, it can't hurt. If I don't do well in April, I can re-take in October OR just not send my scores in.

I currently have Campbell and the Kaplan Subject GRE book. In the interest of having some structure to the preparation, I am listening to intro bio lectures from mit ocw and the Bio 1A and Bio 1B classes from UC Berkeley webcasts and doing the reading that is part of those courses. I am not sure I will have time to do anything more before April. I don’t have the option to take time off and study. So, I wanted to draw up a relatively feasible plan and just stick to it everyday.

Will the level of detail in these undergrad Bio classes be adequate prep or does a more rigorous prep from Campbell advised?

Edited by corvus1

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It certainly doesn't hurt to take the test and submit your score if you do well.
 

Will the level of detail in these undergrad Bio classes be adequate prep or does a more rigorous prep from Campbell advised?

My undergrad classes were my prep, and after taking the test I felt I was pretty well prepared. From what I remember, many of the test questions I encountered were covered in my Intro Biology classes. I remember Ecology and Cell Biology also being important.

 

Following those intro bio lectures should give you a solid background. Also, you should get a practice test booklet in the mail after you sign up for the test, as Biohopeful said, or you can download it from the ETS site. You could use the practice test results to decide if you need to spend more time on certain topics.

 

When taking the actual test, remember that your score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly minus one-fourth the number of questions you answer incorrectly. It's better to leave a question blank than to guess randomly if you are really unsure or are running out of time. I know I left quite a few questions blank, yet I still scored in the 95% overall.

Edited by Pitangus

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Thanks Pitangus for the tips on the Cell biology and Ecology classes. I am enrolled in an Ecology class next semester and some of those webcast courses cover a fair bit of Cell Biology. I will take a sample test from ETS and proceed from there.

Also, the tip on leaving answers blank instead of guessing is great to know. I had assumed that anything left blank would also count against the total (i.e. minus one-fourth) it is very reassuring to know that it does not.

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Also, the tip on leaving answers blank instead of guessing is great to know. I had assumed that anything left blank would also count against the total (i.e. minus one-fourth) it is very reassuring to know that it does not.

 

Yes, only incorrect answers cause you to lose additional points from your raw score. But of course, if you leave a question blank you still lose the point you would have gotten if you answered the question correctly.

When I took the test, I left a question blank if I couldn't narrow the multiple choice down to two likely options.

Also, I decided beforehand that if I ran out of time, I would have left the remaining questions blank rather than guess randomly without reading the questions. Fortunately though, I was able to finish in time. 

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My experience is in not taking it- and I highly recommend not taking the Biology GRE or any subject GRE exam for that matter. It's really not a factor in grad applications at all.

 

Committees look at your 1) undergrad GPA 2) School you came from 3) GRE scores 4) essay and 5) letters of rec, in that order. 

 

Unfortunately, some advisors do consider the GRE to be very important. I talked to a professor at my university that I am considering working with, and he told me that a high GRE score matters more to him than a high GPA. I'm sure he's an exception to what's common in grad application considerations, but if I was set on working with him I would have to make sure to excel at the GRE, including the subject GRE.

 

I'm using the Kaplan GRE study guide, but I'm mostly relying on what I've learned in my courses. As an ecology major, that section has been covered in my more specific courses. The molecular/cellular sections have been covered a bit in gen biology courses, but I'm using the Kaplan to review and cover gaps in knowledge.

 

I have also heard of people using the Campbell text as a study guide. My biology courses didn't use it, but I have an old copy. I'm taking the test in April, and if I don't do as well as I hope, I'll probably use the Campbell to learn what I couldn't from Kaplan and retake it in October.

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I took the GRE Biology test this year and did much better than I was hoping for. My study plan was pretty simple:

 

  1. Go to bookstore that had the Princeton Review GRE Biology Book.
  2. Copy the vocab list in the back of the book for notecard making (warning: do not actually buy the book to do this).
  3. Download a copy of Reece Campbell Biology.
  4. Read entire copy of Reece Campbell Biology (over ~3 months). I took notes on the material I was least familiar with, and printed out some of the larger figures as a study reference, such as the diagrams for glycolysis and the citric acid cycle.
  5. Take one or two practice exams (one is on the GRE website).

 

I actually had the Kaplan Review study guide as well, and I would not recommend it at all, or any "study guide" for that matter. Much of the material was not presented in an organized fashion, and I saw many glaring errors in it as well. Every biology textbook will also have a study guide in it, and at least that information has gone through a rigorous and transparent editing process. The only use I got from it was the practice test, which I would not have needed to use at all if I hadn't already taken the free test on the GRE website as a benchmark.

 

Just to emphasize my point, there was nothing in the test that wasn't covered in Reece Campbell, and maybe 2 chapters in Reece Campbell that weren't covered on the test. I got the impression that the test was written by someone who was using that book as a reference. Seriously. Get Reece Campbell.

Edited by powderpig

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Yes, only incorrect answers cause you to lose additional points from your raw score. But of course, if you leave a question blank you still lose the point you would have gotten if you answered the question correctly.

When I took the test, I left a question blank if I couldn't narrow the multiple choice down to two likely options.

Also, I decided beforehand that if I ran out of time, I would have left the remaining questions blank rather than guess randomly without reading the questions. Fortunately though, I was able to finish in time. 

Because each question has 5 answers and a wrong answer is worth -0.25 points, if you can eliminate one answer you might as well guess. If you can eliminate 2 or more answers, you definitely should guess.

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My experience is in not taking it- and I highly recommend not taking the Biology GRE or any subject GRE exam for that matter. It's really not a factor in grad applications at all.

 

Committees look at your 1) undergrad GPA 2) School you came from 3) GRE scores 4) essay and 5) letters of rec, in that order. 

 

This is blatantly false and wrong. If a school doesn't require the subject, then don't bother. But if a school requires or even recommends it, that's code for it's mandatory.

 

Secondly, your order of importance is also completely wrong. From the mouths of professors and graduate ad com members, as well as my own experience, a more accurate order of importance would be:

1. statement of purpose

2. research experience

3. letters of recommendation (reputation of your recommenders is tied into the reputation of your school)

4. and finally, GPA + GRE

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If you are reaching out for great schools like Ivy league stuff, you definitely get a great subject GRE. Even with a tremendous CV, publications, very strong recos and 97 and 95th percentile gre my chances of getting into such a school got hammered. I'm going to UMDNJ, but it's not the same anyway. So get subject GRE now!

By the way, I'm an international student, so I'm not sure if this applies to the domestic ones too, so...

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I'm taking the biology GRE in three weeks, and after reading all of this, I'm thinking that I'm on the right track. Thanks for the info everyone.

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This is blatantly false and wrong. If a school doesn't require the subject, then don't bother. But if a school requires or even recommends it, that's code for it's mandatory.

 

Secondly, your order of importance is also completely wrong. From the mouths of professors and graduate ad com members, as well as my own experience, a more accurate order of importance would be:

1. statement of purpose

2. research experience

3. letters of recommendation (reputation of your recommenders is tied into the reputation of your school)

4. and finally, GPA + GRE

 

True, though letters of recommendation can rank higher, in a way. It, along with your statement, validates the "research experience" which is otherwise just listed as a few lines on your CV.

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I need to know the source  to study for preparation to biology GRE 

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On 2/24/2013 at 2:01 PM, bamafan said:

 

This is blatantly false and wrong. If a school doesn't require the subject, then don't bother. But if a school requires or even recommends it, that's code for it's mandatory.

 

Secondly, your order of importance is also completely wrong. From the mouths of professors and graduate ad com members, as well as my own experience, a more accurate order of importance would be:

1. statement of purpose

2. research experience

3. letters of recommendation (reputation of your recommenders is tied into the reputation of your school)

4. and finally, GPA + GRE

I would disagree with this. As late as it is - the experience + letters are #1 and #1. 

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At risk of sounding promotional, the best help I got in terms of practice tests, was from the website called GREBIO. The take-home message from the booklet and the exam itself that I got was that in addition to (obviously) your knowledge, your problem-solving skills are tested here. So the grebio practice tests helped a lot in that respect, since they have a bunch of questions like that. But their summary ebook is a bit too "bullet-pointy" for me. It might be good for other though.

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On 5/18/2018 at 12:17 AM, filip1 said:

At risk of sounding promotional, the best help I got in terms of practice tests, was from the website called GREBIO. The take-home message from the booklet and the exam itself that I got was that in addition to (obviously) your knowledge, your problem-solving skills are tested here. So the grebio practice tests helped a lot in that respect, since they have a bunch of questions like that. But their summary ebook is a bit too "bullet-pointy" for me. It might be good for other though.

When have you taken the exam? Last April? If so how did you do?

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On 5/26/2018 at 12:51 PM, antanon82 said:

When have you taken the exam? Last April? If so how did you do?

I took it last April and it went pretty good - 90%. I think taking as many practice tests as possible (with a timer) is the best advice. I think the Grebio practice tests were instrumental for my timing, since I could take all three and time myself several times and then re-take them.

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