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Tips for taking the GRE Biology Subject test?


BattlePope
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Hi,

 

I'm going to be taking the GRE Biology Subject test this coming April and was wondering if anyone had any tips for taking it.

 

Any particular strategies that worked well for you? I've heard that if you can narrow it down to 3 answers to make an educated guess, otherwise just skip the question. Thoughts?

 

Any material I should focus on? Any material that I can gloss over? One specific question that I did have is how well should I know cellular respiration? I'm terrible at this particular subject and learning all the individual steps is taking me forever, time I feel that could be better spent studying other material. I'm thinking about just learning the main points and moving on.

 

Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

 

 

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they vary - get the kaplan book and stuff you want more knowledge on use your general biology textbook that you used for intro to biology. the test is very scattered, mine was filled with plant questions which killed me - but my friend took it the next month and it was heavy in immunology. just remember that it is nothing super deep, general across the board because not everyone has taken advanced courses in all areas. 

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Do NOT use the Princeton Review book! The biology review was horrible. They made up terms and got basic information taught to high school students wrong. I quickly switched to Kaplan and it helped a lot.

 

One thing I recommend doing is taking a diagnostic exam to see where you are weak in. The Bio GRE asks questions from across the board, including a few areas that I never touched (they like paleobiology a lot for some reason). There is also a disproportionate amount of material on plant biology on the test. Take a diagnostic test and review, review, review! I recommend using an intro Biology textbook (my personal recommendation is Campbell's Biology) to go over areas you are not very familiar with. A review book can only do so much, and a text book will go into much more detail.

 

I hope this helped. Good Luck!

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Thanks. I am currently going through the Campbell-Reece book. Pretty much everything I have read online has said that the Campbell book is the best way to prepare for the test. I'm planning on reading through all of it but since I am a bit limited on time I was looking to see what I should focus on. I will be sure to know plant biology and paleobiology. Thanks so much for the tips.

 

Any other help would be greatly appreciated!

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Make sure not to gloss over ecology, there's a lot of easy points you can earn if you spend some time reviewing the terminology. It seems b/c these chapters always seem to be at the end of the textbooks and therefore towards the end of most people's reviews, it tends to get less attention.

 

I basically used a combination of my intro textbook (several years outdated) and wikipedia to supplement it. Wikipedia is great, and I also used a site called boundless.com, which has lots of free content designed to match many popular textbooks, and even more if you subscribe. With enough time, you should be able to cover everything on the test.

 

Good luck studying :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the reply. Thanks for the advice rexzeppelin. Thankfully, ecology is one of my stronger points. With that said, are there any other areas/topics that you recommend I focus on? It sounds like plant biology and paleobiology are two popular topics.

 

Another quick question (for anyone), how well do you need to know specific clades/species of organisms? For example, the protist chapter in Campbell-Reece is extremely dense with specific characteristics about each clade. Is this something I will need to know? Or should I just be more familiar with the general biology/structure/life cycles of bryophytes? I'm going to try to learn all the generalities of the main clades but think trying to learn some of the super nitty-gritty stuff is just unrealistic.

 

Edit: The fungi chapter is another section that is fairly in-depth about all of the different phylums/species. Do I really need to know every characteristic that defines each phylum?

Edited by BattlePope
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I'm taking the test in a week and furiously trying to review as much as possible from Campbell's.  My weak points are organismal biology (esp. plants) and evolution and ecology.  Just hoping I can remember all the nitty gritty details come test day.  Hopefully, the test will be more general than specific.  I'm not sure I can remember all the details in the organismal biology chapters.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the reply. Thanks for the advice rexzeppelin. Thankfully, ecology is one of my stronger points. With that said, are there any other areas/topics that you recommend I focus on? It sounds like plant biology and paleobiology are two popular topics.

 

Another quick question (for anyone), how well do you need to know specific clades/species of organisms? For example, the protist chapter in Campbell-Reece is extremely dense with specific characteristics about each clade. Is this something I will need to know? Or should I just be more familiar with the general biology/structure/life cycles of bryophytes? I'm going to try to learn all the generalities of the main clades but think trying to learn some of the super nitty-gritty stuff is just unrealistic.

 

Edit: The fungi chapter is another section that is fairly in-depth about all of the different phylums/species. Do I really need to know every characteristic that defines each phylum?

PLANT BIO! my weakest point, dont make it your weakest! 

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I'm probably going to apply for bMe program and most of the programs that I'm thinking of doesn't require a biology GRE score.

Is it still beneficial to take it? Or does it really not matter?

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Unless your primary program requires it, don't waste your time.

I keep running into places that say, "recommended but not required". What is the best option in this particular case? I didn't have the best gpa coming out of undergrad (1st couple years were brutal). Should I just take it anyway to boost my app? I'll have rock solid LORs and I've been a full time research tech. for 3 years. Will I need to take this? I'd prefer to avoid if it at all possible. 

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I'm probably going to apply for bMe program and most of the programs that I'm thinking of doesn't require a biology GRE score.

Is it still beneficial to take it? Or does it really not matter?

 

If a program does not require it, don't take it, save those dollars and apply to another program. Some programs also recommend it but don't require it (some of Stanford's programs for example) and you might consider taking the subject test for these programs, however, I've know if people who get in without it. 

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I keep running into places that say, "recommended but not required". What is the best option in this particular case? I didn't have the best gpa coming out of undergrad (1st couple years were brutal). Should I just take it anyway to boost my app? I'll have rock solid LORs and I've been a full time research tech. for 3 years. Will I need to take this? I'd prefer to avoid if it at all possible.

When you say you don't have the best GPA, what exactly do you mean? A 3.5 isn't the best, but it's still very competitive for grad school. On the other hand a 2.8 means you're going to have some difficulties. Edited by Vene
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When you say you don't have the best GPA, what exactly do you mean? A 3.5 isn't the best, but it's still very competitive for grad school. On the other hand a 2.8 means you're going to have some difficulties.

Its at a 3. If you just take my last 2 years, that goes up to a 3.5. 

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Its at a 3. If you just take my last 2 years, that goes up to a 3.5.

I think that, strictly speaking, you don't need it. But, you are going to want something in your application to make you appear stronger. The increase in GPA is good and your last two years are fine. I know that at least a couple programs I applied to even wanted me to report the GPA of my last two years. You having the experience you do helps a lot, as does your recommendations. From what you wrote you are a few years removed from graduating undergrad, so GPA generally means less at that point. I think you can probably get away without taking the subject test, but it's a close call. If you're willing to do a masters degree I highly doubt you'll have problems.
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  • 5 months later...

Thanks everyone for the tips and advice! I take mine soon & I am a little nervous. 

 

I watched lectures online from MIT open courseware under Bio and watched the fundamentals/intro to bio courses for their semesters. I also bought the Campbell book and have been skimming through that. 

 

Besides mediocre reviews on Kaplan and Princeton review books I'm wondering what else is there out there

 

I have been badly struggling to figure out exactly how and what to to spend my best time studying. Ive never learned (like this) on my own outside of the classroom. 

 

Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated

 

thanks

 

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I keep running into places that say, "recommended but not required". What is the best option in this particular case? I didn't have the best gpa coming out of undergrad (1st couple years were brutal). Should I just take it anyway to boost my app? I'll have rock solid LORs and I've been a full time research tech. for 3 years. Will I need to take this? I'd prefer to avoid if it at all possible. 

It is an ambiguous statement.  How can a program both recommend that you do something and say it is also not required in the same sentence?  The way I read it is as follows:  your application is recommended but not required.  

 

This is one of those things that will produce just as many different answers as the number of people giving those answers.  I have heard some say that "Recommended" really means "Yes, we really want you to take it" and others say "it's only required if...your uGPA is low/you majored in a different subject or area/you went to an 'unknown' school..."

 

In my opinion if something is recommended but not required, and you give it a shot anyways, it shows intention.  

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