Jump to content

GRE Chemistry subject test


Recommended Posts

  • 1 year later...

Those of you who took the 13 Nov 2010 test, what did you think? (Belated, I know. I haven't gotten my scores yet.) I was surprised at the plethora of biochem questions, but other than that, I felt it was very similar to the two practice tests from ETS available on the web.

I used two practice tests (i.e. actual exams previously adminstered) available free on the web: GR0027 and GR0627. ETS also sent me a copy of GR0627 in the mail a few weeks after I registered for the test.

In studying for the test, I just went through my class notes & textbooks (I actually had to read them this time! :o):

  • analytical: Quantitative Chemical Analysis, 7e / Harris [one of the best a. chem. textbooks I've ever read]
  • inorganic: Inorganic Chemistry, 3e / Miessler & Tarr [the Miessler & Tarr book is actually helpful for some of the p. chem. concepts]; and Descriptive Inorganic Chemistry, 4e / Rayner-Canham & Overton [i hadn't taken i. chem. before studying for the test, so the Rayner-Canham book is useful for learning the material at a basic level]
  • organic: Organic Chemistry, 3e / Hornback [Hornback's pretty good about most reactions, and the mechanistic presentation is helpful for working out o. chem. reactions you've never seen before (like I had to--I didn't know anything about nitrile chemistry before studying for the test; wasn't covered in my o. chem. classes), though I admit, I'm used to the mechanistic view (my classes didn't focus so much on functional groups)]
  • physical: Physical Chemistry, 8e / Atkins & dePaula [this is an absolutely terrible book, at least for poor me's puny intellect, lack of mathematical understanding, & not knowing how to use MATLAB. typos everywhere, terrible explanations, lack of clear derivations, ...]; Physical Chemistry, 2e / Mortimer [used this to learn quantum mechanics (never had a class on QM, so I did the best I could); from what I could tell, this did a slightly better job of explaining than Atkins ... but if you have time on your hands, you may want to pick up McQuarrie's p. chem. book--it goes against the classical paradigm and starts off with QM, then builds thermo & kinetics from a quantum perspective, or so I've heard]

Also, if I had to recommend a g. chem. textbook for review or just some easy reading, it'd be, hands down, General Chemistry / Linus Pauling. Some of the material is outdated (e.g. his convoluted bonding models), but hey, you gotta cut the man some slack. It's the absolute best chemistry textbook you'll ever read. (Well, maybe 2nd best--Gonick & Criddle's Cartoon Guide to Chemistry is also really good. :D)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I used the Princeton Review and the Kaplan books. I found they did a good job of providing the necessary topics in enough detail to answer the questions you see on the exam without having an obscene amount to study. The included practice exams in those books weren't indicative of the real ETS exam, so I used a test booklet that had about 5 practice tests which were more similar to the actual in content and difficulty. The books do a great job with Organic and physical, decent with analytical, but lack in parts of inorganic.

Waddle brought up some great books if you have time to really look through the material. He mentioned a lot of biochem questions, but a lot of times you can reason biochem with a strong background in the other chemistry subjects. Harriss' book does a good job. Miessler and Tarr's is great for intro inorganic I definitely recommend it if you struggle with inorganic. O Chem you can find a lot of books which provide the necessary material. As waddle said, I don't like the Atkins book at all, but I would not recommend McQuarries book for the GRE exam. It is truly an excellent (or the best) pchem book, but few of the concepts will be on the exam. I wouldn't try to work through this book.

The thing I don't like about studying from general books and lecture notes is that a lot of the material is extraneous. If you have a lot of time to study, then it would be better to cover more topics in more detail, but if you are tight for time, I would suggest sticking to the "big topics" that are most often tested on the exam. The review books do a good job of presenting a lot of the necessary material concisely.

I studied for a week and used those two books, and did considerably better on the exam than I was hoping for. Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting list of books, waddle. I used Harris as well, which I still think is pretty good and use as a desk reference (even though it doesn't refer to some of the analytical methods I use in research: Skoog does a more thorough job of that.)

To give you an idea of how old I am, when I was an undergrad, I used Miessler & Tarr 1st ed. in inorganic; I think it was a brand new book then...but I didn't like it very much as a text. I used Housecroft. And when my dad (who's in China on a cultural exchange program) was asked to teach inorganic for the first time in 30 years, he borrowed my Housecroft...and said it was the best inorganic book he'd seen. (My sister also lent him a couple of inorganic books.)

Organic: I used to have a bunch of organic books which my dad gave me for desk references...he taught organic for decades and had been given many free copies by textbook publishers. He also preferred the mechanistic approach. But this didn't work so well for me; I hadn't even looked at o-chem for 15 years before I took the test, so I preferred Maitland Jones, who has a very conversational writing style.

As for p-chem: I used to work for a p-chemist. He used Atkins for his classes, even though he actually preferred MacQuarrie. The reason he used what he considered an "inferior" book is that he thought MacQuarrie was too intensely mathematical for most of his students. But he suggested I use it as a reference, since math is a forte of mine. Thomas Engel's book isn't too bad, though, especially if you're a bit math-deficient.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The thing I don't like about studying from general books and lecture notes is that a lot of the material is extraneous. If you have a lot of time to study, then it would be better to cover more topics in more detail, but if you are tight for time, I would suggest sticking to the "big topics" that are most often tested on the exam. The review books do a good job of presenting a lot of the necessary material concisely.

I studied for a week and used those two books, and did considerably better on the exam than I was hoping for.

I gave up on a Princeton Review book I borrowed at my library after taking one practice test out of it. The questions were convoluted but way too simplistic, and the review material was presented in a way that only benefits one who has already learned it in depth (the typos didn't help, either). I figured I might as well spend the 3 weeks I had just condensing & rewriting my notes from my various classes, and trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge (which were plenty).

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Those of you who took the 13 Nov 2010 test, what did you think? (Belated, I know. I haven't gotten my scores yet.) I was surprised at the plethora of biochem questions, but other than that, I felt it was very similar to the two practice tests from ETS available on the web.

  • physical: Physical Chemistry, 8e / Atkins & dePaula [this is an absolutely terrible book, at least for poor me's puny intellect, lack of mathematical understanding, & not knowing how to use MATLAB. typos everywhere, terrible explanations, lack of clear derivations, ...]; Physical Chemistry, 2e / Mortimer [used this to learn quantum mechanics (never had a class on QM, so I did the best I could); from what I could tell, this did a slightly better job of explaining than Atkins ... but if you have time on your hands, you may want to pick up McQuarrie's p. chem. book--it goes against the classical paradigm and starts off with QM, then builds thermo & kinetics from a quantum perspective, or so I've heard

If you could recommend 1 single Biochemistry book and 1 single Physical chemistry book in order to prepare for the GRE, what two books would those be? smile.gif

I also have a question on the timing of taking the GRE Chemistry test. If I plan on graduating Spring 2012 and applying to PhD Chemistry programs in Fall 2011 for enrollment in Fall 2012 and the Chemistry GRE is only offered in October, November, and April and I start the inorganic chemistry sequence in Fall 2011 and Winter 2012, how should I study for the inorganic question of the Chemistry GRE? Should I just start self-studying in the summer and take the Chemistry GRE in October 2011? ohmy.gif

Edited by chaospaladin
Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, you're all about digging up old posts today!

I like Garret and Grisham for biochemistry, and I like Levine for Physical Chemistry. Stay far, far away from Levine's specialized QM text though- very good, but very difficulty. I really liked McQuarrie's QM book, but am not familiar with his other PChem texts.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I really liked McQuarrie's QM book, but am not familiar with his other PChem texts.

I second McQuarrie! I have his full PChem book (QM + Thermo). Mathematically rigorous but very well explained. And I really really loved the fact that all of the math was reviewed before you needed it--it had been a good 15 years since I took calculus!

Yes, you will have to do a lot of self-study for the inorganic. On the plus side, you should breeze through your class. :D

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're looking to self-study Inorganic... Maybe Shriver & Atkins? It covers a full 2-semester inorganic course. It's a rather annoying book in many ways, but I found it very complete. It's what I used to study for entrance exams.

Crabtree's "The Organometallic Chemistry of the Transition Metals" was what we used in grad school, and I like the book- it's very readable. And Crabtree's awesome- I got him to sign my book last semester when he spoke at one of our seminars. It's mostly organometallic chemistry, but the introductory chapters are nice basic descriptive inorganic stuff.

Shriver and Atkins has it all, though.

McQuarrie's math reviews are great- it hadn't been quite that long for me, but it had been long enough. I actually picked up our libraries copy of his "Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers" and kept it on my shelf as reference for quite sometime.

Edited by Eigen
Link to post
Share on other sites

Honestly, I found going over my notes from my courses much more useful than going through textbooks. I would have been overwhelmed trying to read whole books in the weeks before the test, especially with classes going on. And theoretically, if you've been through the classes, you know the important points from the textbooks already and just need to refresh your memory.

I was also only partway through inorganic chemistry when I took the test, and I missed some questions that I otherwise would have gotten. But the number of questions that was an issue for was very small, and I don't think it hurt my score.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The bulk of the content in GRE chemistry is a (very) good understanding of freshmen level general chemistry and organic chemistry. Most (not all) of the content in the 'Physical Chemistry' section is simple, like the Laws of Thermodynamics, Raoult/Henry's Law, etc. If you don't have that much time, I suggest focusing on general chemistry and organic chemistry.

For an all purpose general chemistry textbook, I recommend Oxtoby's "Principles of Modern Chemistry". If you know the content of this book REALLY well, you should be gold.

Any organic chemistry textbook should be fine. I used Wade.

Part of what makes the chemistry GRE difficult (if you're aiming for something like a 90+ percentile) is its all encompassing content. Look at the past tests. In some years, they will expect you to know the Maxwell relations. Some years, they will expect some rudimentary knowledge of the construction of the Pi Molecular Orbitals via Huckel method. Some years, they will ask you about fugacity. But those questions are few and far between. Most are quite simple regurgitations.

My suggestion:

1) Take a look at the past exams. Look at at least two of them, to get a feel of the types of questions they ask. I mention at least two exams, because just by looking at one of them, they appear deceptively simple, and may give you the false impression that the exam is a breeze. You'll quickly realize that to get a good score, you need to be comfortable with not only chemical intuition and rationale (which is more important in research), but quickly solving those anal, trivial, stock questions that characterize almost every standardized tests administered in a multiple choice format (eg. which isoelectronic ion has the largest radius? which alkane has the highest boiling point? Rank the acids, from most acidic to least acidic, etc.).

2) Start by solving those boring practice problems found in your textbooks (like Oxtoby and Wade). Speed is the key. Solving these early problems boost your score and confidence (every question is worth the same!)

3) Review your general chemistry. Basic Thermodynamics, Equilibriums, and Rate Laws. Know the connection between them. Memorize the equations associated with every basic process in thermodynamics (i.e. isothermal, isovolumetric, isobaric, etc.). Know your coordination chemistry (eg. Steric Numbr is not equal to molecular shape, lone pair-lone pair interactions are less favorable than bonding pair - lone pair, etc.)

4) Review your O-Chem. This may not be really helpful advice, but just memorize almost all pertinent reactions. How far does the PCC oxidize? KNOW how to quickly discern the difference between enantiomers, meso, and diasteromers.

5) If you have time, go over the special topics like biochemistry, the implications of quantum mechanics (operators not commuting = the simultaneous standard deviation is not zero), molecular term symbols, Jahn Teller distortions, etc. These questions separate the people who get something in the 60-70th percentile+ and the people who get 90+ percentile.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I should add that for Inorganic Chemistry, I used Messerschmidt (sp?). For QM/Thermodynamics, I used McQuarrie and Simon. Crabtree is fine, I used it for my second quarter in Inorganic Chemistry, but really, most of the questions in Inorganic Chemistry should be covered by general chemistry.

You should be very comfortable with the 18 electron rule (i.e. how many d electrons are in the metal center?), and be somewhat comfortable with symmetry operations and point groups.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 months later...

There is just so much content to digest, and to brush up on. I can only recommed you get your old text books and just hunker down.

I think for organic, a suitable review would be MCAT materials. I have some old MCAT books, I am using to brush up on my organic with, in addition to working back through the book. Also, for the PChem section, I would suggest breaking down the first three laws and all applications; which, should cover a good deal of it. For the Quantum part, brush up on all math up to Calc. III, or Diff. Eq. and anything you can muster up (Normalizing Wave Equations, Work Functions, Energy Transitions, etc.). I wouldn't expect too much Quantum from the PChem part beause you just don't have a calculator to do all of those tedious calculations and unit conversions with.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks! I still have Analytical and Inorganic Chem left to review. I am allotting 2 days to finish the Quantum Chem and statistical thermodynamics part (I saw these topics in the practice tests). I hope I finish all these with only a month left! :D

There is just so much content to digest, and to brush up on. I can only recommed you get your old text books and just hunker down.

I think for organic, a suitable review would be MCAT materials. I have some old MCAT books, I am using to brush up on my organic with, in addition to working back through the book. Also, for the PChem section, I would suggest breaking down the first three laws and all applications; which, should cover a good deal of it. For the Quantum part, brush up on all math up to Calc. III, or Diff. Eq. and anything you can muster up (Normalizing Wave Equations, Work Functions, Energy Transitions, etc.). I wouldn't expect too much Quantum from the PChem part beause you just don't have a calculator to do all of those tedious calculations and unit conversions with.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 7 months later...

General question. I plan to take the chemistry subject GRE towards the end of the summer and unfortunately I will not yet have taken physical chemistry at that time. If anyone else has been in this situation, what would you guys suggest for preparation to be able to do at least moderately well on the physical chemistry portion while acknowledging that my time is probably best spent trying to teaching myself everything...

I have the ACS review book and I was thinking I would look through that as well as try to pinpoint common themes among practice chemistry GREs and try to learn those concepts as best as I can.

Edited by Faraday
Link to post
Share on other sites

@Eigen: I'm assuming this person is applying to be admitted for Fall 2013, which would correspond to this upcoming application season.

So I was in a similar situation; I had actually never taken inorganic chemistry prior to taking the GRE chemistry exam. I'm sure that it affected my score negatively, but you can still survive (I scored a 770 I think, which was not something I was terribly proud of but I was not ashamed either). I think the best thing you can do is identify specific subjects within the topic and learn them for the exam (For example I learned how to count ligand electron contributions onto a metal because I thought that it was one of the most common inorganic-type questions). Fortunately the way they divide their questions up leave a lot of general chemistry in what they define as the "physical chemistry" portion of the exam. I don't remember many questions that required really deep understanding of physical chemistry, just knowledge and remembering important formulas.

Alternatively I think a roughly equivalent approach point-wise would be to learn to identify questions you absolutely have no experience with and leaving them blank, and instead focusing entirely on material you've previously covered. I think this would be helpful if you don't have a fairly good textbook or friend/tutor to assist in your learning process.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Any reason why you're taking it so early if you aren't applying until Fall of 2013?

Yes, I was under the impression that application season referred to the time you were planning to begin graduate studies, as most posters this past year had 2012 fall selected...

@Eigen: I'm assuming this person is applying to be admitted for Fall 2013, which would correspond to this upcoming application season.

So I was in a similar situation; I had actually never taken inorganic chemistry prior to taking the GRE chemistry exam. I'm sure that it affected my score negatively, but you can still survive (I scored a 770 I think, which was not something I was terribly proud of but I was not ashamed either). I think the best thing you can do is identify specific subjects within the topic and learn them for the exam (For example I learned how to count ligand electron contributions onto a metal because I thought that it was one of the most common inorganic-type questions). Fortunately the way they divide their questions up leave a lot of general chemistry in what they define as the "physical chemistry" portion of the exam. I don't remember many questions that required really deep understanding of physical chemistry, just knowledge and remembering important formulas.

Alternatively I think a roughly equivalent approach point-wise would be to learn to identify questions you absolutely have no experience with and leaving them blank, and instead focusing entirely on material you've previously covered. I think this would be helpful if you don't have a fairly good textbook or friend/tutor to assist in your learning process.

Thanks. This is what I gathered from the brief browsing of the Subjects test that I have done so far and based off of what has been said in this thread.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Huh, interesting. I'd always read application season the other way around, as in the season in which you're applying.

On the subject:

I'd focus on the physical aspects of general chemistry, which you should already know. As has been mentioned, that's a lot of it.

From what I recall, the subject test is strongly biased towards organic and reaction mechanisms.

I'm assuming you're applying to schools for which the subject test is required? If not, and you aren't thrilled with your score, I don't think it's really necessary for most applications, unless your transcript is weak in chemistry and you're trying to bolster it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Hi, I just found this thread. I'm answering Chem subject GRE in Oct 2012, and this thread has been great source of information! :)

However, I have only got one GRE paper so far http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/GRE/pdf/gre_0910_chemistry_practice_book.pdf. Where can I get more GRE papers for reference?

I found subjectgre.com where they sell Chem papers - 3 for $45! Has enyone used this before? Can I get more papers for free from elsewhere?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, I just found this thread. I'm answering Chem subject GRE in Oct 2012, and this thread has been great source of information! :)

However, I have only got one GRE paper so far http://www.ets.org/M...actice_book.pdf. Where can I get more GRE papers for reference?

I found subjectgre.com where they sell Chem papers - 3 for $45! Has enyone used this before? Can I get more papers for free from elsewhere?

I have exams from 1982, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2006. Do you want me to upload them?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.