If you are planning to apply to an MBA programme and you have started to compile the various elements of your application package, you may have come across the possibility of taking GRE Subject Tests for MBA application. Along with the GRE General Test and the GMAT, these exams are just another option to consider if you need to send in a particular test score to the university of your choice.

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What are the GRE Subject Tests?

The subject tests administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) are designed to test your knowledge of a specific field of study. One or several subject tests can be taken by people who already have an undergraduate degree and are planning to start a Master’s or MBA programme as well as by those who have extensive experience with the subject matter.

There are six subject tests to choose from: Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. While the exams in each of the six disciplines feature a different number of multiple-choice questions, they are all administered in a pen-and-paper format and they take 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete. Note that the GRE Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Test was discontinued in 2016, while there also used to be a GRE Test in Computer Science which was discontinued in 2013. Subject tests can be taken three times a year either in September, October or April.

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When are GRE Subject Tests required for MBA admission?

It is important to note that a subject test is not a substitute for the GRE General Test. Business schools typically require that MBA applicants submit their score from the latter as this is the aptitude test that measures the analytical skills necessary to succeed in such programmes. It combines maths, writing, and reading to assess the test taker’s critical thinking abilities. When compiling your application package, make sure to check whether the GRE General Test is accepted for admission at a particular school.

Nevertheless, any of the GRE Subject Tests may also be listed as recommended or optional for some MBAs and Master’s degrees. Obviously, subject tests are much more focused on content so they will not be useful for as many programmes as the general test. However, even if it is not a requirement, some MBA programmes will be interested in checking your score if the subject you selected is very close to the programme specialisation. As the organisation that administers the test advises, “it's best to contact the specific graduate programme you're interested in and inquire about their requirements.” You can find all the institutions and fellowship sponsors approved to receive GRE scores online via the official ETS website or here.

Why should you consider taking a GRE Subject Test?

Next to Master’s applicants who are interested in specific disciplines such as STEM, MBA candidates can also benefit from taking one of the GRE Subject Tests. For instance, Bhavin Parikh, author at Magoosh, recommends opting for a relevant subject test if the programmes you are applying for are highly competitive, such as the ones offered by Ivy League schools in the US. This is a great opportunity to give your MBA application the competitive edge it needs for the most sought-after business schools. According to the Academic and Government Relations Director of ETS Global, Maria Victoria Calabrese, a good subject test score “can help students stand out from other applicants by emphasising their knowledge and skill level in a specific area.

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One of the advantages of choosing the GRE over other aptitude tests is that it gives applicants flexibility and room to think through their options. Scores of both the general test and the subject tests are valid for five years and they are accepted by a multitude of graduate programmes. In other words, if you are still not sure whether you would like to enrol in an MBA or Master’s programme, or whether you would like to focus on business and management or on another discipline, you can keep your options open with the GRE. This is one of the reasons many applicants for dual degree programmes (such as an MBA and a Master’s) opt for the GRE test.

What should you keep in mind for your test preparation?

The most essential piece of advice is simple: plan ahead! Drafting a strong MBA application requires time and effort, and this includes test taking along with all the rest of the necessary documents. Whether you have opted for the general test or for a subject test, it is best to start preparing and familiarising yourself with its specifics as early as possible, up to a year before you plan to submit your application. Specifically, when it comes to GRE Subject Tests, think carefully about whether the investment will be worth the result. Early planning is all the more recommended since the test dates for these exams are limited to three times per year.

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With a little extra ambition and good coordination throughout the MBA application process, acing one of the GRE Subject Tests is entirely possible. Use the opportunity wisely!