The GRE Psychology Subject Test

When it comes to the GRE psychology test, preparation is key

GRE psychology test
Learn more about the GRE Psychology Test. David Schaffer / Getty Images

If you are planning to apply to a psychology graduate program in the U.S., there is a strong chance that you will be required to take the GRE psychology subject test in order to be admitted to an accredited program. The test can be challenging, but there are plenty of things you can do to prepare for the test and get the scores you need to get admitted to a good psychology program.

Get the information you need to know about the GRE Psychology Subject Test.

Discover what the GRE Psychology test is, what the test covers, what you need to do to prepare, and when the test is offered.

What Is the GRE Psychology Test?

The GRE psychology test is a standardized exam that is often used as part of the admissions process for graduate school programs in the United States and other English-speaking countries. While the test is an optional, single-subject part of the GRE, students may choose to take the exam if they are considering applying to a psychology graduate program.

Not all psychology programs require the subject test. Some programs recommend that applicants take the psychology subject test, while others make it a mandatory part of the admissions process.

The Basics of the GRE Psychology Test

Before you take the test, you should first become familiar with the basic structure of the exam as well as the content covered by the test.

  • Most editions of the GRE Psychology test contain between 200 and 215 multiple-choice questions.
  • Each questions contains five different options and the test-taker must then select the option that best answers the question.
  • You will have two hours and 50 minutes to complete the test.
  • All versions of the psychology test utilize the classifications, diagnostic criteria, and terminology used in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5.
  • Correct answers are awarded one point, while 1/4 point is subtracted for each incorrect answer. Unanswered questions do not have an impact on the score.
  • The test may contain graphs, tables, and other material that serve as the basis for a number of questions.
  • Questions on the GRE psychology test are taken from core knowledge commonly taught in undergraduate-level psychology courses.
  • The test covers three broad categories: 1) Experimental and natural science material (about 40 percent of the test), 2) social science material (about 43 percent of the test), and 3) general psychology material (about 17 percent of the test).
  • The experimental and natural science questions may covers such things as sensation and perception, thinking, language, biopsychology, and learning.
  • The social science question covers areas such as personality, social psychology, development, and clinical psychology.
  • The general psychology questions focus on areas such as psychology history, statistics, research design, test construction, and applied psychology.
  • In addition to receiving an overall cumulative score, test-takers are also given two sub-scores: an experimental sub-score and a social sub-score.
  • While there are separate category questions and sub-score areas, they are not set aside and labeled specifically on the test. Questions from particular areas are instead distributed throughout the test.

When Is the GRE Psychology Test Offered?

The GRE and subject tests are offered in April, September, and October for testing the United States and Puerto Rico. The standard fee for subject tests administered in the U.S., Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories is $150. Check the official GRE Subject Test Dates to learn more about when the GRE Psychology test is offered.

How to Register for the GRE Psychology Test

You can register to take the test online or by mail. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) recommends that you register as early as possible in order to receive your free test preparation materials before the test date. Visit the GRE Registration page to learn more about what you need to do to register for the exam.

How to Prepare for the GRE Psychology Test

In addition to reviewing notes and old tests from your undergraduate psychology courses, there are a number of different ways you can prepare for the GRE Psychology test. There are a number of different test prep books available to help student prepare for the psychology subject test. Visit your campus bookstore or an online book retailer to see what is available.

Some recommendations before you begin studying.

  1. Start by taking a practice test before you start your test prep. This will give you a better idea of the content of the test and how much you need to do in order to prepare.
  2. Get a prep study booklet from a publisher such as Kaplan or Princeton Review, but do not restrict yourself to studying simply what is on the study guide. Only reviewing one or two study guides will not provide sufficient preparation for most students.
  3. Find one or two good introductory psychology books and spend a considerable amount of time familiarizing yourself with the content in each book. 
  4. After spending a considerable amount of time studying, take another practice test. By doing this, you will be able to get a better idea of which areas you are still weak in and what you need to focus on for the remainder of your prep.

Also be sure to talk to your psychology professors. In addition to offering helpful study tips, they may be able to help you organize a test prep study group.

The ETS also offers a free Psychology Practice Book (in PDF format) that you can download and use to study.

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