Is there a reason for me to take the GRE Biology test?

Ready to start your journey? is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What is the GRE Biology Test?

The GRE or Graduate Record Examination is a requirement of various colleges and universities. The General exam measures your grasp of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. It also assesses one’s ability to evaluate written material, reason, and analyze. It is not a subject-specific examination of your knowledge in a particular discipline. Some of these are chemistry, physics, mathematics, psychology, computer science, literature, and biology. Graduate admissions use the subject test scores to evaluate your expertise in a defined field.

Before exploring why you should take the test, you need to understand what this exam entails. The test consists of several parts, each of which is a specific percentage of it. The test has 188 five-choice questions that include lab and field situations, experiments, and diagrams. The three main areas, each comprising 33-34% of the test:

A. Cellular and Molecular Biology
B. Organismal Biology
C. Ecology and Evolution

A further breakdown of these three components is as follows in the same order as above:

Part A:

1.  Cellular Structure and Function (16-17%)
2.  Genetics and Molecular Biology (16-17%)

Part B:

  1. Animal Reproduction and Development  (6%)
  2. Animal Structure, Function, and Organization  (10%)
  3. Plant Structure, Function, and Organization  (7%)
  4. Plant Reproduction, Growth, and Development  (5%)
  5. Diversity of Life  (6%)

Part C: 

  1. Ecology (16-17%)
  2. Evolution (16-17%)

You can find further details on the above sections at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) site. Founded in 1947, this organization administers many standardized tests and assessments from kindergarten to the college graduate levels.

Students applying for graduate programs for the fall of 2021 might have the benefit of eliminating the GRE. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many learning institutions have relaxed their admission requirements. However, in a post-pandemic environment, this could change. Examples of schools that scrapped the GRE test are Auburn, Baylor, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, University of Washington, and numerous others. The current list is available at USA Admission.

Of the many schools on the directory mentioned above, one example is the University of Pittsburgh. It offers a master’s degree in Integrative Systems Biology (ISB). Individuals with a baccalaureate in science, engineering, or mathematics must submit their GPA, three letters of recommendation, and personal statement. No GRE! International students must submit the results of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).

Baylor University’s Graduate School has a master’s in biology that does require applicants to submit their GRE scores. Its website doesn’t specify if any subject tests are required. However, the school states that GRE requirements are on a case-by-case basis. A list of programs is viewable where the GRE is optional, not needed, or applicants can use their GMAT scores instead. Biology is not one of these.

Students researching graduate programs in biology can readily find several whose admission requirements omit the GRE in any form. Chatham University in Pittsburgh offers a Master of Science in Biology with no mention of the GRE. Applicants must submit the standard recommendation letters, transcripts, and personal essay as part of the admission application process. Other requirements include one year of biology, chemistry, and other subject completions are mandatory.

Many graduate programs are silent regarding the demand for the GRE Biology test. The Department of Biology at Georgia Southern University bucks this trend as it stipulates that the GRE Biology Test is not required. It has also waived the GRE General Test because of the pandemic. However, students have the option of submitting their test scores.

The 2020 year produced unprecedented times with the severity of the coronavirus. The year 2021 has started with the same restrictions and burdens from the disease. As illustrated, colleges and universities have altered admission standards. Many changes are temporary. Therefore, students intent on pursuing a graduate program in biology should check your list of prospective schools—no need to fret about the GRE biology test, which most schools have canceled – pandemic or not. There are more important concerns, such as your undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, and extensive knowledge of biology, chemistry, and related sciences. Impressive results in each of these will bode well for graduate school consideration.

Additional Resources:

Top 50 Highest Paying Master’s Degrees

Are there programs where I take my Master’s and Ph.D. in Biology simultaneously? 

What does an Epidemiologist do daily?

Do American schools accept the IELTS for international graduate students in biology? 

Do people planning to attend Med School often have a Master’s in Biology?

How important are GRE scores for a Master’s in Biology?

If I am an international student, how much should I score on my TOEFL to get into a competitive Biology Master’s program?