What is Included on the Biology GRE&Reg;?

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  • Written By: Abrielle Lynch
  • Edited By: Amanda L. Wardle
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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The biology graduate record examination (GRE®) tests ability and understanding in biology. Generally, subject tests like this one are not required in order to be accepted by a graduate school, but completion of this exam may be a supplement to a graduate application packet. The biology GRE® is composed of about 200 questions covering three common areas of biology: cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology and evolution.

Questions on the biology GRE® are listed in a five-choice format. Sometimes, a laboratory will be described with graphics and results, and questions will assess test takers' understanding of the lab described. Each subject area is measured equally. When scored, the biology GRE® will list not only a total score, but also individual scores for each subset of questions included on the test.

Approximately 33 percent of the questions included in this exam address cellular and molecular biology. Potential questions in this area may relate to the fundamentals of these two main subjects. Cellular structure and function may also be tested, including metabolic pathways, membrane dynamics, organelles, cytoskeleton, and cell cycle. Methods of microscopy, separation, and immunobiology may appear as question on the test.

The second subset of questions included in the biology GRE® focus on organismal biology. The focus of these questions may be subjects like the structure, behavior, and development of plants. Other topics covered include gas exchange, regulation of fluids, environmental stimuli, and internal transport.


Organismal biology questions may themselves be broken into five major subtopics on the biology GRE®. These topics include animal structure, function and organization, the reproduction and development of animals, plant function and structure, plant reproduction and development, and the diversity of life. The differences in selected groups of the animal kingdom may also be listed among these questions.

Questions relating to ecology and evolution make up approximately 33 percent of the biology GRE®. These questions may require test takers to exercise quantitative abilities, like understanding simple mathematical representations. Generally, an equal number of ecology- and evolutionary-related questions will be included. While many questions may focus on the standards of these areas, some may involve current problems within the environment.

Ecological questions may cover a wide range of subjects from ecosystem function to physiological adaptations. Evolution questions relate to genetic foundations, the processes of evolution, and their consequences. Some questions may incorporate the fundamentals of both ecology and evolution.


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