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GRE Math Subject testshould I take it?

  1. Apr 19, 2009 #1

    I graduated 10 yrs ago with a BA in Math from a US liberal arts college. I am looking to go back to do my Masters (preferably in Applied Math) in Math. I am undecided as to whether I should take the GRE Math test. There are some universities whose Math programs I like but they require or highly recommend taking the GRE subject test. The problem is that I do not remember all of my linear algebra or analysis or abstract algebra, and I am not sure that, without having to retake these classes, that I would be effective in reviewing all this course work just by buying a couple of books from Amazon and studying for it. I mean calculus and linear alg and diff eq are fairly easy for me and I should be able to review them with no problem, but Elem Real Analysis, Abstract Algebra were never my strong points....hell I didnt even take topology and Complex analysis..and then you add a 10 yr absence from doing math..you get the picture....so I am not sure how to effectively study for all these courses again, short of actually taking them.

    Another reason I am not sure I should take it is that some professors I talked to say that most grad programs do an intense review of the fundamental analysis and algebra topics, which makes me wonder the point of having to study for all this again for the subject test if some programs do the review. Now granted some of the most elite places may assume you have the knowledge and may get you working on some highly complex problems, but most I am guessing will assume that students need a review, no?

    I am not looking to apply to any highly elite schools like MIT or the UC system of schools (aka UCLA, UC-Berk, UCSD etc)...just some easy going simple grad program in Math will do for me. Yet there are universities like U Vermont, Oregon State etc whose programs intrigue me and I would like to give them a shot in applying there as well, but they require the GRE subject test. Just out of curiosity, why do some universities require the subject test and some don't? is it because the ones that do require the subject test think of themselves as high caliber? I mean ok, I can understand Harvard and MIT requiring the subject test, but I am noticing that even some low tiered places require it, which doesn't make sense.....

    so what do y'all think? is it worth it for me to undergo the pain of learning for the subject test, give my situation?

    PS: I also have a follow up question about which are good easy going non Harvard like schools to apply to, but maybe I'll put that in separate topic..still any and all suggestions are appreciated
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2009 #2


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    Given that it's stuff that you have to know, and will have to learn/review anyway, why not just review it and take the test?
  4. Apr 19, 2009 #3
    that's what I was initially thinking, but my worry is that what if my scores are not very high...wouldn't that hurt my chances when applying to grad school. lets say some school that doesn't require it now gets the subject scores? wouldn't that count against me?
  5. Apr 19, 2009 #4


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    You don't have to send them the scores directly. You can wait until you get the scores and then use them if you want to.
  6. Apr 19, 2009 #5
    after being out of school for 10 years, i would suggest not taking the gre subject test unless you review for > 1 year. there's no way to relearn all of that linear algebra, abstract algebra, number theory, prob/stat etc... the subject test over the years has begun to place less emphasis on calc i - iii/diff eq (which they claim is "50%" of the test... yea right) and more emphasis on higher level linear algebra, analysis (the form i took a had question on lebesgue integration!!) logic, topology, complex analysis , combinatorics, etc.... i extensively went over then four available practice tests and they all included more and more higher level math, and the real test was no exception.

    if you are applying for a master's program, esp a less prestigious one, you will get in somewhere - trust me, even w/o taking the subject test. lots of these schools love master's students since they essentially pay full tuition and do not require as much energy/attention from the professors.

    a high subject test score may help you get financial aid, which is still unlikely at the master's level.

    i would take a practice test (the most recent one available, on the ets site). if you score >50%ile, you're in good shape. but that's still pretty tough to do. hell, the first practice test i took, i got like a 40%ile (as a junior), and it wasnt until i reviewed the stuff i forgot (but i learned it a year or two ago, not 10!!!) that i was able to crack a 71%ile on the real thing. sorry about the grammar, im in a hurry! good luck!
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