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GRE Subject (Economics, Engineering, History, Mathematics, Physics, etc) is usually required or highly recommended by schools. If you are applying to Physics Department GRE Physics will be required. If you are applying to Biology Department you will usually have a choice which subject test to take Biology, Math, Physics (I took Math when I was applying to Biology). Some universities would say that GRE Subject is not required, still if you can get high score it is worth to take and submit the test.
GRE scores (both General and Subject) are very important, admissions committee pays close attention to them.
Try to take tests in advance. I remember at two universities my application was considered incomplete and not given to the admission committee for consideration until I provided percentile of my GRE General score (when you take computer test you are given exact numbers right away but not the percentile) -- I don't think this is generally the case, but still don't wait until the last moment. Try to take the tests in October-November.
GRE General consists of three sections Quantitative, Analytical and
Verbal. The maximum score in each section is 800. You will have total of
4 sections during the test. One section will be presented twice (I had
two Analytical sections, for example). If you have two say Verbal
sections only one of them will be counted, the other one is
experimental. You won't know which one is experimental (don't even try
:-) thus you have to work hard on all 4 sections.
Quantitative (28 questions, 45 minutes)
Analytical (35 questions, 60 minutes)
Verbal (30 questions, 30 minutes)
The difficulty of this test depends on the subject you choose and on your personal level of knowledge. For example, at MIPT some of my group-mates could easily get 990 in Physics (which is maximum score) while others could only get 750 which is non-acceptable for the top schools (my score in 1997 was 770). When I was applying to Biology my Math score of 890 was considered really good. As a general rule score above 800 are good, above 900 are excellent. Most universities will list average scores for admitted students and these numbers are generally in the range 600-750. You should understand that these numbers include American students which generally have lower scores than foreigners. You have to win against other foreigners thus for you scores below 750 are no good at all.
|GRE: Practicing to take the General Test from ETS|
|Barron's How to Prepare for the GRE|
|Kaplan GRE Verbal Workbook|
|Cracking the GRE 2003 from Princeton Review|
|GRE Exam 2003 (Book and CD Rom) from Kaplan|