Most PhD programs and some fellowships require you to submit GRE scores – yippee! There are two flavors of the GRE: general and subject. Subject tests offered are Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. None of my bioengineering programs required any subject tests, but in the tested disciplines, programs often, but don't always require the test (check program websites now, find the deadlines, and start prepping!). As the GRE website says, “Each Subject Test is intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in one of these seven disciplines,” so don’t go crazy taking all of them just for funsies. Seriously.
The General GRE has 3 parts – Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Writing. QR is pretty much high school math with lots of word problems; VR relies heavily on vocab – pretty standard stuff. The writing section is its own beast: there’s a section where you critique an argument and a section where you make an argument. From what I’ve heard, STEM grad programs don’t care a ton about GRE writing scores, but practice practice practice will definitely help.
How much do your GRE scores matter in your application? Varies dramatically by field – don’t be afraid to ask professors at your school. After all, professors are the ones who sit on admissions committees! I asked and was told you have to do “well” but as long as you’re above 75th percentile on math, they don’t really care about the rest (this sounds high, but remember, non-STEM students take the GRE too). But that’s just one professor from one department at one school, so I don’t really know. What’s the take in your field? If you have any wisdom, please share the love in the comments.
#protip: Use one of those study books. I used one that had online timed practice tests – so useful... The whole GRE is done on a computer, so it can be hard to get used to the format. I miss the old school, cross-out-options-that-you-know-are-wrong, methods...
Good luck, lovelies! You’ll be GREat!!