Teaching at a college, doing laboratory research, investigating crime using forensic science: these are just a few of the many job options open to you if you earn a graduate degree in chemistry. Whether you want to focus on analytical, organic, physical or theoretical chemistry, getting accepted into a graduate program requires a lot of work. You'll need to take the general GRE, but chemistry departments are sometimes more flexible with the GRE subject test in chemistry.
Graduate programs tend to require applicants to submit the same information: undergraduate transcripts, personal statement, letters of recommendation and GRE general scores. If you are looking to be accepted into a chemistry program, you need to take a GRE subject test as well. The chemistry test is usually required. However, because graduate students can approach the subject in many different ways, some programs accept GRE subject tests in related areas, such as physics or biochemistry, cell and molecular biology.
The GRE chemistry test has about 130 multiple-choice questions. The mathematics are relatively simple, so you don't need a calculator. You're given the periodic table and another table of physical constants. The exam emphasizes physical and organic chemistry, covering thermodynamics, quantum chemistry, structure and bonding, reaction mechanisms, reactive intermediates and organometallics. Twenty-five percent of the test concerns inorganic chemistry topics, such as ionic substances, metals and semiconductors, acids and bases and covalent molecular substances. Analytical chemistry is a small portion of the exam, and it may include data collection and statistics, solutions, equilibrium and instruments.
The biochemistry, cell and molecular biology test has a long name, and it's a long test: about 170 multiple-choice questions. Test-takers receive an overall score as well as scores for the three subtests: biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology and genetics. Biochemistry topics include molecules and smaller structures, metabolic pathways, respiration, photosynthesis and regulation. Cell biology looks at cell communication, cytoskeletons and cell division. The final section, molecular biology and genetics, covers basic genetics, chromosomes, genomes, gene regulation and viruses. In addition, data interpretation and methods are part of all three subtests.
The physics subject test has about 100 multiple-choice questions with five possible answers. Several groups of questions are based on charts, graphs, data sets or descriptions. The two most important topics on the test are classical mechanics -- Newton’s laws, work and energy, particles, fluid dynamics -- and electromagnetism. Less time is spent on quantum mechanics, including the Schrödinger equation, wave function and angular momentum, thermodynamics and atomic physics. The test may also touch on optics and waves, special relativity and basic lab methods.
Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.