How to Study for the GRE Psychology Subject Test

8 Best GRE Psychology Subject Test Books

How to Study for the GRE Psychology Subject Test

The GRE general test is one of the most common standardized exams; however, there are 6 subjects for which you can take a specialized GRE test called the GRE subject test. One of these subjects is the subject exam of Psychology.

Students take these specialized tests to improve their chances of getting into the program of their choice.

The GRE subject test is meant to supplement your undergraduate records, recommendation letters, and other qualifications for a graduate program.

In some cases, it might be a requirement to take a subject test; however, this is strictly dependent on the school you are applying to. In most cases, a general GRE test would suffice, but if you want to get into a program with a corresponding GRE subject test, then taking that subject test might give a better understanding of your abilities to the admissions board.

In today’s article, I will go through the top 8 GRE psychology subject test prep books and resources. Since subject tests are a bit of a niche, there aren’t many options available; however, you can still find some great books to get you through your prep.

8. GRE Psychology w/CD-ROM

This book, written by R. Kellogg, offers a complete review of all the topics tested on GRE psychology. It includes six full-length psychology GRE tests as well as 2000 must-know psychology terms.

Key Features:

  • Six full-length psychology GRE tests.
  • 2000 must-know psychology terms.
  • Each test contains every type of question that can be expected on the GRE.
  • Exclusive Pro Study Plan helps you maximize your valuable study time while learning effective test-taking strategies and timesaving tips from the pros.

Get it here.

7. GRE Psychology Test Secrets Study Guide

Mometrix Test Prep provides a comprehensive guide to the GRE psychology test. It contains hundreds of practice questions with detailed answer explanations for each answer. The book is filled with all the critical information you would need to score high on your test, i.e., concepts, procedures, principles, etc.

Key Features:

  • A thorough and detailed review of the GRE Psychology Test
  • A guide to experimental subscore
  • An extensive review of social subscore
  • An analysis of other areas

Get it here.

6. Test Yourself 1000+ ETS GRE Psychology Flashcards

Although not a book, these GRE Psychology flashcards are meant to cover everything you need to know about the subject quickly. I would advise that you supplement your psychology prep with these and not use them as your primary source.

Key Features:

  • 1000+ flashcards covering the most useful concepts and influential psychologists tested on the GRE Psychology subject test
  • Printed on bright white smooth paper
  • Premium matte cover finish
  • Perfect for all lettering mediums

Get it here.

5. GRE Psychology Test Flashcard Study System

These flashcards by Mometrix cover all the topics tested on the GRE psychology test. It also provides an in-depth review of all the relevant topics that you would need to know. Again, same as the previous flashcards, don’t use these as your primary source of study but as an additional one.

Key Features:

  • They are packed with the critical information you’ll need to master to ace the GRE Psychology Exam.
  • GRE Psychology Test Flashcard Study System uses repetitive methods of study to teach you how to break apart and quickly solve difficult test questions on the test.
  • Printed on heavy, bright white 67 lb. cover stock.
  • They are written in an easy to understand, straightforward style – no jargon.

Get it here.

4. Cracking the GRE Psychology Subject Test by Princeton Review

“Cracking the GRE” takes a strategic approach to the GRE psychology test. It will teach you information that you need to know and doesn’t include any unwanted detail. This book is not meant to be a comprehensive guide but is more concerned with tackling the different questions using strategies.

Key Features:

  • Practical strategies to help you beat the test and hit your top score.
  • Specialized tactics to avoid the trick questions that trap most students.
  • Alternative approaches to enable you to tackle the most challenging questions with confidence.
  • Charts, figures, diagrams, and bulleted lists provide strong GRE Psychology content presentation and review.
  • Subject review for all exam topics.

Get it here.

3. GRE Psychology (Barron’s Test Prep)

Barron’s makes some of the best test prep books available on the market. Their GRE Psychology prep book offers a general overview of the test, two diagnostic tests, study aids, and a plethora of test-taking advice.

Key Features:

  • A general overview of the GRE Psychology Test
  • Subject review of all test topics
  • Study aids and test-taking advice
  • Scoring grids that enable students to measure their performance within each subject area.
  • Two diagnostic tests.
  • Three full-length GRE Psychology tests.

Get it here.

2. Princeton Review GRE Psychology Prep

Un “Cracking the psychology subject test,” “GRE Psychology Prep” by Princeton review is meant to offer a comprehensive study of all the psychology topics tested on the exam. It includes in-depth lessons and three full-length GRE psychology practice tests as well as techniques and strategies.

Key Features:

  • Three full-length practice tests (1 in the book & 2 online) with detailed answer explanations.
  • Diagnostic answer keys help you evaluate your progress and pinpoint areas of improvement.
  • Thorough coverage of all GRE Psychology topics, including sensation and perception, physiological and behavioral neuroscience, psychological disorders, measurement and methodology, and much more.
  • Thematic organization to help you better absorb the information you need to know.
  • Psychology-based study tips to give you an extra edge.

Get it here.

1. GRE Subject Test: Psychology by Kaplan

This is the best GRE psychology subject test book. Kaplan’s GRE psychology prep offers score-raising strategies, practice questions, and all the test information you would need to know. It also includes an in-depth review of key content areas and two full-length practice tests.

Key Features:

  • Up-to-date content aligned with the DSM-5, including updated vocabulary, diagnosis, treatment guidelines, and classification of mental disorders
  • Two full-length practice tests with detailed explanations
  • In-depth review of key content areas: social psychology, developmental psychology, statistics, and more
  • Essential terminology defined in context, plus an extensive glossary
  • Practice sets covering fundamental concepts

Get it here.


How to prepare for the GRE Psychology subject test

How to Study for the GRE Psychology Subject Test

If you're planning to go to graduate school for psychology, there's a strong chance you'll need to take the GRE Psychology Subject Test. It sounds challenging, and it is. We're not here to sugar-coat it.

But all exams, it's nothing that you can't handle. Especially with the right guidance from us at Brainscape, the makers of the world's best flashcard learning app.

There's a ton of content that's covered in the GRE Psychology. During our decades of discovering the best ways to study effectively, we found that large amounts of content are best learned when broken down into smaller steps. And flashcards are one of the most effective tools for helping you do exactly that.

Brainscape's GRE Psych flashcards are, therefore, your best tool for learning.

Some universities require or recommend that prospective master’s and doctoral students take the GRE Psychology, while some do not. So, we recommend double-checking whether you even need to take the exam. For example, Michigan State University recommends that students take the test, but they do not require it.

In order to determine whether or not you should take the test, it is advisable that you check out the APA’s list of accredited graduate psychology programs and check with the schools to which you’re interested in applying to see if they recommend or require that you take the GRE Psychology test.

Let's dive in by first looking at the purpose, format, and content of the GRE Psychology test to help you to become more familiar with the exam.

Should you take the GRE Psychology Test?

The first step is, of course, determining whether it will be beneficial for you to take the exam. Stephanie Choukas-Bradley, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2011, has this advice with regard to the GRE Psychology exam:

«If you are a psychology major, you ly will already have learned most of the relevant material but will need to re-familiarize yourself with it, and there may be areas of psychology you are not familiar with (e.g., social, developmental, cognitive or biological). If you are not a psychology major, you will have to learn more new material. Also, if you are not a psychology major, your score on this test will be more important than for psychology majors; for non-psychology majors, the score demonstrates to admissions committees whether you have the appropriate background knowledge that psychology majors should have learned during college. For psychology majors, your score on this test will be less important than your score on the general GRE.»

So, basically, if you are applying for a Psychology Major, the the test is usually a must. But even if you aren't, ETS (the company that writes the test) says that “Subject Tests are a great way to distinguish yourself.”

Graduate psychology admissions teams generally evaluate applicants a combination of the following factors: transcripts, recommendation letters, GRE and GRE Psychology test scores, research experience, CVs, the student’s fit with faculty members’ research interests, prestige of the student’s undergraduate college, and personal statements.

According to ETS, “the GRE Psychology Subject Test adheres to the terminology, criteria and classifications referred to in the DSM-5 [the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders].”

The test consists of approximately 205 multiple-choice questions, and each question on the test has five options. The test costs $150 last time we checked.

You can find information to see if you may qualify for the fee reduction program here.

If you decide to take the test more than once, you can decide which of your scores you would to send to the universities you designate with the ScoreSelect option.

What is the GRE Psychology test ?

The GRE Psychology exam yields two sub-scores in addition to the total score. The questions fall into one of three content categories:

  1. About 40 percent of the questions are experimental or natural science-oriented, and they contribute to the experimental psychology sub-score and the total score.
  2. About 43 percent of the questions are social or social science-oriented, and they contribute to the social psychology sub-score and the total score.
  3. About 17 percent of questions are “general” in nature and cover topics such as the history of psychology, applied psychology, psychometrics, research design, and statistics, and they contribute to the total score only. The GRE Subject Test website provides in-depth information about the topics of the questions.

The GRE Psychology exam is offered in paper format. Along with the other GRE Subject Tests, it is offered three times a year, in September, October and April. You can find additional registration information here. The test takes approximately three hours.

You earn one point for each correct answer, while 1/4 point is subtracted for each incorrect answer. Unanswered questions do not have an impact on your score. According to ETS, “A total score is reported on a 200–990 score scale, in 10-point increments.

Now that you know more about the purpose and format of the exam, we'll now cover the steps you should take to prepare for the GRE Psychology test.

4 steps to prepare for the GRE Psychology test

Follow these steps to set yourself up for success on the GRE Psychology Subject Test.

Step 1. Do well in your undergraduate psychology classes

According to ETS:

“… the questions in the Psychology Test are drawn from the core of knowledge most commonly encountered in courses offered at the undergraduate level within the broadly defined field of psychology.”

Therefore, having a foundational knowledge of psychology from the classes you have taken already will serve you well.

However, it may have been months or even years since you took some of those courses, so it’s a great idea to study especially for the test in order to refresh your memory (using Brainscape's GRE Psychology flashcards, for example) of all of the pertinent concepts.

Step 2. Get comprehensive, reputable study resources

You should start studying specifically for the exam at least 6 weeks before you take the test. How? Make a study plan and find the right resources.

Choose one or more of the following study resources that will help you to become well-prepared for the test:

  1. GRE Psychology study guides from Princeton Review and Kaplan are available from Amazon.
  2. Brainscape’s GRE Psychology collection gives you over 1,200 smart flashcards to prepare you for each subject covered on the test. Brainscape is the fastest, most efficient way to study for the test, because it is tailored to you personally with its innovative Confidence-Based Repetition algorithm.

    In addition to being fast and efficient, you can study anytime, anywhere, in bite-sized chunks that work for you, on your phone, iPod, iPad, or computer. With Brainscape, you can be confident that you are spending exactly as much time as you need to (no more and no less) on each subject to prepare you for the test, until you have mastered all of them.

Step 3. Take at least one full-length practice test under test conditions

ETS provides a free full-length practice test on its website here. To simulate test conditions, try to go to a quiet study room at a library and take the test all at once, without distractions.

This way, you can get a sense of pacing and a “dress rehearsal” for what test day will be .

Taking a practice test will also help you to become familiar with the format of the test and how questions are phrased.

Step 4. Use test-taking strategies

Since the test is given in paper format rather than computer-based format, you have an opportunity to employ more test-taking strategies when answering questions.

  • It’s a good idea to first go through the test and answer all of the questions of which you are sure of the answer.
  • Next, go back through the test and take a look at all the questions for which you feel that you may know the answer, but aren’t sure. For those questions, use the process of elimination your best educated guess together with common sense.
  • Finally, go back to the questions about which you feel lost. You will lose ¼ point for each answer you answer incorrectly, but you will not lose any points if you skip an answer. Answering a question is in your best interest if you can increase your odds of getting it correct by eliminating at least one or more of the possible answers.

Study hard; you've got this

Doing well on the GRE Psychology exam is one component of a successful application to a graduate program in psychology. The APA offers additional tips about applying to grad school here.

This exam is important, so take the time to do it right. Choose the right study materials, create solid study habits, and then put in the time. You've got this.

Good luck on the exam and with your graduate school applications!


Preparing for the Graduate Record Exam

How to Study for the GRE Psychology Subject Test

Administered by the Educational Testing Service, the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE (also called the GRE General Test), is required of most applicants to psychology and other graduate programs.

  The GRE is a standardized test that is commonly administered via computer (a paper-based version is available in some geographical areas).

  Some psychology graduate programs also require that applicants take the GRE Psychology Subject Test, as further described below on this page (note: UCSD’s psychology graduate program does not require the Subject Test nor considers scores on that test in its evaluation of applicants). 

Both the GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test measure knowledge that applicants presumably have acquired over their high school and university training.  Accordingly, in theory it is possible to take the exam without any advanced preparation.

  However, for most individuals, time spent refreshing relevant knowledge or specifically practicing for the exam is beneficial (and we recommend that applicants consider some form of exam preparation).

  Here we overview possible avenues for that preparation.

For many graduate applications that are due in late November or early December, please note that you will need to have taken the GRE by October in order for your scores to be included in your application.

Preparing for the GRE General Test

Since 2011, the GRE General Test has six sections.  There are two sections each that measure verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning, one analytic writing section, and one additional section that is not scored.

  The ordering of sections varies randomly and test-takers do not know in advance what order they will receive.

  The GRE is regularly administered at test-taking centers around the United States and costs between $150-$230 depending on geographical location.   

The Educational Testing Service provides several free GRE General Test Preparation Materials.

  These include computer-delivered practice tests that simulate the actual GRE test-taking experience, a practice version of the paper version of the GRE General Test, and a Math Review guide which covers the major topics that are assessed on the quantitative reasoning portions of the exam.  More extensive preparation materials are also available from ETS for purchase.  

In addition to materials from ETS, you might consider using materials (links below) prepared by test preparation services such as Kaplan, Manhattan Prep, Princeton Review, and others; Khan Academy; purchasing a book that focuses on GRE vocabulary words; as well as enrolling in a GRE preparation course.  UCSD Extension also offers GRE preparation classes, with enrollment free (on a first-come, first-served basis) for UCSD undergraduate students.

Note: we do not specifically endorse any of these GRE preparation strategies; your experiences with any of these, or others, may vary.  Successful applicants to graduate programs often use any of a variety of different test preparation methods.

Preparing for the GRE Psychology Subject Test 

The GRE Psychology Subject Test features approximately 205 multiple-choice questions which cover findings of biological, cognitive, social, developmental, clinical, and measurement/methodology/other areas of psychology.  The GRE Subject Test costs $150 as of this writing. 

To assist with preparation for the Subject Test, the Educational Testing Service provides an official GRE Psychology Subject Test practice book, which includes a full-length practice test.  You might also consider purchasing a GRE Subject Test preparation book, such as those produced by Kaplan, Princeton Review, or others.

Note: although the GRE General Test is commonly required by most graduate programs, the GRE Psychology Subject Test might not be.

  For example, UCSD’s psychology graduate program does not require the Subject Test nor considers scores on that test in its evaluation of applicants.  Thus, please check with the application requirements for the programs that you are applying to.

  Also, as with the links provided for the GRE General Test, the placement of links here does not imply our endorsement of their use or effectiveness.

What Are Competitive GRE Test Scores?

The mean GRE scores of first-year graduate students in psychology, using the scale begun in late 2011, is 158 verbal and 149 quantitative for psychology PhD programs; it is 153 verbal and 146 quantitative for Master’s programs.  For the GRE Psychology subject test, the mean is 633 for PhD programs and 577 for Master’s programs.1  Analytical writing scores may also be considered.

Workshops and Downloadable Resources


  • For in-person discussion of the process of applying to graduate programs in psychology, neuroscience, and related fields, please consider attending this department’s “Paths to PhDs” workshop and other related events (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar). 


  • Tips for Applying to Graduate Programs in Psychology (a brief summary) [PDF]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Applying to Grad School Videos

Recommended Reading

APA Videos on Graduate Applications


  • GRE Study Courses from UCSD Extension

Further Resources

Graphic adapted with permission from Shannon E Thomas/ under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. 


Should I Take the GRE Psychology Subject Test?

How to Study for the GRE Psychology Subject Test

The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is a necessary rite-of-passage for many students attempting to gain access to a master’s degree program in psychology. The test provides a general measure of your ability to excel in graduate study, and the test results help graduate schools gauge your potential for succeeding in their programs.

Many psychology students only take the general test, composed of analytical writing, verbal, and quantitative sections, and call it a day. However, the GRE also offers the option of taking the Psychology subject test.

Learn more about the GRE Psychology subject test, and whether you should be preparing for this exam in addition to the general test.

What is the GRE Psychology Subject Test?

The GRE Psychology Test is a standardized exam offered optionally in addition to the general test.

This field-specific test is intended for students who have received bachelor’s degrees in psychology or related subjects, and aspire to enter graduate programs in psychology.

The ultimate goal of the test is directed at helping students show their competency in the subject of psychology, and providing graduate admissions committees a benchmark by which to measure students’ proficiency in the subject.

The GRE Psychology Test is composed of approximately 205 multiple-choice questions which are drawn from core knowledge broadly learned in undergraduate psychology courses. The content of the test is divided into three different categories: experimental or natural science (an estimated 40% of the test), social or social science (43%), and general (17%).

Experimental test items may cover language, memory, learning, sensation and perception, and behavioral neuroscience among other related topics.

Social test items may cover lifespan development, clinical and abnormal psychology, social psychology, and personality among other related topics.

Lastly, the General test items may regards topics such as statistics, research design, psychometrics, applied psychology, and history of psychology.

How Do I Prepare for the GRE Psychology Test?

The GRE Psychology Test is administered three times a year in September, October, and April at specified test centers.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organization that manages the GRE, suggests that students download a subject practice book from their website to help them prepare for the GRE Psychology Test.

It may also be helpful to review textbooks and notes from psychology courses relevant to the content areas being tested. 

Do I Have to Take the GRE Psychology Test?

Whether or not you should take the GRE Psychology subject test depends on several factors. The first, and probably most relevant, consideration to make is whether the schools you are interested in require the subject test.

Many master’s programs in psychology do not require the test, while some of the doctoral programs do. Some programs, on the other hand, simply recommend that you take the test. Therefore, not taking it may not altogether disqualify you, but not having a score could be detrimental to your application.

See the requirements of your preferred schools to determine if the test is required or recommended.

The second consideration to make is whether you come from a background in psychology. Other students with bachelor’s degrees in psychology have a clear advantage over you in the form of their grades in psychology courses.

If you did not earn a psychology degree, taking the test could exhibit to graduate programs that you have the sufficient knowledge to perform at the graduate level in psychology.

For those of you who are coming from backgrounds other than psychology, taking the test – and doing well on it – might give you the lift you need to compete with psychology majors.

Although most graduate programs in psychology do not require the GRE Psychology Test for admission, research has shown that the subject test is one of the best measures of psychology student potential.

The test surpassed the analytical, verbal, and quantitative tests in regard to predicting grades and lihood of earning a degree.

In addition to demonstrating your knowledge of core psychology subjects, the test can also tell you enthusiasm for the field.

The Takeaway

The GRE Psychology Test is a standardized, optional test which can be conducted in conjunction with the general GRE test. The multiple-choice test measures experimental, social, and general knowledge learned from undergraduate psychology courses.

For the most part, the test is not usually required as a part of the admissions process for graduate study in psychology. However, some programs do either require or recommend the test in their application process.

Furthermore, if you come from a subject area other than psychology, taking the GRE Psychology Test can benefit you by showing your knowledge of the field that may not be visible from your coursework or transcript.

If you are interested in registering for the test, you can do so here.

About the Veranda Hillard Charleston

Veranda received her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She has nearly five years of experience as a trained mental health professional.

As a freelance writer, Veranda creates quality content for topics such as mental health, self-help, general health, fitness, and relationships.

Off-line, Veranda conducts psychological assessments of children and adults in a private-practice setting.

View all posts by Veranda Hillard Charleston


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