GRE Subject Test Syllabus - Biology

GRE Biochemistry Syllabus
In the academic session of 2016-2017, ETS did not administer the Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology Test. In 2017-18 they are planning to again resume this test. For its thorough preparation, we’re providing you a detailed list of the GRE Biochemistry syllabus and outlining the exam format.

The duration of the test is 2 hours 50 minutes. In this duration you have to attempt approximately 170 multiple choice questions. A bunch of questions are grouped together to be attempted at the end of the test followed by laboratory experiments, diagrams or experimental situations.

GRE Biochemistry Syllabus

Again the GRE Syllabus for Biochemistry  is divided into three segments: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology. These are the subscores, which accumulates to the total score. These sub scores are ranges on a scale of 20-99. These subscores are interlinked and due to it,  single or a set of questions may appear in different sections during the exam. Throughout the exam, there are several calculative questions, but it does not require any calculator for computation of the equation. The test is intended to emphasize on the problem-solving skill of the aspirants.  

The syllabus mentioned, as per ETS Curriculum is given below :

Biochemistry — 36%

  1. Structural Biology

  • Structure, Assembly, Organization and Dynamics
  • Small molecules
  • Macromolecules (e.g., nucleic acids, polysaccharides, polypeptide, complex lipids)
  • Supramolecular complexes (e.g., membranes, ribosomes, multienzyme complexes)
  • Macromolecular structure and function

2. Chemical and Physical Foundations

  • Thermodynamics and kinetics
  • Redox states
  • Water, pH, acid-base reactions and buffers
  • Solutions and equilibria
  • Solute-solvent interactions
  • Chemical interactions and bonding
  • Chemical reaction mechanisms

3. Catalysis and Binding

  • Enzyme reaction mechanisms and kinetics
  • Ligand-protein interaction (e.g., receptors, substrates and effectors, transport proteins, antigen-antibody interactions)
  • Interplay between structure and function

4. Major Metabolic Pathways

  • Carbon, nitrogen and sulfur assimilation
  • Anabolism
  • Catabolism
  • Synthesis and degradation of macromolecules

5. Bioenergetics

 (including respiration and photosynthesis)

  • Energy transformations at the substrate level
  • Electron transport
  • Proton and chemical gradients
  • Energy coupling (e.g., phosphorylation, transport)

6. Regulation and Integration of Metabolism

  • Covalent modification of enzymes
  • Allosteric regulation
  • Compartmentation
  • Hormones

7.  Methods

  • Biophysical approaches (e.g., spectroscopy, x-ray crystallography, mass spectroscopy)
  • Isotopes
  • Separation techniques (e.g., centrifugation, chromatography, electrophoresis)
  • Immunotechniques
  • Macromolecular structure

Cell Biology – 28%

Methods of importance to cellular biology, such as fluorescence probes (e.g., FRAP, FRET, GFP) and imaging, cell sorting and proteomics will be covered as appropriate within the context of the content below.

  1. Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes

  • Cellular Compartments of Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes: Organization, Dynamics and Functions
  • Cellular membrane systems (e.g., structure, function, transport across membranes, water regulation)
  • Nucleus (e.g., envelope, matrix, nuclear transport)
  • Mitochondria and chloroplasts (e.g., general function, biogenesis, evolution)

2.  Cell Surface and Communication (in context of development and adult   organisms)

  • Extracellular matrix (including cell walls)
  • Cell adhesion and junctions
  • Signal transduction
  • Receptor function
  • Excitable membrane systems

3.  Cytoskeleton, Motility and Shape

  • Regulation of assembly and disassembly of filament systems
  • Motor function, regulation and diversity
  • Muscle function
  • Cell motility

4.  Protein, Processing, Targeting and Turnover

  • Translocation across membranes
  • Post-translational modification
  • Intracellular trafficking
  • Secretion and endocytosis
  • Protein turnover (e.g., Proteasomes, lysosomes, damaged protein response)

5.  Cell Division, Differentiation and Development

  • Cell cycle, mitosis and cytokinesis
  • Meiosis and gametogenesis
  • Fertilization and early embryonic development (including positional information, homeotic genes, tissue-specific expression, nuclear and cytoplasmic interactions, growth factors and induction, environment, stem cells and polarity)
  • Stem cells (embryonic and adult, role in development)

Molecular Biology and Genetics – 36%

  1. Genetic Foundations

  • Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance
  • Transformation, transduction and conjugation
  • Recombination and complementation
  • Mutational analysis
  • Genetic mapping and linkage analysis

2.  Chromatin and Chromosomes

  • Karyotypes and genetic diagnostics
  • Translocations, inversions, deletions and duplications
  • Aneuploidy and polyploidy
  • Structure
  • Epigenetics

3.  Genomics

  • Genome structure
  • Physical mapping
  • Repeated DNA and gene families
  • Gene identification
  • Transposable elements
  • Bioinformatics
  • Molecular evolution

4. Genome Maintenance

  • DNA replication
  • DNA damage and repair
  • DNA modification
  • DNA recombination and gene conversion

5. Gene Expression

  • The genetic code
  • Transcription/transcriptional profiling
  • RNA processing
  • Translation

6. Gene Regulation

  • Prokaryotic gene regulation including operon control
  • Promoter recognition by RNA polymerases
  • Prokaryotic attenuation and anti-termination
  • Cis-acting regulatory elements
  • Trans-acting regulatory factors
  • Gene rearrangements and amplifications
  • Small non-coding RNAs (e.g., siRNA, microRNA)

7. Viruses

  • Genome replication and regulation
  • Virus assembly
  • Virus-host interactions


  • Restriction maps and PCR
  • Nucleic acid blotting and hybridization
  • DNA cloning in prokaryotes and eukaryotes
  • Sequencing and analysis
  • Protein-nucleic acid interaction
  • Transgenic organisms
  • Microarrays
  • Proteomics and protein-protein interaction

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