Due to the coronavirus pandemic, ETS has been offering the option to take the GRE at home (right now, through September 2020) instead of the traditional in-person format. Several months ago, I took the GRE in this format, and share some of my experience and advice below.
Preparation a Few Days Before the Test
The ETS ProctorU websites detail out all the software programs and add-ins you will need to ensure there are no hiccups on test day. Make sure to test everything at least once a day for a few days leading up to the day of your exam, and if you run into any issues, be sure to troubleshoot. I would also recommend restarting your computer several times a day in the days leading up to the test to ensure that your software is up to date.
If you live in an environment with others or even if it is generally loud where you plan to take the test, be sure to notify anyone you need of how important it will be to have quiet during your test time. Not only will you want quiet to focus, but since someone is watching you take the test through your computer the entire time, you don’t want there to be any chance that they may think others are around you.
Finally, the proctor will check the room around you. There is plenty of guidance around this on ProctorU’s website, but I found it useful to set up my room the exact way I planned to take the test well in advance so I could exactly replicate my test conditions. This includes practicing my exams using a whiteboard and marker instead of scratch paper, as this is the requirement for the GRE at Home.
Preparation the Morning of the Test
For obvious reasons, don’t do what I did and drink a huge glass of water right before you start your 3—4 hour test (you will get one option for a ten-minute break, but not until you have completed the writing assessments and two more sections). However, do ensure that you follow the typical advice you get for most tests – don’t run a marathon or stay up too late the night before, and don’t go into the test hungry or dehydrated.
Restart your computer and test your equipment and Internet one more time, and log in around 15 minutes early and wait for your instruction.
Finalizing Setup with Your Test Proctor
The strangest part of my exam was before I actually began. There are some formalities at the beginning to ensure your testing location is secure and fair and that all of your equipment is working. It took about 20 minutes after I was supposed to start to hear from someone, and then a while longer to start. As it turned out, the proctor I was assigned to was having internet issues; as such, I had to wait to be reassigned to a new proctor.
This was a strange experience, as it took a while to figure out what was going on. I would have to imagine this was a fairly unique situation, but my recommendation would be to wait for around 15 minutes and then type in the chat box with your proctor to ask if there are any issues.
Once this is squared away, you are ready to begin!
During the Test
This part was fairly straightforward and actually quite similar to the practice tests, given that I was sitting in the same location. Be careful not to mutter to yourself as the proctor may think you are talking to someone, and be sure not to go off during break and open anything that may look suspicious. Since you are on video, try to avoid the temptation to stare off to the side while you think, as your proctor may worry you are looking at somebody.
Finally, be sure you are completely closed out, have viewed your scores, and are satisfied with everything before you close out. I would even go as far as to ask your proctor more than once if you are good to exit before doing so. There are unlikely to be any issues, but I believe it’s worth having in writing that you were told you could exit out.
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Taking the GRE in 2020? Check out some other helpful tips and tricks in our previous blog posts below: