They took the GRE online test & scored 320+. Here are their experiences.
Last Updated on September 20, 2021 by iSchoolConnect
Since COVID-19 struck, ETS has been allowing students to take the GRE from home instead of the test centers. Since then, thousands of students have appeared for the exam. If you also want to take the GRE online test from home, read this blog to get a detailed experience of the test.
The GRE online test is identical in content, format, and on-screen experience to the GRE exam taken at the test centers.
According to ETS (the GRE administrator), the only difference is this – while you’re taking the exam at home, you will be continuously monitored by a human proctor online. But we believe there’s a lot more to it than that.
This is why we interviewed Felipe, Soumya, and Mary, who is the Head of GRE Curriculum at Manhattan Prep. Read on to find out what they said about the exam requirements, registration procedure, and the overall test experience.
Since not much has changed since the exam was launched in 2020, you will find their experiences and insights valid even today.
Who is eligible for the at-home GRE?
With the exception of Mainland China and Iran, the test is available in all the countries where the GRE General Test is offered. As long as students meet certain equipment and environment requirements, they are eligible to give the exam.
To start with, if you have a desktop or a laptop with Windows installed, you’re good to go.
Make sure you use Chrome or Firefox for browsing and install the ETS Test Browser on your system. This is the browser where the test will be taken.
“I got pretty worried when I read that Windows was needed. I have a MacBook. But ETS helped me use Bootcamp to install Windows on my system, and I was good to go!”
Once you’ve set up the ETS Test Browser, you will have to add the ProctorU extension to your browser and run a ProctorU System Check. ProctorU is the service that will be providing live proctoring during the exam.
On a side note – while performing the ProctorU System Check, you will be asked to enable Adobe Flash, if it isn’t already permitted to run on your browser.
An in-built camera or a webcam will also be needed so that you can show a 360-degree view of your room to the proctor before you begin your test. You can also use your phone camera to show your room.
“I used my phone camera to show them the front of my computer, around my room, and under and above my desk.There was a bookshelf behind me. But they didn’t say anything about it.”
In case you start facing any difficulties while setting up your system, you can get in touch with a technician on the ProctorU System Check page. The technician can also do a final review to make sure you are ready to go.
Find a quiet room where nobody else will enter while you’re giving the exam. Sit up on a standard chair (not on a couch or on your bed), and place your desktop & keyboard on an otherwise empty desk.
“I only had my laptop, its charger, a whiteboard, a marker, and my ID on the desk”
Most importantly, after the test is over, you will be asked to erase all your notes in front of the proctor. So, make sure you have an 8’’ x 10’’ whiteboard or a paper with a transparent sheet protector, and an erasable marker.
“I used an 11’’ x 12’’ whiteboard and a thin marker so I could read my own handwriting. It is certainly more convenient than raising your hand when you’ve run out of paper at the test center.”
One of our students suggests you practice making notes on these materials for at least 15 days before the exam, so you can get used to writing on them.
“Erasing from the whiteboard takes time; get used to that. Keep what you write on the board minimal and coherent.”
Remember, the proctor will examine the front and the back of your writing material before you start the test. So, no cheating!
How do I register for the at-home GRE?
Once you have verified that your computer and your room meet the test requirements, you can create an account on the ETS website.
The procedure for GRE registration is pretty simple-
- Go to the “My GRE” homepage, select “Register”, and then “Find Test Centers”
- Now, select the option for “Test at Home” and make the standard payment of $205
- Within a day, ProctorU will send you instructions to create an account along with a link
- Use these to log in and select your test date and time
- Once you have scheduled your test, a countdown timer will appear on your dashboard
“While I had 30 minutes to go for the exam, the timer said I had 6 hours. This was because ProctorU uses your system time to set the countdown timer. So, make sure you set your system time according to your time zone.”
The GRE registration slots are available around the clock every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at least up until June 30th, 2020. You can get an appointment as early as 24 hours after you’ve registered!
What to expect on the at-home GRE test day?
The night before your exam, collect the necessary materials and prepare the room where you will be giving the test.
While you’re doing this, the GRE test prep checklist designed by ETS for at-home test-takers will come in handy. Remember to keep an ID ready to show the proctor.
“When you start the test, you are asked to download a program that lets you chat with the proctor. So, even before you talk to anyone, you’re being recorded.”
About 5 minutes after the appointment begins, the proctor will take you through a series of instructions, terms & agreements, and face recognition protocols.
The proctor will also do checks on your PC to see if any other software is running. This will take 10 to 15 minutes.
“You never see the face of your proctor. That was a bit unexpected for me.”
After this, ProctorU will initiate a screen share and access your computer screen for monitoring purposes. This is when they will launch the ETS Test Browser, enter a password, and ask you to begin your test.
To help students feel comfortable with the process, ProctorU has come up with a Pre-Exam Video. It’s enough to answer any queries you might have about the testing procedure, like how to respond to a connection issue, what you can and cannot have on your desk, and what your conversation with the proctor will be like.
What is the experience of GRE online test like?
The GRE General Test and the at-home GRE online test are not different from each other. Even the breaks are the same – you get 60 seconds between each section, and a 10-minute break after the first three sections.
“The proctor allowed me to leave my seat during the 10-minute break. I went to the washroom, ate, got back to my desk, and showed her my room again. I still had 3 minutes left, but she re-started the test without asking me.”
We’ve also heard that some of the proctors don’t allow the test-taker to leave the room.
On the other hand, one of our students was allowed to use her phone during her 10-minute break. Your testing experience, therefore, will majorly depend on your proctor.
“The proctor can hear you talk, so try not to think out loud. But if you want to communicate with them, all you have to do is speak.”
In case you face any issues talking to the examiner, you can open the ProctorU chat-box to get in touch with them.
How to prepare for GRE at home test?
Your strategy to prepare for GRE online test doesn’t have to be any different than the General GRE test prep plan, since both the exams have the exact same pattern.
Having said that, here are a few tips on how to prepare for GRE at home test-
- On day 1 itself, find the best way to remember difficult words and improve your vocab
- Learn the skills of educated guessing, skipping time-consuming questions, and working rigorously for 4 hour
- Take a mock test before you start your prep and every 2 weeks until the date of your exam
- Don’t just practice questions over and over mindlessly without addressing any mistakes or strategies
- For study sources, refer to the official ETS test prep material first
Should I take the at-home GRE online test or the standard GRE exam?
Even though setting up everything by yourself seems like a task, ETS has come up with a very viable solution during these trying times.
“I was supposed to take my GRE at the test center. But because of the pandemic, my exam got rescheduled automatically for another date. To my relief, ETS came out with the at-home version of GRE, and helped me schedule the exam as per my preference.”
So, if you’d already planned to give the GRE around this time and have been studying for it, you should consider giving the exam at home. Besides, we don’t know if seats will be as easily available when the test centers do open.
“Don’t stress too much. With practice, patience, and belief, your exam will go well.”
However, the at-home GRE online test is not a great option for those who do not have a quiet room. Also, if you’re lacking in terms of the technical equipment required, don’t have a stable internet connection or erasable writing materials, you might want to wait it out.
Can I reschedule or cancel my at-home GRE Exam?
Using your ProctorU account, you can reschedule the test for free anytime prior to your appointment date and time.
The cancellation policy, however, requires you to cancel your exam at least 4 days in advance. This will ensure that you receive a partial refund from ETS.
Still not sure if you want to take the GRE online test? Head to this blog to read more about the GRE exam pattern, syllabus, and scoring here.
And in case you have any more questions, feel free to drop a comment or reach out to us. We are here to help. Stay home, stay safe.