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GRE Test Day | What to Bring, What to Know

GRE Test Day

Tips for the day/night before GRE test day

You’ve probably heard this a hundred times before: Always get a good night sleep the day before something important. I would say the GRE test day is no different. But actually it is, in terms of the importance of rest. You see, the GRE is a long, taxing experience. And for the four plus hours that you’ll be sitting there, you don’t want to be nodding off at any point. So a good night rest is crucial to your performance, as is knowing what to bring to the GRE and packing your bag the day before.

Also, don’t do anything that is not part of your routine. For instance, if a friend asks you out for dinner, reschedule. That’s not because you are antisocial, but we tend to stay up later if a social engagement is involved. At the same time, don’t turn off your phone and hide under the covers, hoping for a twelve hour sleep session. Again, try to keep to your weekday routine as much as possible.

Now if for some reason you were forced to get an 8:00 appointment (assuming you are not an early riser), make sure, for a week leading up to the exam, to start waking up a little bit earlier each day. That way you will be on your natural sleep cycle when it is time to wrestle yourself out of bed at 6 in the morning.

Finally, don’t feel you need to cram–or worse yet, stay up cramming. The GRE tests knowledge built up over a lifetime–or at least a few months of intensive prepping. Cramming the night before GRE test day won’t lead to a higher score, and because it will most likely fray your already frayed nerves, cramming may actually hurt your score. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a few practice questions the day before the test. But otherwise, try to relax, as much as it is possible to do so.

P.S. If you need help deciding when you should take the GRE, we can help with that too!

gre test day


What to bring to the GRE

Here’s what you need to bring to the GRE besides yourself: the most important item is a valid I.D that includes your name, photo and signature. If you are testing outside of the United States, we recommend bringing your passport if you have one. If you come John Doe, i.e., without any form of identification, the testing center will have to turn you away. The next most important thing you need is some form of sustenance. The GRE is a long test and you will need some brain fuel lest you crash during the 65-line passage on the use of isotope dating in glaciers.

I recommend bananas, dates, and nuts. In other words, natural foods with a high caloric density. Though you know yourself best. If you got through college by keeping yourself up on Snickers bars, then that’s what your body is used to. Chomping on pistachios for the first in your life, right before the test begins, may not be the best idea.

Complete GRE test day checklist

What to bring to the GRE:

  • Valid photo ID
  • Confirmation email or authorization voucher
  • Sweatshirt and layers (testing centers are often cold)
  • Water

What to bring to the GRE, but leave in your locker

  • Snack (nuts, bananas, energy bar, dried fruit) to access on your break
  • Cell phone
  • Last minute review sheet/pep talk notes

What NOT to bring to the GRE:

  • calculator (you’ll only be allowed the on-screen one)
  • your own scratch paper, pens, or pencils (you’ll be provided materials to use)


Do I need to know which schools I want to send my scores to that day? How many schools can I pick?

The GRE has a feature called Score Select, which allows you to send your scores–for free–to as many as four schools. It also allows you–again for free–to send your scores from GRE test day or scores from all the GRE tests you’ve taken in the last five years, assuming you’ve taken the GRE more than once. You will get this option at the end of the test.

If you want to send your scores to more schools, you will have to pay $25 per school. At the same time, you do not have to select any schools when queried. The downside is sending the score reports will not be free. You’ll have to pay for each school you send your scores to, even if you are only sending your scores to one school.

Do I need to know the codes of the schools I’m applying to? Or will that be provided?

The test will provide the relevant codes for each school. So don’t worry, you won’t have to burden your brain with yet more information.

What’s the testing center like?

Unnerving and sinister, if you are unlucky. If you are lucky, drab and sterile. Essentially, you’ll be asked to part with everything on your person. So anything in your pocket, even the innocuous penny, must come out. Luckily, there is a trusty locker in which you can put your stuff. You get to keep the key once you go into the testing room (in case you need to run out for an emergency supply of M&M’s—though I recommend bananas).

The important thing is mentally preparing for the testing center experience. You don’t want any surprises: bad traffic, poorly marked buildings, or a testing center staff that moves at the pace of glaciers. Some GRE test takers even visit the testing center a day before to trace their exact steps.

I didn’t trace my steps the day before, but I took the test myself when the revised GRE was first released. You can read more about my test day here.

We also have plenty of stories from other students from around the world who have taken the GRE. You can read their stories here.


How long is the test?

The test will take you close to four hours. This includes checking into the testing center, answering a few background questions, and then diving into two 30-minute essays and five math/verbal sections (including the one experimental section).

The good news is that you will get one scheduled break of 10 minutes after the third section and one-minute breaks between the remaining sections. While you are free to take a break at any other time, the clock will keep on running if you choose to do so. In other words, unless you are about to pass out—which could conceivably happen on GRE test day—don’t get out of your seat, except during a scheduled break.

Editor’s Note: This page was originally published in May 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


Introduction to the GRE
Studying for the GRE
GRE Test Format
GRE Verbal Reasoning
GRE Quantitative Reasoning
GRE Analytical Writing
Test Day
GRE Scoring
Revised GRE vs. Old GRE vs. GMAT vs. LSAT vs. SAT

30 Responses to GRE Test Day | What to Bring, What to Know

  1. Karem Fathy October 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    I was accused of leaving the test center on the GRE test via a certified letter that stated if I don’t respond by a certain date my scores would be cancelled. This is my first time to took the GRE test, I left the test center during the break (10 minutes) for few seconds to took a look for my car, because i was worrying to be towed. That is all my situation.
    I would appreciate if anyone can help regard to my case.

    Thanks a lot

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 6, 2016 at 4:34 am #

      Hi Karem,

      I am sorry this has caused so much stress! Unfortunately, you are not being accused of something if you really did it–they are just telling you what happened. This means you violated the rules of the center and they are quite possibly going to invalidate your test. You should respond in the way they ask (as soon as possible) to try to plead your case. You should also be making preparations to retake the GRE, though, in case your score is cancelled.

      Good luck! 🙂

  2. John witcher August 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

    I was accused of cheating on the GRE test via a certified letter that stated if I don’t respond by a certain date my scores would be cancelled. I took the test previously and I am wondering if they would cancel those scores as well if I don’t respond to this certified letter. I am not admitting guilt but my previous score was higher and I don’t want to go through the hassle of responding to this certified letter if it will not affect my previous score.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 30, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

      Hi John,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have information regarding ETS’s procedures of canceling scores due to cheating. With that in mind, I’d recommend contacting GRE to ask about how the cancellation of your scores may impact your previous score or score report (if you don’t want to respond to the contact information in the letter you received, you could contact another one of the GRE-related contacts). While your previous score may not be canceled, it is possible that a note be included on your score report indicating that you were accused of cheating.

      Again, we don’t have much experience with this aspect of the GRE (we’re focused on the test-prep side of things), so I really can’t offer you much more advice. I hope what I said helps a little and that everything works out for you in the end 🙂

  3. Ryan August 22, 2016 at 5:13 pm #

    Hi, I thought that I had read on the ETS website that phones and water should not be brought to the test day. Is each site guaranteed to have lockers to store valuables/ snacks?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

      Hi Ryan,

      There is no guarantee that the test facilities will have lockers or a place for valuables, which is why they recommend not bringing anything except your ID and essentials. I would still bring snacks, though. That’s a long time not to have food!

  4. santhosh July 5, 2016 at 1:12 am #

    i’m taking my gre on july 6 2016 and i am planning to go for MS in fall 2018 or spring 2019. Will there be any option to send my scores for a particular term or for any time?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 5, 2016 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Santhosh,

      Generally your scores, once sent, are available as long as they are valid, though some universities have other data policies for how they handle the scores. You can only send the scores immediately at the end of your test, but that isn’t necessarily a problem. You should reach out to the individual universities to get the final answer rather than ETS as schools individually do their own thing. 🙂

  5. Gireesh singh thakurathi March 15, 2016 at 1:40 am #

    so i just have to remember the names of four universities to which i intend to send my GRE scores for free.
    the respective course codes will be available at the test center ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 15, 2016 at 4:04 am #

      Hi Gireesh,

      Happy to help! 🙂

      You will be given a list of codes associated with institution names, so that’s correct. I’d suggest reading this page for more info:

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  6. Shelby March 14, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    When we send our scores to 4 schools of choice and don’t like our scores will we get a chance to cancel sending them or do we put in the school codes after we get our scores? Also, if they get the scores we don’t want and we take the test again will they see both scores?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 15, 2016 at 4:14 am #

      Hi Shelby,

      Happy to help! 🙂

      You will finish the test, see your predicted score (not 100% guaranteed until the official report comes out, but it’s usually very close!) and then have the option to send your scores, so you should not be faced with a situation where you suddenly need or want to cancel the report. I’d suggest reading this page, too, for more information from ETS:

      I hope that helps! 🙂

      • Gireesh singh thakurathi March 15, 2016 at 6:24 am #


  7. Emily February 16, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

    Hello! I was wondering for numeric entry on the math section, will be be informed of the format they are looking for? For example, if the answer is 75% should we include the percent sign, or write out the word, or just type in ’75’?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 20, 2016 at 1:47 am #

      Hi Emily,

      This is a great question!

      If you refer to the GRE Numeric Entry guidelines for the GRE, you can see that the only things you should ever enter into boxes are numbers, decimal points, and negative signs. You should never put symbols like %, $, or / into the boxes for any type of GRE numeric entry questions. In the case of fractions, the GRE will present you with two boxes and a fraction division line if you are intended to write a fraction, so you will never need to enter something like “3/4” because there will be separate boxes for the “3” and “4.” If you don’t see the boxes set up for a fraction, you should assume you need to enter a number or decimal.

      I hope that helps! 🙂

  8. sunil February 3, 2016 at 4:23 am #

    Can I send marks after the test day . will that 4 free colleges option still available ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 4, 2016 at 3:36 am #

      Hi Sunil 🙂

      You can send your scores to schools after the day of your exam. However, you will not have the option to send your scores to four institutions for free. Instead, you will have to pay for $27 per school. You can read more about the process of sending score reports on the ETS website: “Sending Your Scores”.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  9. Rylie July 28, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m taking my first test in two days and I have the same question as the three friends below.

    My other questions are: if I happen to finish a section early, is it possible (and safe/recommended) to leave the room for a short break/snack if I make sure to get back on time for the next session to begin? Also, is it possible to bring water to the test room?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 29, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Hi Rylie,

      That’s a great question! You know, this can go many different ways–some of them not good. Not to be a Debbie Downer but I wanted to preface this message that way, or people might think that it is always a good idea to take a break.

      So you can take a break if you finish early (I’ve done this several times). But…you will still have to deal with the test center protocol (raising your hand, signing out, etc.) This might not be a problem or it might be very stressful on the way back if there is a sudden line of students trying to get back in. Common sense, and regular old decorum, would imply that the person on a time crunch should get precedence. Even if you plead your case, however, you might have to wait, depending on the person in charge and why other people happen to be waiting in front of you.

      But, if you have a lot of extra time and the test center doesn’t seem that crowded, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of leaving, esp. if you need some water or caloric sustenance (btw: you can’t bring any water–really you can’t bring anything but your person and the clothes on your body).

      Hope that helps, and good luck 🙂

  10. Benny July 2, 2015 at 12:32 am #

    Hi Chris,

    What happens if we send our scores to the universities on the test day, but haven’t applied for admission yet? Will they have a record of the scores when I apply for admission, say, a year later?

    • Ann August 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

      I’m also wondering the same thing!

      • Daniel November 3, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

        I’ve asked many admission offices and most GRE scores will be on their record for one calendar year!

  11. Amogh Mishra June 23, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I had the same doubt as Shreya.
    I wish to apply for Fall 2017 and I am taking the test in August.
    Is it still possible to choose 4 institutions after the test and how will it be sent for Fall ’17 program?

  12. shreya June 22, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    What if I am taking GRE now and want to send my score after one or 2 years ?

  13. Ashley December 9, 2014 at 7:44 am #

    I was wondering If you knew how long it would take the gre scores to be sent if they are designated to a school the day of the exam? for instance, if I send out a score, does it take 10 days to be sent to the school from the day of the exam? or an additional 5-10 days after the scores are released?

    I have looked everywhereeeee for this answer.
    If you can help, let me know!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 9, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Ashley,

      My impression is that the school gets the scores 10 days after the exam, as soon as your essay scores come in. I have yet to hear the contrary, that you have to wait till 5-10 days after the essay scores. Really, that doesn’t make too much sense, since the only reason for the 10 days is so that the essays can be graded.

      Hope that helps!

  14. utsav November 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    Hello. Do We need to select department code when we are selecting four universities.? And what if i dont know the department code. I want to apply for MS in Accountancy.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 24, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      Hi Utsav,

      I’ve never heard of having to enter a department code. As long you select the program and the university you should be fine. ETS won’t expect you to memorize random strings of numbers, given all the GRE-related stuff you are already stuffing in your head.

      Hope that helps!

  15. faeze September 20, 2014 at 5:43 am #

    Eexcuse me, there’s an issue which has occurred. Yesterday, after the test, after I saw my scores, I should enter the university codes. Me and my friend held our hands up, to ask what the next step was. but there weren’t anyone to answer at that time. I asked my friend whether i should put the “skip” button or not, and she answered me. Suddenly someone appeared and took my passport and said that he would report our irregular behavior to ETS and our score wouldn’t be reported. I am sooooo nervous. Everyone knew that all of us had finished our exam and there wasn’t any cheating at all! What should I do know? please help me :((

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 22, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Faeze,

      Sorry to hear of this unpleasant occurrence :(. Luckily, you might be okay. What you need to do is to report this situation to ETS immediately. Let them know in full detail what happened. ETS has its disposal the camera footage of when you were taking the test–at least they should. They will be able to determine whether you were cheating. Given your account I’m pretty sure they’d absolve you. Really, you’d actually seen your scores before you were accused of anything. Again, just give a clear account what happened, and I’m sure ETS will work with you and overturn anything that the clueless testing center implies :).

      Best of luck 🙂

      P.S. I guess now you know how it works with the scoring. Pressing the “skip” button means that you can send the scores free of charge to up to three institutions. Skipping this step means that you’ll just have to pay at a later time. Good luck 🙂

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