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GRE Accommodations: What to Know for Test Day

For students with learning disabilities or test-taking limitations, the maker of the GRE, Educational Testing Services (ETS), provides a number of disability accommodations—extra time, braille tests, screen magnifiers, ergonomic keyboards, and more. Students must apply for these GRE accommodations before signing up for their test through ETS Disability Services. It’s great that ETS provides these opportunities to students, making the test more accessible.

Just because these GRE accommodations are offered, doesn’t mean that the approval process is rudimentary. Students are required to submit a plethora of supporting documentation; if the student does obtain approval, surprises may still surface on test day. That was the experience of one Magoosh student, and I’d like to highlight his experience to minimize some of those surprises.

GRE Accommodations Approval Process

Getting approval for disability services takes time, so plan far in advance. You don’t want to do this last minute while trying to also finish your school applications. For the Magoosh student, it took 6 weeks to get approval from ETS Disability Services; ETS typically quotes 4-6 weeks of lag time between receiving documentation and making their decision .

Once he received approval for 50% extra time on test day, he scheduled his test through disability services. Note, if you are registering with any testing accommodations, you cannot do this directly on the ETS website. You will need to do this through ETS Disability Services, and applying for a test this way makes the process even more timely as only certain testing locations are equipped to handle various accommodations. In other words, some testing centers cannot offer their students a “private” room for testing, while others do not have sufficient proctors to monitor a student who needs 100% extra time. Anyhow, this Magoosh student was forced to schedule 2+ months out, which he didn’t know about and caused extra frustration for him.

GRE Disability Accommodations on Test Day

Once you get approval, you will be provided some information about what to expect. But they aren’t physically capable of telling you everything. Our Magoosh student was flabbergasted by all the discrepancies that occurred on test day versus what his initial preparation had been. Several little issues arose that he wasn’t previously informed of and the information was not readily available online.

First, as with “regular” test-takers, he did not have any experimental or ungraded section. Instead of having 5 sections and a longer testing time, he only saw 4 sections on the test. He spent the months leading up to the test preparing for 5 sections. He practiced his pacing, test-taking endurance, and timing based on the assumption that he’d see 5 sections. If he would’ve know this in advance, he would have very likely changed his approach.

Even though the Magoosh student was permitted 50% extra time, there were no extra breaks. For someone who needs to take medication on a regular schedule, this was extremely disruptive and problematic. He had no idea this was going to be the case until GRE test day, when the computer made him press forward after each section with the normal break schedule. At the time, he didn’t realize that he also needed to apply for extra breaks and assumed based on the extended time for testing, extra breaks inherently would be included. Students have to apply for extra breaks as an entirely separate accommodation.

The room he was in might’ve been the biggest surprise. People were walking around during his test. Everyone was on a different time schedule and taking different tests in the room. Throughout the test, new people were coming in and other people were leaving, which made for a very disruptive and distracting environment, particularly for someone with an attention deficit disorder.

Only One Story

Our Magoosh student had an average result on the exam—not nearly strong enough for the programs he strives to attend, so he will be attempting the test again. This time he has a better idea of what to expect, and he also knows the GRE accommodations he needs to apply for. However, it has now been 5 weeks since he re-applied for those accommodations, and he still awaits his approval.

He hopes that his story is informative and helps you with your preparation and your test day experience. Of course, remember that all of this is anecdotal. What he experienced won’t necessarily be what you experience, but he hopes that you are prepared for the unexpected now. And if anything, you will be able to plan your studies and test, and you will know the specific learning-based GRE disability accommodations to apply for.

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8 Responses to GRE Accommodations: What to Know for Test Day

  1. Amanda November 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm #

    If you are approved for time and a half are you placed in a room with other test-takers with time and a half or are you placed with “regular” test-takers?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 27, 2018 at 6:57 pm #

      Hi Amanda!

      If you have extra time, you might be placed in the same room as “regular” test-takers. That was the experience for our Magoosh student who had extra time (briefly mentioned in the blog post). For the most information, you could contact ETS or your test center and ask them directly. 😀

  2. Steffi November 11, 2018 at 10:18 am #

    This post is from 2016, is this still the case that with extended time (I also have time and a half) I will only have four sections instead of five?
    Thank you!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 11, 2018 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Steffi!

      To the best of my knowledge, the experimental part is not included for test takers with accommodations, so you should only have four sections. If you want to verify this 100%, I would contact ETS. 🙂

  3. Totoro June 8, 2018 at 1:58 pm #

    I’ll be 35 weeks pregnant at my prospected GRE test day. I need to snack and pee Approximately every 1 hour. Is it possible to get Accomodation (extended/frequent break ) for gre? If anyone faced similar problem, Could you please share?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 8, 2018 at 2:18 pm #

      HI Totoro,

      First of all, congrats on your pregnancy! I haven’t personally worked with anyone requesting accommodations because of a pregnancy, but perhaps another reader can chime in with her experience! I didn’t find much good information with an internet search (which I’m sure you did as well). ETS does allow test-takers to indicate other medical conditions that may require accommodation, so I encourage you to submit that information with a doctor’s note. You can see the full guidelines here:

  4. Shiks January 6, 2018 at 1:33 pm #

    Hey Kevin,

    I am wondering what steps you took to get your accommodation for the GRE. I am not seeing how to do it, but only what the accommodations offer. How do you I get the paperwork to them, and who do I have to call. If you could send me the tricks of the trade it would be very helpfully

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 7, 2018 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Shiks,

      Thanks for reaching out! This page provides you with all of the information you need to request accommodations from ETS. This PDF also provides you with information about what sort of evidence and documentation you need and how to fill out the accommodation request documents. You will have to do it through your ETS or email before you schedule your test 🙂 Good luck!

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