ETS Online GRE: A Good Experience with Unexpected Surprises

birds eye view of hands on laptop on wooden desk with phone next to it to represent tools needed for ets online gre -image by magoosh

Was your GRE test date recently canceled due to COVID-19? If so, you can now take the GRE at home!

Magoosh CEO Bhavin Parikh recently sat down with Ellen Kenny, who took the ETS online GRE. They discuss the logistics, the surprise benefits of taking the GRE at home, and how Magoosh’s GRE test prep helped.

Check out the video below as well as this student’s first-hand account of taking the GRE at home. You can also find more information about taking the GRE at home here.

Why did you choose to take the GRE?

I’m applying for PA school, and many of the schools I’m considering require submitting GRE scores.

  • Note that a lot of schools are waiving their GRE requirement in light of this crisis. Magoosh recommends double-checking with your programs of interest about potential changes to their GRE policy before deciding if the at-home GRE is right for you.

How long ago did you plan on taking the GRE? Did you plan on taking it at a test center first or did you go straight for the at-home option?

I started planning for the GRE in late February/early March, and signed up in early April to take it at an in-person testing center. Around that time, COVID-19 closures were starting and I didn’t know until the week of my test that it was cancelled (for at least a month). I’m planning to apply to schools in May and June, and need my GRE test scores prior, so I opted to take it at home.

Can you talk about your set-up for the ETS online GRE? Did you have a quiet room? Were you allowed to have anything in the room with you?

I live in a smaller apartment so my desk is in the living room. It totally worked out for me though. Things were quiet and I took the test alone. I was required to clear anything from the room that could be seen as a test resource. I put a blanket over a book hutch I have just in case, though I wasn’t asked to. Right before the exam started, they checked my space through my camera.

I actually found it to be less stressful to take the GRE at home instead of a testing center because I took it in the same exact spot where I studied.

Let’s talk about the camera piece. Did you use a web-cam built into your computer or did you use a separate attachment?

I have a web-cam on my laptop. To review the room, I just turned my laptop around, and showed my whole room, including all corners. They also need to see the actual laptop, either in a mirror or on a cellphone.

You said “They” referring to a proctor, right? Did you ever see the proctor’s face? What kind of interaction did you have? I know the test is given through a 3rd party called ProctorU. What was it like working with them?

We communicated through voice and text chat; I never saw anyone’s face. Sometimes they’d take a little while to respond, but they always did.

When you had to wait, how long did it take the proctor to respond?

The longest was at the beginning of the test, about 15 minutes. I was a little nervous, but they ended up responding. Just be patient if you find yourself waiting a long time.

Did you use a Windows machine or a Mac with Windows loaded onto it?

I used a Windows machine.

Editor’s note: The ETS Online GRE is now available on both Windows and iOS operating systems.

In terms of the test, the at-home GRE included all of the sections, right?

Correct. 3 verbal sections, 2 quantitative sections, and an experimental section.

How was taking the quantitative section at home? Did you use a whiteboard or a laminated sheet? For those folks who don’t know, you can’t use regular notepaper on the GRE.

I was reminded of this when I started the exam, which is great because I had set out a stack of regular paper! The proctor suggested putting a white piece of paper in a sheet protector and writing on that. It worked out very well. Now knowing what I know, I probably would have practiced with a whiteboard or laminated sheet of paper, but luckily it didn’t make too much of a difference for me.

Remember to get a whiteboard or laminated sheet of paper when you take the GRE!

Do you have any tips for not being interrupted while taking the GRE at home if you live with other people?

I live with my husband so I just asked him to leave for a bit, which is harder during COVID-19, but possible. If you live with other people, my advice is to make them aware of the time frame you’ll need to be alone and uninterrupted to take the GRE.

Can you share a little bit about the breaks? Can you ever leave the room? Can you eat or drink?

For the longer break, mid-way through the test, you can get up and leave the room. Otherwise you can’t leave the room or eat/drink.

How did you approach studying? Can you share how long you studied and how you approached the process, including what materials you used?

I’d say I studied 6-8 weeks total, probably closer to 6 weeks. I was in “fast studying” mode because I was looking for an adequate test score, not necessarily a stellar one. I started out with an ETS study book but it wasn’t working for me.

I ended up going with Magoosh’s GRE test prep because I needed something that put me on a schedule, that had a deadline.

I ended up getting the Magoosh 6 month subscription. I used the Magoosh 1-month study guide and stretched 28 days of daily studying over 6+ weeks. I found that really helpful as someone working full-time.

I took 4 practice tests total, 2 from Magoosh and 2 free tests that came with the ETS prep book.

And did you take those practice tests in the same room where you planned to take the GRE?

I did, and I found it really helpful!

How did you feel about your progress over those 6-8 weeks of studying?

After one week I took a base-line practice test and got a 305. My target score was 310 and I ended up getting a 316!

Is there anything else you think people should know about taking the GRE at home?

I preferred taking the GRE at home! You don’t have to drive to and park at a testing center and I think it’s a more comfortable experience overall.

P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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