GRE Test Day: What to Expect and How to Prepare

A student preparing for GRE test day

The day of the GRE is a culmination of your diligent preparation and the gateway to your future academic pursuits. While the prospect of taking a standardized test may induce nervousness, being well-informed about what to expect and adequately prepared can significantly ease your test day experience. In this article, we will guide you through what to expect on GRE test day and provide essential tips for effective preparation.

Upcoming Changes to the GRE

It’s important to note that from September 2023, the GRE will undergo significant changes. The test duration will be reduced from the current 3 hours and 45 minutes to less than 2 hours. Reducing the length of the test not only simplifies the process but also reduces the exhaustion of extended testing sessions.

Faster scoring and more test centers are also part of the change. With faster score reporting, you can get quicker results and see immediate performance reflection. Additionally, having more test center options reduces travel time and stress on test day, adding convenience and accessibility to the GRE.

The enhanced test-taker experience involves a user-friendly interface that minimizes distractions–you can now fully concentrate on showcasing your skills and knowledge. Also, strengthened security measures guarantee a fair and accurate evaluation of your hard work and dedication. These updates have been meticulously designed to optimize the GRE testing experience, making it more efficient, convenient, and centered around you.

Testing at a test center

Know your test center: Get to know the test center’s location and layout. It’s a good idea to plan your travel route, taking into account things like traffic and parking, so you can arrive on time. It’ll make your test day much smoother!

Review test policies: Make sure you’re familiar with and follow ETS’s policies on identification, test center rules, prohibited items, and, if applicable, COVID-19 safety protocols. It’s important to stick to these guidelines to ensure a smooth testing experience for everyone involved.

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Final review: Try not to cram the night before the test. Instead, why not focus on a quick review of the key concepts and some strategies? It’ll help boost your confidence and set you up for success!

Rest and nutrition: Ensure you get a good night’s sleep before the test day. Eat a balanced meal to fuel your brain and body for the upcoming challenge.

Arrive early: Make it a point to arrive at the test center with plenty of time to spare before your scheduled test. This way, you can smoothly complete the check-in procedures and begin your day in a relaxed manner.

Required documents: Make sure to bring a valid, government-issued photo ID. You may be asked to show your ID or sign a log at various points during the test.

Test center check-in: Upon arrival, you’ll go through check-in procedures, including verification of your ID and having your photo taken.

Test center rules: Follow the test center’s guidelines, including storing personal items in lockers, adhering to social distancing rules, and wearing any required face coverings.

Test format: The GRE consists of multiple sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. You’ll have a 10-minute break after completing the third section of the test. Use this time to relax, have a snack, and recharge.

Testing at home

Technical check: Run a thorough technical check using the ProctorU® Equipment Check tool. Make sure to address any hardware or software issues as soon as possible to prevent any last-minute complications. It’s always better to take care of them early on and avoid any unnecessary stress.

Test environment: Find a cozy, well-lit room for your test. Make sure the space is distraction-free and meets all the requirements. Remember to clear the tabletops and ensure proper lighting. This will help create the perfect environment for your test.

Equipment readiness: Ensure your computer, webcam, microphone, and internet connection are all in optimal working condition. Close unnecessary applications.

Materials: Gather all the materials you’ll need for the test, including a government-issued photo ID, acceptable note-taking materials (whiteboard or plastic transparency sheet), a cellphone or hand-held mirror for check-in, and any other required items.

Dress code: Review the dress code guidelines provided by ETS. Dress appropriately, ensuring your ears and face are visible to the proctor. Avoid wearing accessories or items that could obstruct your ears.

Check-in: Log in to your ProctorU account and initiate the check-in process at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test time. Ensure your ID, note-taking materials, and other required items are ready.

Quiet and clear: Set up your testing area according to ETS guidelines. Clear your table and surroundings of any prohibited items. Position your table and chair so the door is visible to the proctor.

Authentication: Follow the proctor’s instructions for authentication. This may involve showing your ID, using a hand-held mirror or cellphone to display your computer screen, and providing a 360-degree view of your room.

ETS test browser: The proctor will launch the ETS Test Browser for you. You’ll need to enter the ETS ID and password to access the test.

Begin the Test: Once the setup process is complete, you can begin your GRE test. Focus on the questions and use the strategies you’ve practiced during your preparation.

Breaks: You’ll have a 10-minute break after completing the third section. Use this time to relax, stretch, and recharge before continuing with the test.

Completion: Once you’ve completed the test, follow the proctor’s instructions to submit your responses and end the test session.

Tips for test day

  • Practice makes perfect: Consistent practice under timed conditions is absolutely crucial for GRE success. Not only does regular practice make you familiar with the test format and question types, but it also helps you develop a rhythm for managing time during the actual exam. So, why not create a study schedule that includes mock tests to simulate the test-day environment and improve your pacing? Through practice, you’ll refine your approach to different question types, making you feel more comfortable and confident during the real test.
  • Master the strategy: Efficient test-taking strategies can significantly impact your GRE performance. Learn when to skip a difficult question, mark it for review, and move forward. Time management is crucial, so practice allocating time for each section based on its difficulty. For instance, if a question seems time-consuming, don’t hesitate to skip and return later. Moreover, effective strategy also involves recognizing patterns in question types, enabling you to tackle them more systematically and accurately.
  • Believe in yourself: Feeling nervous is totally normal, but don’t forget about all the hours you’ve put into preparing for this! Having self-confidence can really make a difference in how well you perform. Take a moment to think about how far you’ve come and the progress you’ve made, including your practice test scores. Believe in yourself and all the hard work you’ve done. Reminding yourself of your abilities and giving yourself positive affirmations can help you stay focused, manage test anxiety, and perform at your absolute best!
  • Stay cool: When you come across a challenging question during the GRE, don’t panic! Take a deep breath and approach it with a calm mindset. First, check if it’s a question type you’re familiar with. If it seems completely unfamiliar, you can always mark it for review and come back to it later. But if it’s within your grasp, break it down step by step. For example, in math problems, identify the given information and what solution is required. By staying composed, you’ll be able to tackle the problem in a methodical and effective way.
  • Relax: Use deep breathing exercises and positive visualization to keep stress at bay. Before the exam, take a few minutes to inhale deeply, hold, and exhale slowly. This can help calm your nerves and improve focus. Additionally, visualize a successful test experience, which can boost your confidence and reduce anxiety.

Remember, the GRE is your chance to show off your skills. With solid prep, effective time management, and a positive mindset, you’re ready to rock the GRE. So go out there and make your mark!

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