Was Your GRE Canceled? You Can Take It at Home

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Due to COVID-19, Educational Testing Services (ETS), the makers of the test, announced that they are allowing students take the GRE general test at home, permanently. Learn all about the at home GRE and hear from students who took successfully took their tests online.

Note: GRE test centers around the world began to reopen late 2020 for in-person test dates. If you’d prefer to take your exam at a GRE test center, you have options! Check out the ETS Test Centers site for available test centers, dates, and times near you.

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GRE At Home: Real Students’ Experience & Tips

youtube-icon-gre-at-home-videoFor all the visual learners out there: meet Justin, a Magoosh student who successfully took the GRE at home and scored 166 on Math! Justin answers student-submitted questions like:

  • How did you feel about switching to an at-home test?
  • Do you need a 360-degree webcam? What was the proctor interaction like?
  • Were you allowed to leave the room during breaks?

You should also check out our interview about the online GRE with Corina, another Magoosh student, for additional perspective. Corina—who scored in the 98th percentile in Verbal—provides a deep dive into how to get set up with the at-home GRE, what she would do differently, and her top tip for students thinking about taking the GRE at home. Finally, take a look at our interview with Ellen about the benefits of the online GRE for additional perspective.

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Who’s Eligible to Take the At Home GRE?

As of April 2, 2020, the home GRE is available everywhere that the computer-delivered GRE is offered, with the exception of Mainland China and Iran.

According to ETS, as of April 14th, more than 18,000 students have registered to take the at home GRE or TOEFL iBT, in 116 countries/territories around the world, and 2,000 have successfully done so.

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How Does the GRE At Home Experience Work?

ETS has partnered with ProctorU, a company founded in 2008 that’s delivered millions of proctored online exams.

Overall, ETS and ProctorU are trying to recreate the testing environment in your home, so the requirements are similar to what you’d expect at a test center with some additional ones for security/integrity purposes.

For your at home GRE, you’ll need the following:

  • Laptop or desktop. You can now use either a Windows or iOS operating system (this was not the case when the at-home GRE was initially implemented). You cannot use a tablet or other mobile devices.
  • Chrome or Firefox browser.
  • Private space. You cannot take the test in public (e.g. a park or coffee shop) and no one else can be in the room.
  • Desk or table and chair. You cannot take the test lying in bed or on a couch.
  • Webcam. You’ll need to be able to move it around to show the proctor a 360-degree view of your room including your desk or table.
  • Microphone and speaker. You need this to talk with the proctor. However, you cannot use headphones, earbuds or anything else that covers your ears.

They also have some restrictions, including no food or drink during the test and no accessories, such as tie clips, cufflinks, jewelry, headbands, etc.

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What Are The Rules Regarding the Whiteboard and Note Taking During the Online GRE?

There is one major difference between taking the GRE general test at home and at a testing center: you cannot use regular scratch paper. You’ll need to use a whiteboard with a dry erase marker OR paper with a transparent sheet protector and erasable marker in order to erase all notes in view of the proctor.

We’ve had a lot of questions from students asking about the GRE whiteboard, transparent sheet protectors, and note-taking in general. To get answers, we reached out to ETS and Magoosh students who have successfully taken the GRE at home, to get official information.

What if I don’t have access to a whiteboard or sheet protector? This is particularly pertinent to students in India who cannot leave to go to the store, due do government lockdown restrictions.

ETS: Please be advised whiteboards and plastic sheet protectors are the only things approved to use as note taking implements.

Does this mean that students without either of these options are disqualified from taking the test?

ETS: If you use something other than that, it would likely cause the test to be aborted due to security issues and the scores would be canceled.

How did the ProcturU proctor check and okay your note-taking tools before starting your GRE exam? What about after the exam?

Agastya, Magoosh Student: Before the test, the proctor asked me to show the [note-taking materials] in front of the webcam, and [I] demonstrated that I can write on it as well erase it.

ETS: At the end or your test you will be required to erase both sides of the transparent sheet in view of the proctor.

Is there a specific size limit for whiteboards or can students use what they already have around the house?

ETS: The size of paper so 8″ x 10″. (Note that our students have used slightly larger whiteboards—closer to 8.5″ x 11″—and not had any trouble. Also note that you can erase as often as you’d like if you run out of space.)

What was your experience using a sheet protector like? Were you allowed to have more than one?

Morgan, Magoosh Student: I used transparent plastic report covers and fine tipped whiteboard markers. They let me have a whiteboard eraser which helped save time because I had to erase between every problem to make sure I had enough space to work on the next problem. But I also took my exam on a light table and was able to see the black whiteboard marker on the transparent cover against the light table, if I had a dark table I wouldn’t have been able to see it. I hated not having pen and paper because once I worked on a problem I had to erase my progress (in order to have room for the next one) and couldn’t go back and pick up where I left off if I wanted to come back to the problem later.

I had three transparent sheets on the desk (they didn’t seem to care how many I had)* but it took too much time flipping back and forth between them so I only used one and just erased it between each problem. A small whiteboard would have been more ideal than flimsy cover sheets, but they did the job.

*Important note from Magoosh: We don’t believe that students are officially allowed more than one transparent sheet protector. We imagine that there is some variability based on the proctor, but we recommend practicing with only one whiteboard or sheet protector and then asking the proctor before the exam if you may use more than one!

Can students put a blank sheet of paper in the plastic sheet protector to make their writing more readable?

ETS: Yes, they can do that as long as they can erase the markers completely.

Do you have any tips for students using a whiteboard or transparent sheet protector to take notes and work out calculations?

Agastya, Magoosh Student: I used whiteboard marker to write. It does take some time to get used to, and it might be a good idea for test takers at home to get used to writing or do calculations with it at least a couple of days before the test to avoid wasting time during the test. Also, make sure to provide paper towels to erase.

ETS customer service transcript questions gre general test at home

Let us know if you have any other questions about note taking during home version of the GRE general test. We will be happy to reach out to ETS on your behalf, and then share the information with other students. Please also let us know if you took the GRE online and had a different experience!

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What Security Measures Are Needed for the At Home GRE?

Below are additional security measures:

  • They’ll be recording your face (via webcam) and your screen so they can see all actions, and there will be a live proctor.
  • You cannot communicate with anyone else.
  • You’ll need to use a handheld mirror or phone to show the proctor your screen.
  • You cannot use any unauthorized materials, including mobile devices, pre-written notes, or textbooks.
  • Any type of suspicious activity or movement could invalidate your test.

You can see a full list of requirements on the ETS site. We also recommend reading about a Magoosh students experience with ProctorU to help ease your mind before your GRE.

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Do You Get Any Breaks During the GRE?

The GRE has six sections:

  • One Analytical Writing Assessment, including one issue essay and argument essay. This section always appears first.
  • Two Math, two Verbal, and one Experimental (Math or Verbal). These sections can appear in any order.

After your third section, you get a ten-minute break, during which you can leave your seat. However, if you do not return on time, your test will be canceled and your fee will not be refunded. After all other sections, you’ll get a one-minute break but you must remain in your seat. ETS does not allow any unscheduled breaks.

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Should You Take the GRE General Test at Home?

It depends. The requirements may feel onerous. That said, ETS is trying to make the best of a difficult situation by offering this option, especially for those in countries encouraging or requiring people to stay indoors due to the rapid spread of coronavirus. Also, note that several schools and programs are also trying to make the best of this difficult situation by waiving their GRE requirement. You’ll want to see if this applies to you before deciding whether or not to take the online GRE.

To determine if taking the GRE general test at home is right for you, you’ll want to think about your at-home situation. If you have a private space and can spend four hours (the length of the GRE) without interruptions, then this could be a good option. If, like me, you have two young kids at home and your family is required to mostly stay indoors, then this might be more challenging, and you may want to wait until test centers open again.

For students requiring accommodations: If you were originally planning to take the GRE with accommodations, it’s important to note that the at home GRE test does not offer accommodations at this point in time.

As of April 14, 2020, ETS is providing accommodations including (but not limited to) extended time, extra breaks, screen magnification, and selectable colors for students taking the GRE at home!

Feeling unsure? You can try it out first! ETS offers two free practice tests, so try to take one at home using the exact same setup you’d use for the actual test. Follow the proper rules for breaks and food and drink, and see if it works for you. You could even turn on a Zoom or Google Meet and share your screen with a friend in order to replicate the feeling of being monitored (I never thought I’d be writing something like that!).

Online GRE Advantages

If you do decide to take it at home, you do have some advantages. Here are a few tips:

  • Over the course of your studies, take a few practice tests in the same setup that you plan to use for the actual test. In addition to the two free tests, ETS offers three paid ones. Magoosh also offers practice tests in our product.
  • Take these tests at the same time of day that you plan to take your actual test, so you can develop a rhythm and routine.
  • Use the same device you plan to for test day.
  • Don’t use regular scratch paper; use a whiteboard or paper with a transparent sheet protector instead.

Let us know if you have any questions. You can also reach out to our team at [email protected] for more information. And if you’ve used ProctorU before or you end up taking the GRE at home, please contact us as well! We’d love to hear about your experience.

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  • Bhavin Parikh

    Bhavin sets the vision and strategy for Magoosh, along with whatever else needs to be done. With a BS/BA in Economics and Computer Science from Duke University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, he’s on a mission to change the way people learn and how they think about learning. Years ago, Bhavin played on several Nationals-level ultimate frisbee teams. Today, he’s our resident gelato connoisseur.

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