Taking the GRE at home vs. at a testing center

Tyler York

Starting with the COVID-19 pandemic in spring of 2020, test takers now have the option to take the GRE at home instead of in a test center. But whichever place you choose, there are important rules and reminders to keep in mind to maintain exam security and integrity — things that we will be detailing in this post.

Important information for all test takers

Contact Information

Here are the phone numbers and other contact information to list down for any GRE-related questions or concerns:

Email: gre-info@ets.org 

Phone:1-609-771-7670 or 1-866-473-4373 (toll free for test takers in the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada) *Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–7:45 p.m. Eastern Time (except for U.S. holidays) Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. 

Mail: GRE—ETS PO Box 6000 Princeton, NJ 08541-6000 U.S.A. Note: DO NOT mail registration forms to this address. 

Overnight Mail: ETS—GRE Distribution and Receiving Center 225 Phillips Boulevard Ewing, NJ 08618-1426 U.S.A.

Fax: 1-610-290-8975

For obtaining information and registration materials, visit www.ets.org/gre/disabilities or contact ETS Disability Services.

Email: stassd@ets.org

Phone: 1-609-771-7780 or 1-866-387-8602 (toll free for test takers in the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada) *Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Eastern Time (except for U.S. holidays)

Mail: ETS Disability Services PO Box 6054 Princeton, NJ 08541-6054 U.S.A.

Fax: 1-609-771-7165 Attn: GRE—Mail Stop 05-Q

Test Registration

  1. Create a registration checklist.

Keeping a checklist ensures that you don’t forget critical steps throughout the entire registration process, from signing up to canceling your scheduled test date if and when necessary. Include the following steps in your checklist:

  • Check the test fees.
  • Read the reschedule and cancellation policies. 
  • Read and understand the ID requirements. Part of it is to make sure that the information on the ID you’ll present matches the first and last names you used upon creating your account/registering for the test.
  • Set a definite schedule on when you’ll take the test. Note that the test is offered year-round on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’ll be useful to view seat availability ahead of time.
  • Allow sufficient time for score reporting. Be sure to determine the admissions deadlines of the schools you’re planning to apply at.
  • Create an ETS account. 
  • Designate up to four schools to which you’ll send your scores. If you wish to include more schools, you would need to pay an additional $27 per institution.
  • Explore various admissions resources, such as the GRE Search Service. You’d need all the help you can get!
  1. Use a consistent name when registering.

The first and last name you’ll use upon registering (even the spelling) should exactly match the one on the ID you’ll present on test day. If the names don’t match, either you may be prohibited from taking the exam or your scores may be canceled after the test. Avoid using nicknames — provide your complete first and last names, including accents if any.

If you’ve changed your name since you last took the GRE and want previous and current scores reported, you may reach out to GRE Services.

  1. Create an ETS account.

An ETS account is needed for the following:

  • Registering for a GRE test
  • Signing up for the free GRE Search Service
  • Purchasing test prep materials
  • Viewing and ordering additional score reports
  • Accessing the free GRE Diagnostic Service
  • Viewing, changing, or canceling your registration

Create an account at www.ets.org/mygre to start the registration process.

  1. Take note of registration guidelines.

You could register for the GRE General Test either by phone or online. The general guideline is to register at least two calendar days before your preferred test date (if online), and at least two business days (if by phone). 

If you wish to reschedule your test registration, you must do so no later than 4 days before your original test date. Otherwise, your test fee will be forfeited.

As for the GRE Subject Test, you may register online or via mail. We recommend registering early so you could secure the test date and location you prefer, because again, registration is on a first-come, first served basis. Take note: registration received after the deadline prescribed will incur a late fee. Late registration is only available for those who registered online, and will close one week after the regular registration date.

For more information on test rescheduling and cancellation, you may contact Prometric Services (the company that runs the test centers) at 1-443-751-4820 or 1-800-473-2255 if you’re testing in the United States, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico or Canada; and GRE Services if you’re testing from all other parts of the world.

  1. Choose a form of payment.

You can pay for GRE fees by phone, email, or online. If online, you may do so through the following:

  • Credit/debit card (American Express®, Diners Club International®, Discover®, JCB®, MasterCard®, RuPay Global, UnionPay®, or VISA®)
  • PayPal®
  • eCheck (drawn on a bank in the United States, in U.S. dollars only)
  • Authorization voucher

For paying through mail and other payment policies, you may refer to the Forms of Payment section on the GRE Information Bulletin.

At-Home Testing

Taking the GRE at home is a generally safer and more convenient option for test takers like you. It’s offered virtually in any location where GRE is offered.

However, while the exam content remains the same for both, there are certain guidelines and procedures that make at-home testing different from when you’ll take it in a test center. Your equipment and personal space must strictly meet the minimum requirements set by ETS. They are as follows:

Equipment Requirements

  • Computer — Your device must be a desktop or laptop computer with a single screen; tablets and mobile devices cannot be used. Approved operating systems include Windows 8 or 10 for PCs; Mac OS X® 10.5 or higher for Mac computers. Web browser used should either be Google Chrome or Firefox.
  • Browser download and equipment check — ETS Secure Test Browser should be downloaded and installed on your computer for the test. You may download both the Windows and Mac versions here. Use the ProctorU Equipment Check before test day to quickly diagnose all your equipment for any issues. You may need to disable firewalls and other security applications to enable the use of the programs you’ll need before the test.
  • Speaker — An internal or external speaker must be used to listen to the proctor. Headsets and earphones will not be allowed.
  • Microphone — To communicate with the proctor, you may use an internal or external microphone that is not part of a headset.
  • Camera — You can use either a built-in camera or a separate webcam; the camera must be able to display a 360-degree view of your room and your tabletop surface before the test.

Environment requirements

  • Privacy — Take the test alone in a room without people entering every now and then; all room doors must be closed. You will not be permitted to accomplish an exam in public spaces such as malls, parks, cafés, and restaurants.
  • Tabletop and seating — Be sure to place all of your equipment on a sturdy tabletop, and not on irregular surfaces such as beds, couches, and floors; you would need to be sitting on a standard chair. The surrounding area must be cleared from study notes and other personal items such as mobile phones. Room furniture and décor don’t have to be removed. Food and drink are not allowed during the test.
  • Clothing and appearance — Keep your ears visible throughout the test and not covered by hair, hats, and other headwear. Avoid wearing elaborate hair accessories. Religious headwear is permitted as long as your ears remain visible. As for face masks, you may not wear one as it is going to be an at-home test. Dress appropriately as you would still be monitored by the proctor and your photo will be sent to schools along with your scores.
  • Note-taking materials — Test takers are not advised to take notes on regular paper. Instead, you may use a small desktop white board or a sheet of paper encased in a transparent sheet protector. An erasable marker must be used for both, as pencils and pens are prohibited. At the end of the test, the proctor will ask you to show that all notes have been erased.

Overall, you should have stable internet connectivity if you’ll go for the at-home testing option. You would need a 2-MB-per-second speed for the entire duration of the exam; having low bandwidth may cause you to get disconnected from time to time.

Test Center Testing

If you decide to take the GRE on site, it’s vital to know what to expect before, during, and after the test. You should also prepare ahead what to bring on test day, as well as familiarize yourself with the procedure should your exam get delayed or canceled.

What to Bring

You’ll only need to bring two essential items on test day: a valid, acceptable ID and a mask. Bring at least two acceptable IDs; your seat won’t be held for you should you need to leave the premises to obtain an ID.

On test day, processes conducted by test personnel to verify your identification may involve the following:

  • Biometric voice and photo identification
  • Fingerprinting/thumbprinting
  • Videotaping
  • Signature comparison

Also keep in mind that personal items — except for your ID documents, food, beverages, and medication — are prohibited for use inside the testing area. These include gadgets such as phones, laptops, tablets, watches, and other wearable technology. If you are seen accessing these items for messaging/data transmitting purposes, these will be inspected or confiscated. Before the exam, test administrators will give instructions as to where you can store your personal items.

Checking In and During Your Test

Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of your exam schedule to allow for checking in. Arriving late might mean forfeiture of your test fee, and you will not be allowed to take the exam.

Upon arriving, personnel may ask you to temporarily remove your mask for ID verification purposes, during which your photo would also be taken. For security reasons, you may also be asked to empty your pockets, raise your pant legs, or pull your sleeves up above your wrists for a more thorough visual inspection. Personnel may also scan you using a handheld metal detector wand.

After the necessary inspections, you will then sign a confidentiality agreement as compliance to all rules and regulations. If you don’t sign the document, you will not be permitted to take the exam and your test fees won’t be refunded.

Score Reporting Options

After the test, you will have two options: to report your scores, or to cancel them. If you choose to cancel your scores, they won’t be available to you for review online or for submission to institutions, and they will not be added to your test history. However, if you choose the first option:

  • The unofficial scores you’ll be able to see first are those for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning. You won’t be able to view your Analytical Writing scores yet because of the essay scoring process.
  • You may choose the ScoreSelect option as the scores reflected here may be those that are your personal best. You could select “Most Recent” to send only your scores from your latest test, or “All” to send your scores from all previous tests from the last five years. At your request, these scores will be sent to the four schools you’ve designated; if you did not designate schools, you will have to pay $27 per school that you will choose as a score recipient.

What to Do If Your Test Session is Canceled or Delayed

In circumstances that’s beyond the control of either the ETS or the test taker, test dates may be postponed or rescheduled. During such instances, you may reschedule to a different date free of charge, or even receive a full refund of your test fee if you don’t wish to change dates.

You may also request for reimbursement on travel expenses incurred while you’re en route to the test center. Just don’t forget to gather all necessary documentation and request reimbursement from GRE Services not later than 30 days after your test appointment. All reimbursements will be made in USD.

The reimbursement request should contain the following information:

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Original test date
  • Appointment number
  • A brief description of what occurred at the test center

Reporting Suspicious Behavior

Various security measures are put in place to ensure the safety of all personnel and test takers, as well as the fairness and integrity of the exam. However, there may be instances when irregularities may occur, such as a person taking the test on behalf of someone else, copying answers from another test taker, or using electronic devices to source answers from the web.

When you witness such behavioral irregularities or they are reported to you, alert ETS immediately of the situation. ETS will maintain your anonymity and the confidentiality of your report. These will be investigated thoroughly and those proven to have committed such irregularities will be dealt with through all applicable laws. 

Key Takeaway

Whatever place you choose to take your GRE in, it pays to know the rules and guidelines by heart to avoid any inconvenience on test day. Apart from this guide that we’ve made, you may also refer to ETS’s GRE Information Bulletin to know more about the specific policies they’ve set for all aspects of the exam.

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