Prometric testing centers for the GRE® General Test closed temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic. To accommodate students hoping to stick to their GRE testing timelines, ETS—the company that administers the GRE—began administering a version of the GRE that could be taken in students’ homes rather than at a testing center. The online GRE is identical to the standard GRE in format, content, scoring, and on-screen experience. Although Prometric testing centers have reopened, the option to take the GRE General Test at home will remain indefinitely.
To get full details and updates on this situation, be sure to consult the official GRE website. For now, let’s address some of the more significant questions.
Who is eligible to take the at-home GRE?
The at-home GRE General Test is available everywhere except Mainland China and Iran.
At-Home GRE Accommodations
Students who are approved can still receive accommodations when taking the GRE at home. Among the accommodations offered are extended time, extended breaks, screen magnification, and selectable colors. You can request accommodations in your ETS account or by contacting ETS Disability Services.
What will I need at home to take the GRE?
Students need to meet certain equipment requirements and create an acceptable testing environment.
- Desktop or laptop computer. Tablets and mobile phones cannot be used.
- Chrome or Firefox browser.
- Internal or external microphone and speakers. These are used to communicate with the proctor. No headsets or earphones are allowed.
- Built-in camera or external webcam. The camera must be able to be moved to show the proctor a 360-degree view of the room.
- Private space. No other people may be in the room. No public spaces (e.g., coffeeshops) are permitted.
- Proper seating and clear workspace. You must be seated in a chair at a desk or table that is clear of all unapproved items, including food and drink.
- Erasable writing surface. Whiteboards and transparent sheet protectors are approved. You may not use regular paper. The proctor will watch to make sure all notes are erased at the end of the test.
- Appropriate clothing. Your ears must be visible throughout the test. Your photo will be taken and provided to schools with your test results.
Should I take the at-home GRE or wait for centers to open again?
There will be no indication on your score report that you took the GRE General Test at home or in a testing center, so the schools to which you’re applying won’t know. Whether you decide to take the GRE at home or at a testing center, your testing experiences will be almost completely the same. As stated above, the online GRE is identical to the standard GRE in format, content, scoring, and on-screen experience. However, depending on your individual circumstances, one testing experience may be a better fit for you than the other. Consider the following reasons you may prefer one testing location over the other:
In-Person Testing Center
- This may be the testing experience you expected as you began preparing for the GRE.
- You don’t have to worry about creating the perfect testing environment. Faulty internet, technical difficulties, roommates, or family members won’t be able to interfere with your testing experience.
- There are fewer registration steps to complete and materials to gather. Prometric testing centers provide you with computers, proctors, and note-taking materials.
- You can schedule your test for any day of the week at any time of day or night, and testing appointments are available as soon as 24 hours after you register.
- You’ll be taking the GRE in a familiar setting (perhaps even the one where you’ve taken practice tests) and on a familiar device, which could reduce some test-day stress.
How to prep for the at-home GRE
For the most part, studying for the GRE at home should be no different than usual. It is still a computerized test, and the format of the test is identical to the test center version.
Expect to spend the same amount of time as usual to prepare for the GRE (many students will spend an average of 100 hours over 3 months). However, as you will not be given supplies as you would at a test center, you will want to make sure you have everything you need to take the exam on your scheduled date. That means making sure that you have a whiteboard or transparent sheets, as well as a couple of fresh markers.
And be sure to practice using those materials so that you know what to expect when you take the official exam.