GRE Online computer

In late March, ETS started offering test takers the option to take the GRE from home due to COVID-19-related closures. Instead of going to a test center, you can stay home and take the test while a proctor watches you over your video camera. This may sound great, but there are a number of issues to consider before you register for the GRE at-home test.

Read on for answers to your most pressing questions about technology, setup, registration, and the exam-taking experience. You can find additional information about policies and procedures for at-home testing directly on the GRE website. Also check out our GRE info video at the bottom of this article. Should you have a question we haven’t answered, please tweet it to us!

When is the GRE test offered at home? Who can take it?

You can register to take the GRE with test dates available until June 15, 2020. It’s likely that additional dates will be added if circumstances require. Anyone whose local test centers are closed can take the GRE at home. You can create an ETS account and start the registration process to check whether that’s an option for you.

What are the technical requirements for taking the GRE online?

You’ll need to meet several tech requirements, including:

  • You must be able to use a laptop or desktop computer. No tablets or phones are permitted.
  • Your computer must be a Windows device with version 7, 8, or 10—Mac computers are not allowed. If you don’t have access to a PC with a Windows operating system, do not register for the GRE at-home test.
  • You must have some sort of speaker, microphone, and camera. These can be internal or external, but they may not be part of a headset. You will also need to be able to move the camera (or move the laptop with built-in camera) in order to show the proctor the area around your computer. 

You can take the test on a Mac computer if: (1) a Windows operating system is installed; (2) you are using a Chrome or Firefox browser; (3) the ETS Test Browser is installed; and (4) it passes the ProctorU Systems Check.

What are the setup requirements?

You must meet requirements for when and where you take the test:

  • You must be alone in a well-lit room with no interruptions during the test. This means that public places are not allowed, nor are spaces in a home where a family member or roommate could walk in. Plan to take the test in a room with a closed door, where children and pets won’t be able to disturb you.
  • You must use a desk or table as well as a regular kitchen or office chair. You cannot be seated on a couch, stuffed armchair, bed, or the floor.
  • Your desk or table must be clear of all unapproved items, including food and drink. As at the test centers, the GRE does not allow water or any other drinks or snacks during the test, so you’ll have to wait until the break.
  • Dress appropriately. Your photo will be shared with any institutions you send your scores to. Your ears must be visible the entire time, and you should avoid wearing any jewelry or other accessories.
  • You will not be allowed to use paper to do your scratch work. Instead, you must use a small whiteboard or plastic transparent sheet protectors (the ones that are often used in binders). Just put a plain white sheet of paper in the protector. You will need at least one functioning dry erase marker as well as some sort of eraser. You are permitted to use a tissue as the eraser.

Here’s a checklist you can use to ensure you’re prepared for test day:

✅ Windows computer
✅ Chrome web browser for ProctorU
✅ Camera
✅ Microphone
✅ Speakers
✅ Private location
✅ Desk or table, chair
✅ Whiteboard
✅ Dry-erase markers and eraser
✅ Passport or other identifying document
GRE Test Browser
✅ Compliance with all ProctorU system requirements

Should I take the GRE at home?

If you meet the requirements and feel you have completed or will soon complete your GRE prep, then taking the at-home test may be a good idea. Once local test centers reopen, it is likely that testing appointments will be in short supply. In addition, remember that late summer and early fall are the busiest times for GRE testing, so that trend could also make finding an appointment more difficult. The at-home test is also a great option for you if you worry that you could be distracted or bothered by features of the testing center, such as noises from other test takers or fluorescent lights. You can know in advance exactly what your test location is like because you’ll be setting it up yourself! You won’t have any worries about factors such as traffic or parking. You can even wear pajama bottoms—but wear an appropriate top because your photo will be sent to schools! 

Will grad programs know I took the test at home? Will it hurt my chances?

There won’t be any indication on your score report that you took the test at home. That being said, schools will see a photo of you taken during check-in, so they will likely infer that you took the test at home. However, because the test is identical to the in-person exam, and because GRE has set up the test security arrangements, we don’t anticipate at-home testing to have any effect on admissions decisions. 

When should I register?

For the in-person test, we generally recommend registering about a month in advance because testing centers have a limited number of appointments available. For the GRE at home, so far, there seem to be many time slots available with as little as 72 hours’ notice. It’s still a good idea to register at least a few weeks in advance, just in case that changes. Having a testing date on the calendar is also helpful for planning your GRE prep. 

How do I register?

Here is a link to the registration information from GRE. You’ll start by creating an ETS account if you don’t already have one. Then be sure to select the option to test at home. You’ll then fill out all the same information you would to register for the GRE at a testing center, other than choosing your location. The GRE fee is the same as it is for the in-person test. After you have registered and paid, wait until you receive an email from ProctorU. That will allow you to choose your date and time. This email may take half an hour or more to arrive, so don’t worry if you don’t receive it immediately. Do not make a ProctorU account until you receive this email. The email will provide a username and password for you to use. Finally, log in to ProctorU, fill in the required information, and then you’ll be able to select your preferred date and time. On the left side of the screen, you’ll see options to choose the date and time you would prefer. Once you select “Find Available Times,” the system will show the options most like your preferences. Select the appointment you’d like, and then you’ll receive a confirmation email from ProctorU. Be sure to add your appointment to your calendar, as you will not receive a reminder email on or just before test day.

What if I have already registered to take the in-person test, but my test center is closed?

If you don’t want to reschedule and wait to take the GRE in person, you may be able to take the test at home instead. At present, you need to call ETS to switch to the at-home test. If your in-person test has been canceled and you have been issued a refund, however, you can go ahead and register for the at-home GRE through the GRE website. 

What if I don’t meet the tech requirements?

First, consider whether there is anything you can do to meet those requirements. For instance, can you borrow a Windows computer or purchase a camera or whiteboard? Do not register for the at-home GRE if you do not have the proper supplies or cannot meet the requirements. GRE is very strict about its requirements, so don’t expect the proctor to be lenient if you are not prepared with what you need. 

What if I qualify for accommodations?

Accommodations are available for the GRE General Test at home. Accommodations of extended time, extra breaks, screen magnification and selectable colors can be requested in your ETS account. Other accommodations can be requested through ETS Disability Services.

How and when do I access the test?

Log in to ProctorU at your appointment time and click “Start Session.” There is a 15-minute grace period—after that, if you haven’t checked in, your appointment will be canceled and you will not have your test fee refunded. Before your start time, be sure that your workspace is clear and that you have your whiteboard, markers, eraser, and ID ready to go. Keep your cell phone within reach because you’ll need to show it to the proctor as part of the check- in process. It is OK if you have shelves above your desk with items, but the desk area itself needs to be clear of any unapproved items. You also need to close all other programs on your computer, and turn off any kind of notifications. Make sure you are using Chrome to go to the ProctorU website.

At your scheduled time, the check-in process will begin. Check-in should only take about ten minutes. You’ll be prompted to install the ProctorU Chrome extension if you haven’t already done so. Then, you must agree to allow your session to be recorded, and the software takes your photo as well as a photo of your ID. Next, you are matched with a proctor, a fact that you are told in a chat window. You do not hear or see the proctor, but the proctor is able to hear and see you throughout the entire test. The proctor lets you know in the chat box what you need to do. You’ll use your camera to show the area around your desk and the space around the room, and you’ll hold up your whiteboard (front and back) and any other items you are using for the test. Then the proctor will ask to see your cell phone and show it is off and that you are putting it somewhere you cannot reach it. Next, the proctor will take control of your computer screen, download the ETS software, and enter a code to log you in to your test session. Then, the proctor will relinquish control of the mouse to you and let you know through the chat that you’re ready to start the test. One thing to note is that the test will be full-screen. If you need to go back to the chat during the break or at any other time, hold down ALT+TAB to toggle to the chat window.

What will it be like to take the GRE at home?

Once you start the test, it is the same as the in-person test—just on your home computer. The instructions have not been updated, so you do see some instructions that are not pertinent, such as telling you to raise your hand if you need help. With the at-home test, you’d ask the proctor in the chat box if you need something. You may not leave the room except during the ten-minute break. 

When you finish the test, you’ll return to the chat box. The proctor will instruct you to erase your whiteboard and show both sides to the camera. Then, the proctor will let you know that you are finished, and you will be asked to complete a brief survey about your ProctorU experience. Be sure to close out of all windows to ensure that you don’t continue to be recorded.

Will someone be watching me the whole time?

Yes, the proctor will watch you via your camera during the test, and your testing video will be recorded. The proctor will also be able to see what you are doing on the screen. Remember, however, that you won’t see the proctor. 

Will I see and talk to the proctor?

You won’t see the proctor; instead, you’ll communicate via text-based chat. The proctor will be able to hear you, but in general your communications will occur through the ProctorU chat window.

How many dry erase markers can I use? Can I use different colors?

GRE has not provided a maximum for the number of markers, but we recommend keeping three or four markers on your desk. Make sure they work before your test begins! Different colors are allowed. That is a benefit of the online test—multiple colors will come in handy on geometry questions. Make sure to use markers with a fine tip so you’ll be able to fit more on the board. You can only use one small whiteboard.  

How big a whiteboard can I use?

ETS states that a “small” whiteboard is permitted, so we recommend using one that is about the size of a piece of paper or a little bigger. It will need to fit on your desk or lap without blocking the camera.

What kind of eraser can I use for my whiteboard?

If you don’t have a whiteboard eraser, you are allowed to keep a tissue on your desk for erasing.

What if I don’t have a whiteboard or markers?

You can use a plain piece of paper inside a plastic sheet protector. You will need to purchase dry erase markers if you don’t have any. Do not plan to take the test without these items, as space to write down work is an absolute necessity for doing well on the GRE. You will not be permitted to use a pencil and paper. 

Do I need to remove everything from the walls and shelves of my room?

No, only your desk or table needs to be cleared off. However, be sure to put away any study materials. You will be showing the proctor a 360-degree view of your room, and it will be recorded. It’s possible to have your test canceled sometime after taking it if any material that could have helped you is visible. In other words, you can’t have a poster with math formulas on the wall! 

What dates and times are available for me to take the GRE?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to view the available dates and times before you pay to register for the test. Rest assured, however, that you should be able to find an appointment that is to your liking. Unlike with the in-person GRE, which is limited to business hours, you can take the at-home test 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. This is great news for early risers and night owls or those with unusual schedules. Be sure to consider what time of day your brain tends to be most alert.

Is the structure of the test the same?

Yes, it’s the same test. The only difference is that you are taking the test at home. You will still have an experimental section.

What if there’s an issue?

Reach out to your proctor via the chat window if you need help with anything, but if possible wait until you are on the instruction page for the next section, before the timer has started. If there are technical issues, the proctor will let you know what to do.

Do I still get a break?

Just like with the in-person test, you’ll get one ten-minute break after Section 3. You are permitted to leave the room, but let your proctor know via the chat. Do not take your cell phone with you when you leave the room, as that would likely result in the cancellation of your scores. There will be a ten-minute timer on the screen, and you’ll need to come back before the ten minutes elapse. If you leave the room, the proctor will ask you to show another 360-degree view of the room. Then, the proctor will input a code to allow you to resume the test. We do recommend that you take the break and get a drink of water, have a quick snack, and give your brain a break.

What if my family member knocks on the door or comes in the room during the test?

GRE has not stated what would happen in this case, but expect the worst: your test could be canceled with no refund. Take advantage of the flexible appointment schedule to choose a day and time when you’re least likely to be interrupted, and be extremely clear with anyone who lives with you that you must not be disturbed in any way. 

How much time should I allow for the test?

If you have everything cleared off your desk and have gathered all the items you need, the check-in process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. The GRE takes about 3 hours 45 minutes, so plan on approximately four hours.

Will I get my scores right away?

Just like with the regular GRE, you’ll have the option to see or cancel your Quantitative and Verbal scores after you’ve completed all the sections. Then after about two weeks, you’ll receive your AWA (Essay) score and more information on how you did on each section. 

Can I cancel or reschedule my test?

Unlike the in-person GRE, the at-home GRE can easily be rescheduled on ProctorU up to 72 hours before the session at no charge. However, canceling the test through ETS will only provide a partial refund, so do not register unless you are sure you want to take the test in the near future. 

How do I send scores to schools?

The online test looks exactly like the in-person test, so just as with the in-person test, you’ll be able to select the school(s) you want to send your scores to after you have finished all of the test sections.

How should I prepare to take the GRE online?

Taking the GRE at home is very similar to taking a practice test at home. Because you choose aspects of your setting, you’ll know exactly what to expect on test day. You can prepare by doing drills and/or practice tests at the desk or table where you plan to take the test and using a whiteboard and markers instead of scratch paper. 

What should I change about my strategy due to the use of the whiteboard?

The main difference is that it will be harder to return to your previous work for problems that you marked as ones you’d like to return to. For math, you probably won’t be able to leave your work on the board for more than one or two questions. Hence, our strategy of taking the easy test first becomes even more important. For each question, decide whether it is a “now” or “later” question. If you start to get stuck on a “now” question, try doing the next question, then return to the question that has you stuck. If you are still stuck, mark the question and continue taking the easy test first. You may be able to circle your work for this question so it’s still there when you start to work on your marked questions. However, you may need to erase your work so you can tackle other questions. Erasing your work may not be all bad, however. While it will take a little longer to rework the question from scratch, you will also be forcing yourself to take a fresh look at the question. For verbal, likewise, you may need to erase your passage map after you finish all of the questions for that passage. Make sure you are set on your answers before moving on to the next passage. Best of luck! We are rooting for you.