In this blog post, I’m going to try to cover everything you need to know about taking the GRE at home. First, I’ll cover logistics—technical requirements, what to do before test day, and what to expect on test day. Then I’m going to share one person’s experience taking the GRE at home, as it is presently offered by ETS due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to be very clear that this is only one person’s experience as told to me, and that it doesn’t necessarily illustrate what your experience will be taking the GRE at home. That said, my colleagues at Manhattan Prep and I thought it would be helpful to share with you how this went down for one of our instructors. We will call her Claire (not the instructor’s real name).
But first let’s talk pre-exam logistics.
Your tech requirements
Before your test day, it’s critical to read through all the technical requirements on the ProctorU resource center page and the ETS At Home information page. You are able to take the GRE on a computer but not a mobile device. You can use a PC or a Mac.
You will need to install the ETS Test Browser as well as the appropriate web browser and extension (ProctorU recommends the Chrome browser). Next you’ll need to run the ProctorU system check, and it will probably tell you that you don’t have Flash enabled. Check out these tips on how to enable Flash. (Note that both Flash and the ProctorU extension are potential security threats, so we strongly suggest disabling Flash and uninstalling the ProctorU extension once you finish taking the test. Also note that Flash is being decommissioned at the end of 2020, so ProctorU will presumably stop using it, at which point this is moot.)
On the ProctorU system check page, you can fill out the Live Technician form to chat with a technician, if you choose. The technician can do a final check via remote access to make sure you’re ready to go. To do this, you’ll have to give remote access to the technician, which enables them to see your screen, see you and hear you via webcam, and control your mouse—just like on test day.
Finally, there is a Test Your Equipment page that you may want to run for further technical diagnostics. You have to be logged into your ProctorU account to test your equipment.
If there is a tech-related issue on test day that prevents you from taking the test, you will likely be able to reschedule your exam for free—more on this below.
ETS is now offering the GRE at home to test takers requiring accommodations, but be sure to confirm your accommodation with both ETS and ProctorU before your test to ensure that you’re all set.
You can register and pay for the exam here. Create an ETS account, log in, click the “Register/ Find Test Centers, Dates” button, and select the GRE General Test. From here, you should be able to choose the “test at home” option. Hover over the “info” icon to see some basic requirements.
You’ll have to register and make your payment of $205 before you’re able to choose a time and date. At home administrations are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
After you pay, ETS will email you an order confirmation. This email notes that ProctorU will send you a separate email with instructions for scheduling your test date and time, and you should receive that email from ProctorU within a day. Follow the instructions in the email to view and schedule the reservation. You will be assigned a temporary password, but we recommend changing it to a password that you will remember. Once you select a time, you will see your test reservation and a countdown timer on your ProctorU dashboard.
You can reschedule your test for free at any time before your appointment on the ProctorU dashboard. According to the ETS website, the normal cancellation policy applies to the at home GRE—you will need to cancel at least 4 days in advance in order to receive a partial refund.
Getting ready for test day
Review the ETS At Home information page and watch the Pre Exam Checklist Video. You may want to review the Student Walkthrough Video to get a sense for what the check-in process will look like. Make sure you clear the room of all unauthorized items per the Pre Exam Checklist Video.
Since you’ll have to use an erasable surface (like a standard white board) for scratch paper, if you need to order one you’ll want to allow plenty of time for it to arrive. One of our students waited five days to receive a package—even with an Amazon Prime account.
What to expect on test day
Thirty minutes prior to your scheduled time (per ETS instructions—though the ProctorU instructions don’t state that you need to be here this early, so it’s unclear), log into your ProctorU dashboard. Approximately 5 minutes before your scheduled time, your ProctorU exam link will become active. You’ll be led through a series of instructions, terms and agreements, and face recognition protocols. Make sure you have your government-issued ID handy. During this time, ProctorU will initiate a screen share and access your video/audio. You may have to wait some time for your proctor to arrive; there are reports of proctors being up to thirty minutes late to exam appointments. It’s also possible to start your exam a little early—one of our students was able to start about 10 minutes ahead of her scheduled time.
Once your proctor arrives, they chat further instructions to you. These instructions may involve putting your phone out of reach behind you, doing a pan of your surroundings with your webcam, and/or showing the proctor the whiteboard/marker you will be using. (You must use an erasable surface for your scratchwork.) Next, the proctor will set up your test and enter the administrator’s code to unlock your exam. And now the exam begins!
One person’s (“Claire’s”) test day experience
The proctor mostly interacted with Claire via chat. Only a couple of times did the proctor come onto the mic to confirm that he could be heard. (Another student has told us that her proctor did come on the mic several times throughout, however, so this seems to vary.)
Before Claire’s test began, she was told that she was allowed to use both a standard handheld whiteboard and the Manhattan Prep GMAT yellow pad. Since the yellow pad has writing on the front page, the proctor asked his supervisor for approval—which in this case was granted, but it’s possible that another proctor would say no. (If you’re using our yellow pad, you’d just want to be prepared to cut off and discard the front page that has writing on it. Have scissors handy. Also note that, though the GMAT yellow pad mimics what’s given to you for a testing-center-based GMAT, it can’t be used for the GMAT Online.)
She also asked the proctor if she could have snacks and a drink with her in the room, and the proctor agreed to this, although this is not ETS policy. Claire then asked the proctor if she could go to the bathroom in the middle of a section. The proctor said that Claire could just speak up and he would hear her and be able to give her permission to leave the room. (Claire didn’t actually end up trying to leave in the middle of a section, so we don’t know whether she would have been told to wait until the break.)
While working on her essays, Claire experienced tech issues (a glitch with her mouse, her screen lagged). But when she tried to flag the proctor by speaking and waving into the camera, she didn’t receive a response. She predicts that she lost about three minutes of her 30 minutes of writing time due to the screen lag. She wound up continuing with this section without having successfully communicated with her proctor.
When she reached the 10-minute break after the first three sections, she again tried to get the proctor’s attention by waving and speaking, but there was no response. She gave up and took her break to eat a snack and stretch. She also left the room to use the bathroom. When she returned to her chair, the break time had not yet expired, and the test would not advance. She tried clicking various things on screen but nothing happened. Finally, she pressed her Windows key, which caused her Windows menu to pop up. She could then view her taskbar and open her Chrome browser to type a chat to her proctor. Claire at this point received a response via chat; the proctor started the next section of the exam.
From here, Claire completed her exam; as is the case for exams taken in test centers, at the end of her exam, she received her scores on screen for the quant and verbal portions of the test. (Note that you won’t be able to see your scores in your ETS account right away—it will be over a week until they appear, so memorize them for now.)
Major takeaways from Claire’s experience:
- Certain decisions by the proctor around what to allow did not align with the policies outlined by ETS on its website. It’s possible that experiences of test takers will vary depending on who is proctoring your exam.
- Difficulties communicating with the proctor caused our test taker stress and anxiety but ultimately did not interfere with the successful administration and completion of her test.
- Note that you can hit your Windows key to navigate to the chat window in order to chat with the proctor if you are unable to get a response on mic.
ETS is saying that the GRE At Home will be available for as long as necessary due to the pandemic, so you will be able to take the exam if testing centers near you are closed.
It’s also possible that changes will be made to this process going forward, but the at-home test has been around for more than 6 months now, so chances are good that the process will stay the same in the future.
Check out our GRE Starter Kit study syllabus for various free study resources and a full-length practice test. Happy studying!
Mary Richter is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Nashville, Tennessee. Mary is one of those weirdos who loves taking standardized tests, and she has been teaching them for 15 years. When she’s not teaching the LSAT or GRE for ManhattanPrep, she’s writing novels under the last name Adkins.