How to Prepare for the GRE: Test Day Checklist

Not sure how to prepare for GRE test day? Discover how to get ready in just a few simple steps.

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by Thomas Broderick

Published on June 22, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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How to Prepare for the GRE: Test Day Checklist
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How to prepare for GRE test day involves more than studying. You must know what to expect if you take the exam at an authorized test center or at home. This is why it's important you research GRE test day requirements to ensure you feel comfortable and can perform your best.

Here, we explain how to prepare for the GRE, what to bring, and what to expect during the exam, whether you're taking it at a test center or at home.

What to Bring to the Test Center on GRE Test Day

You do not need to bring much to the GRE test center. However, proctors will turn you away if you lack a required item.

Valid ID: GRE test day requirements include a valid government ID. The name on the ID must match the name you used when registering. View the full ID requirements here. Mask: Some GRE test centers may still require masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Contact a center to learn more about its policy. Bag (Optional): Test centers that don't provide a cubby for your possessions may let you store them in a personal bag outside the testing room. Drink and Snack (Optional): The GRE gives you a 10-minute break. You may use part of this time to eat or drink outside the testing room.

What to Expect on the GRE At-Home Test

If you plan to take the GRE at home, expect slightly different GRE test day requirements.

What You Need for the GRE At-Home Test

You can qualify for at-home testing by creating a testing space that meets Educational Testing Service (ETS) guidelines. Make sure to review these guidelines well in advance of test day and reach out to ETS if you have any questions.

Here's a list of what you'll need for at-home testing:

Passport or Valid ID: A passport or other valid government ID confirms your identity to the proctor. Cell Phone or Mirror: During check-in, you use a small mirror or mobile phone camera to show your screen to the proctor. Desktop or Laptop Computer: You need a desktop or laptop computer meeting ETS's technology requirements. You must use Chrome or Firefox as well. Speaker, Microphone, and Camera: Your computer must include a working speaker, microphone, and camera. The proctor uses these tools to monitor you. Table or Desk: Clear your table of items besides your computer (and a whiteboard and marker, if desired — see below). Whiteboard and Marker (Optional): You may use a whiteboard and erasable marker during the GRE. You may not use paper, pens, or pencils.

What to Do Before the GRE At-Home Test

Before you take the GRE at-home test, gather all the materials you'll need, including your ID, whiteboard, and mirror or cell phone. Prepare your testing space by clearing your table and reducing distractions. Then, download ETS's ProctorU® software and run an equipment check on your computer's microphone, camera, and speakers.

Just before checking in, look in a mirror to ensure nothing obstructs the proctor from seeing your ears. You can learn more about how to prepare for the GRE at-home test by visiting the ETS website.

How to Check In for the GRE At-Home Test

ETS lets you check in on GRE test day for up to 12 minutes after your scheduled appointment. First, you'll speak with a proctor and show them your valid ID. You'll then use a small mirror or cell phone camera to show them your computer screen.

After, your proctor will launch the test browser on your computer, which you'll access by typing in your ETS name and password. Visit the ETS website for the latest check-in requirements and information.

How to Prepare the Night Before the GRE

Learn how to prepare for GRE test day using the following time-tested advice.

Avoid Last-Minute Studying

Cramming for the GRE or any other test rarely works. Doing so the night before can raise stress and inhibit long-term recall.

Prepare for GRE test day by following a long-term study plan. Doing so lets you use the day before the test to rest your body and mind.

Prepare Your Test Materials

Gather your required test materials the day before the GRE. If you registered for an at-home test, declutter your dedicated testing space and run a check on your computer. This way you can ensure you receive a refund if you cannot find your ID or your computer malfunctions.

Other advantages of preparing test materials the night before the GRE include reduced stress.

Get a Good Night's Sleep

A good night's sleep can improve your mood, attentiveness, and overall test-taking ability. You raise your chances of getting a good night's sleep by following a sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, and exercising regularly.

Other tips include not using a phone or computer before bed and avoiding naps during the day.

What to Do the Morning of the GRE

You can do your best on the GRE by eating breakfast, sticking to your routine, dressing comfortably, and reporting to your test location early.

Eat a Full Breakfast and Drink Water

Your brain needs fuel if you plan to earn a top score on the GRE. Eat breakfast the morning of the test. Avoid foods you usually do not eat and those high in fat and sugar.

Remember to stay hydrated leading up to the test. Don't drink too much, however — the GRE gives you only one 10-minute break to use the restroom.

Stick to Your Normal Routine

Sticking to a routine keeps your mind steady before and during the GRE. Get up at the same time, eat the same foods, and perform any chores you usually do in the morning.

Feel free to drink coffee the morning of the GRE. However, avoid drinking more than usual. Side effects of too much caffeine include anxiety and digestive issues.

Dress Comfortably

Whether you take the GRE at home or at a test center, dress comfortably. Physical comfort keeps you focused on the test.

A test center's temperature may differ from your home's. Bring a jacket or a removable sweater in case it's cold. A proctor may examine jackets and sweaters to check for test aids and other prohibited materials.

Report to the Test Early

Give yourself enough time to travel to the test center and try to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Traffic and other circumstances may delay your arrival. Call the test center to report a potential delay.

If taking the GRE at home, log in to your ProctorU® account about 15 minutes before the test starts. This window should give you enough time to check for technical difficulties.

Frequently Asked Questions About GRE Test Day

Can you use a calculator on the GRE? true

Unlike other standardized tests, the GRE does not let you use a personal calculator. Instead, you may access an on-screen calculator. This calculator features only a few functions, making it easy to use.

The calculator includes a unique tool to help you save time. The Transfer Display button lets you move an answer from the calculator to the answer box with only one click. Doing so prevents careless mistakes.

Can I bring my phone when I take the GRE? true

Test centers forbid cell phones inside the testing room. You may leave it in your car or a cubby the proctor provides. You cannot look at your phone during the 10-minute break, either.

If you take the GRE at home, you may use your cell phone to show the proctor an image of your screen. However, it cannot remain on your desk after that moment. Take it to another room where its ringing or vibrating cannot disturb you.

As the GRE lasts nearly four hours, consider putting an automatic reply message on your phone. Doing so lets you inform others you will get back to them soon.

How do you contact or chat with the proctor during the GRE at-home test?

The proctor watches and hears everything you do during the GRE. This feature lets you communicate with them as if they were in the same room. However, you cannot see their face during the test.

Make sure to ask any questions to your proctor before the GRE begins. This strategy can help you save time during the test. Also, report any technical difficulties, such as a poor internet connection.

You may experience a power loss or other event interrupting your internet connection. Should that happen, call ETS as soon as possible for technical assistance. ETS posts an IT number on its website and provides other advice for test-takers in this rare situation.

What can you not bring to the GRE test?

Knowing how to prepare for GRE test day requires you to review prohibited items. Test centers do not let you bring electronic devices or wristwatches into the testing room. This ban extends to mechanical watches.

Test centers also prohibit jewelry, aside from wedding and engagement rings. Contact your local test center for more information on these and other policies. You can view a full list of test center prohibited items here.

You must follow the same rules if you test at home. Remove anything ETS considers a personal recording device from your testing room and disable all screen-sharing software on your computer.

Finally, do not wear a hat and ensure your ears remain visible throughout the test. You can view a full list of at-home prohibited items here.

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