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On Test Day


Video duration: 16:05

JULIE SHURTS: Hi, I'm Julie Shurts, Associate Director in the Global Higher Education division at ETS. And welcome to this session on GRE® On Test Day, the Test-Taker Experience. The topics that will be covered in this session are: what a test-taker should know before the GRE General Test begins, during the test, tips and strategies to use during the test, getting unofficial scores after the test and then other GRE resources to become more prepared for test day.

Before the GRE General Test begins. Test-takers are required to show up at the test center at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the test. So, make sure on test day you get to your test center early. We recommend leaving plenty of time to get there in case you have an unforeseen holdup or setback. And make sure you know exactly where the test center is located ahead of time.

You'll need to have a valid, acceptable ID document with you when you get to the test center, as it will be needed during the check-in process. Please be sure to read the GRE information bulletin that is posted on the ETS GRE website so that you're fully aware of all of the policies and procedures, as well as the test etiquette. ETS is very stringent about identification documents. So please review that section on the GRE website or in the GRE information bulletin so that you do not have any issues on test day. We want you to have the most pleasant experience possible.

When you arrive at the test center, make absolutely sure you have an acceptable and valid ID with your name and signature and photograph, and that the name on this ID matches the name that you used when you registered for the GRE test. In addition to your valid ID document, it's a good idea to have the names and the GRE four-digit code numbers of up to four schools or graduate programs where you would like to send scores.

And always keep in mind what you are allowed to bring to the test room and what you're not allowed to bring into the testing room. Some items that you are not allowed to bring into the testing room are food, drinks, tobacco, e-cigarettes, personal items other than your ID document, cell phones, smartphones, digital watches, and other types of recording and scanning and photographic devices. For a full list, please be sure to visit the GRE website and to carefully read the GRE registration bulletin. And remember that during the test you are not able to check your cell phone at any time.

Before your test begins, you will go through a check-in process in which your photograph will be taken and a sample of your handwriting will be collected. You'll also be scanned with a hand-held metal detector or wand to make sure you're not carrying any electronic devices. The test center staff will also make sure you do not have any items that are not permitted inside the test room.

You'll receive a writing utensil and supply of scratch paper. You can replenish your scratch paper throughout the test administration as needed. But remember, you cannot take scratch paper away from the test center. For security purposes, the test room has proctors and electronic surveillance during the GRE General Test.

Just before your test begins, you will be asked to read some information on your computer screen. You will be asked to read information about test center regulations, confidentiality agreement, about timing and breaks, and our repeat test-taker policy. You'll also be asked to respond to some background information questions regarding your educational status and your intended graduate major.

For each test section of the GRE General Test, the first computer screen you'll see will contain the general directions for that particular section. Following the general directions, the test questions or items will be presented. You can review the general directions at any time during your test section by clicking on the Help button that will appear on the top of your screen in the toolbar.

The example on this slide shows what happens when you hit the Help button during a Quantitative Reasoning section. You can see that it explains the general directions for how to answer the questions and use the tools in the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE General Test. During the test, you may work on only one section of the test at a time and only for the time period allotted for that particular section.

During any particular section that you're working on, you can skip questions that you're having a difficult time answering and then return to them before you exit the section. You can also review questions that you've already answered to change your answers before you exit. And you can navigate freely back and forth within that section at your discretion. But please remember, once you have completed a section, you will not be able to return to it.

And remember I mentioned earlier, within any particular test section you can always hit the Help button. The Help button appears on the toolbar at the top of the screen. And it will go over the question directions, section directions, general directions, as well as information on how to use the testing tools.

The Help feature tool. On this slide, we see an example of how to use the Help button to review the question directions. The question directions will give you the directions for how to answer that particular type of question. This is an example from the Quantitative Reasoning section. And it reviews how to answer a single answer choice question.

The navigation pane at the top of your computer screen during the test also contains a Mark and Review button. The Mark button allows you to mark or flag a question that you would like to skip and come back to before you exit out of that section. The Review button allows you to see your progress on all of the test questions within the section that you're working on. It will show you the question number and whether it's been answered, whether it's incomplete, or whether you have flagged that question for review.

You'll see on this slide circled at the top are the Mark and Review buttons. The slide here shows an example of the Review screen. You can see when someone selects the Review screen button, they can see all of the questions numbered in that section, and the status, whether it was answered, incomplete, not answered, or not yet encountered. You can also easily see in the far-right column which questions were marked for review. This enables the test taker to easily return to questions that they marked or flagged to return back to.

Your testing toolbar also contains a Calc button. And this will summon the on-screen calculator that you're able to use during the Quantitative Reasoning sections. Please remember that you cannot bring your own calculator into the test center. Circled at the top of the screen here is the Calc button, which will call up the on-screen calculator for you during the Quantitative Reasoning sections.

When you hit the Calc button, it will pull up an on-screen calculator that looks exactly like the small calculator you see at the right-hand corner of your screen. This is a four-function calculator that is available for use to do computations during the Quantitative Reasoning sections of the test. It is optional.

There are several breaks built into the GRE General Test. There is a 10-minute break after the third section and a 1-minute break between other sections. During these scheduled breaks, the clock will stop. And the clock will start up again as soon as the breaks are over.

You may take an unscheduled break if you wish to do so. But please keep in mind that during an unscheduled break, there is no way to stop the clock. So, the best strategy is to proceed without taking an unscheduled break so that you don't lose valuable time to answer test questions. You may wish to replenish your supply of scratch paper during the scheduled breaks.

Tips and strategies during the test. Now I'd like to share some general tips and strategies to help you do your very best on the test. Some things you should do are to become familiar with the question formats and directions beforehand. We have a variety of free test prep materials available on the GRE website. So, we strongly recommend that you take advantage of those so that you are familiar with the item types and directions before you show up at the test center.

Always be aware and mindful of the time, as time management is very important for doing your best on the GRE General Test. Make sure you understand what each question is asking by thoroughly reading each question and then thoroughly reading all answer choices before selecting your answer. And remember, there is no credit for partially correct answers.

It's always a good strategy to answer every single question even if you have to make a best guess. This is because you only get points for questions answered correctly. And there are no points deducted for answers that are incorrect.

Therefore, it's always better to guess than to leave a question blank. Use the knowledge you have in front of you to figure out answers to unfamiliar questions. And it's a very good idea to check the Review screen using the Review button on your toolbar before you exit out of a section, just to make sure that you haven't inadvertently left a question blank.

Now that I've discussed some tips and strategies you should follow, let's talk about some things you should not do on test day. Do not waste time on any questions you find extremely difficult. And this is because no question carries greater weight than any other. If you find a question is difficult, simply use your Mark button to mark it or flag it and move on and return back to it. Also, do not spend too much time using the Review screen. While it's a great tip to check the Review screen before you exit out of a section, do not constantly check the Review screen as this will take away from the time that you have to spend on answering the questions.

Getting unofficial scores after the test. At the very end of your test session on test day, you will have two options. You can either report or cancel the test scores. If you choose to cancel your scores, they will be permanently deleted and never part of your GRE score history. You will not be able to see the scores for yourself, nor will you be able to send those scores out to institutions. If you choose to report, that just means that you're choosing to keep those scores on file. And you will then be able to see your unofficial scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures.

These are unofficial scores. And you will receive official scores approximately 10 days following your test date. Please note, you won't be able to see unofficial scores for the Analytical Writing section on test day, if you choose not to cancel your test, because of the way this section is scored.

Remember that your GRE registration fee comes with four free score reports. And you can send out up to four score reports for free on test day while you're still at the test center. Or if you would not like to send scores out on test day, that's no problem. You can just send them out at a later date once you receive your official scores.

If you choose to report your scores on test day, your next screen will look almost exactly like what you see in front of you. You will see your unofficial GRE General Test scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures. These are unofficial scores. And your official scores will be available in approximately 10 to 15 days from your test date.

The GRE General Test has the ScoreSelect option, which lets you decide which GRE scores from your reportable history you would like to send out to the schools that you're applying to. ScoreSelect works whether you're sending scores on test day or after test day. And these are your options.

On test day, after you see your unofficial scores, you can then use your four free score reports. And your ScoreSelect options are: to send your most recent score (so that's the scores from the tests that you just took), or you can send all score reports that you have on file.

This would only apply if you have taken the GRE test more than once in the past five years. So, if you had taken the GRE test, let's say, three times, on test day you could send the scores out for just the test you just took or the scores for all three GRE tests that you have on file. If you are sending score reports out to institutions after test day, your ScoreSelect options are to send your most recent score (so that would be the scores with the most recent test date), to send all scores (so that would be all score reports that you have on file from the last five years), or you could select the Any option, and this allows you to select any scores that you have on file for the last five years.

So, for example, let's say I tested three times. And I only want to send the scores from the second date that I tested. I could use the Any option and select only those scores from the second time I tested.

GRE resources. In addition to the official GRE website, which provides lots of in-depth and comprehensive information about the test, about any test changes, policy information, test dates and locations and more, there are several websites that were created especially for test takers, with quick summaries, helpful guidance, and lots of tips and tools for how to get started; that is and, which is available in simplified Chinese and English.