The GRE can be a little scary – trust me, I know. If you’re thinking about taking it, I hope my experiences provide a little insight into what to expect so that you can relax and do your best!
I’ll start with a little disclaimer: this is what I found worked best for me. Not everyone studies the same way, so check out all of your different options (prep books, classes, study groups) to find what works best for you!
I personally got a GRE prep book (mine was from ETS, the company that makes the test). I started off by taking a practice test without any preparation, just to see what my strengths and weaknesses were. Then I honed in on those weak areas by doing practice questions and reading about strategies. After that, I just took practice test after practice test after practice test!
Regardless of how you choose to prepare, I would highly recommend that you take at least one online practice test. There are several free options available. The test probably isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen before, so being familiar with the format beforehand will be a major help.
I got there about 20 minutes early since you have to fill out some paperwork, lock up your belongings, and go through security before you can sit down to take the test. And when I say security, I don’t just mean a quick bag check. They take cheating really seriously (as they should!), so it’s a pretty extensive process (metal detectors, locking up everything, clothing checks, etc.). Be sure to read up on their policies and procedures before you get there so you’re prepared.
In the testing room, there were several rows of little cubicles with a big window at the end for supervision. What surprised me was how many cameras there were. There was at least one camera above each testing station (sometimes two) and several other camera clusters throughout the room. Basically, you’re being watched at all times. Don’t let that freak you out, though – just stay focused on your test and you’ll be fine!
You get the chance to take one short break during the test, a little more than halfway through. I felt like I was on a roll and decided to power through. BIG MISTAKE. By the time I got to the end of the test, my brain felt like Jello and I needed a nap. Learn from my bad judgement: take the break when it’s offered!
If you take the computer-based GRE, you get your score as soon as you finish. This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you do, but at least you don’t have to wait a few anxiety-filled weeks to find out, which is a plus! Either way, take some time to relax once you’re done…you earned it!