Studying for the GRE: The Day(s) After

I was originally going to make a post the night I got back from the GRE but I was way too exhausted plus I had a headache for hours afterward. The test itself wasn’t too bad, but I just wasn’t mentally or physically prepared for the 4.5 hour test. I bolded some of the things that I think might be most important/helpful:To take you through the process of my GRE experience, I arrived at the testing center a good hour (3pm) before my scheduled appointment (4pm). They recommend you to get there about 30 minutes (so 3:30pm in my case) before the actual test to leave room to get all the forms signed. The test center was on the sixth floor and there was a small waiting room area on the first floor where I waited for about 15 minutes just to calm down and gather my wits.

At 3:15pm, I took the elevator up to the sixth floor and first scoped out the bathroom (for this testing center, the bathrooms were not in the testing suite, but outside in the hallway. I finally entered the testing suite at ~3:25pm. I checked in the at the front desk area where I was asked for my ID and to sign in cursive (and black ink… the pen was provided) to agree that I was the person who I said I was and that I wouldn’t divulge the details of my test questions (which I won’t… so don’t get any funny ideas) blah blah. I also got a key to a small-ish locker for my purse/bag.

The contents of my bag: wallet (with two different IDs), bottle of water, a snack that I ate in the lobby, a half jam sandwich and a printed-out confirmation just in case. I brought two IDs since I was worried they’d be really picky about my name. I signed up for the GRE under my first and last name but most of my IDs also include my middle name so I brought a less “formal” (aka old school ID) without my middle name in case they wouldn’t accept my driver’s license. I really recommend bringing a snack of some sort that you can quickly gobble down during your 10 minute break in the middle. It totally revived me from my half-catatonic state. My testing center had a water dispenser, but I don’t know if all places have one, so I’d just bring a bottle of water just in case. Hydration is important!

They don’t let you bring anything inside except your ID which was checked and I had to sign in/out every time I entered or left the room with the computers, where the test actually took place. They provided scratch paper (which you can’t keep) and pencils. At each station, there were also earmuffs/headphones to block out noise. They were a bit big for my head and kind of made my ears sore, but they did a good job of keeping out all the typing and clicking noises around me.

So as you all know from reading practice GRE books, the writing section is first and takes an hour. Then comes two more sections, a math and a verbal one, not necessarily in that order I don’t think. Then you get your ten-minute break. While studying for the GRE, I mistakenly thought the writing section was considered two separate sections and that my 10-minute breaks would be only one section afterwards. I definitely struggled to stay awake/concentrated in my actual third section.

During my break, I ran to the bathroom (after signing out and showing my ID to the proctor people) and did a few stretches in the (large) stall just to get some blood flow going and to stretch muscles out after sitting in a chair for an intense ~2 hours. I returned to the testing center suite and ate my little sandwich and gulped down some water before heading back into the computer room (showing my ID again and signing in again). I felt a little more energized and took the rest of my test. During one section, I definitely thought the section was a lot harder than expected. I panicked a little but really really hoped it was the experimental section haha.

You have the option to cancel your score immediately after the test (and during the test). You can only see your raw score for the verbal and quantitative sections if you decide not to cancel your test and can’t see if before the cancellation page, so choose wisely! I actually did a lot better on my verbal than I expected and little lower than I expected for my quantitative. There were a few topics I didn’t realize would be tested so much. I definitely recommend studying from at least two prep books (rather than one, like me) if possible, because the different books will likely cover some material different from each other, giving you a better overall picture of the tested topics.

At the end of the test, you enter your undergraduate institution (to send your scores to) and up to four schools where you’d like to send your score reports to for free (included in the initial fee you paid, I believe). My undergraduate institution is one of the graduate schools I want to apply to and so I didn’t send an additional score report. I’m going to check with my university to make sure I don’t have to send another one though… just to be on the safe side since it’s one of my top choices. Definitely look up a few schools before hand and make a mental note of the school or “college” within the university your graduate program is under and if there’s a departmental code. You’re able to search for schools based on state or by GRE code number. These four schools are free only at the end of your test. If you chose not to select any schools and want to order score reports afterward, you’ll have to pay a fee (I believe it’s $25? per school) even though you technically didn’t use your “four free reports.” ETS is annoying like that.

Overall, it was an annoying experience that I don’t have to go through again, thank goodness. Will keep updating with more graduate school and fellowship applications soon.



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