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My GRE Test Day: What I Experienced

May 30, 2017
Tori Owens

What is GRE Test Day really like?

One student shares her test-taking experience from start to finish.

After nearly three months of making vocabulary flashcards, taking practice tests, and studying math problems I hadn’t seen since high school, my GRE Test Day finally arrived. I woke up feeling a bit anxious, of course, but also relieved that after this day I would be one step closer to my dream of attending graduate school.

The morning of GRE Test Day

I put on my GRE Test Day outfit: sweatpants, comfy shoes, and layers on top in case I became too cold or too hot. After a hearty breakfast, I headed to the testing center, giving myself plenty of time in case I ran into traffic or, more likely, made a wrong turn somewhere. Once I got there, I happily read my last few “Good luck!” texts before heading into the testing center with my water, snacks, ID, and other exam essentials.

Walking into the testing center

I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed the atmosphere was in the testing center. Unlike the SAT, where a large group of people take the test together and go through a list of directions beforehand, taking the GRE is a very individualized process. You walk in by yourself and, after checking in and putting your things in an assigned locker, you start the test on your own time—no need to wait for other students or a proctor.

Working through essay prompts

The essay portion was first. In the beginning, I felt myself become immediately distracted by my thoughts. I spent maybe a minute telling myself I had forgotten everything I had studied throughout the past three months: a typical freakout at the start of any big test. The clock in the corner of my screen wasn’t slowing down, however, and so I took a few more seconds to allow myself some deep breaths, and started putting pen to paper to create an outline.

Next: Multiple Choice

Once the essays were finished, I was in complete test mode. I remembered what my Kaplan GRE Live Online instructor said whenever I bumped into a problem that discouraged me or that I couldn’t figure out right away: Don’t worry, mark the problem to go back to later, and move on to the next question confidently.

Finding the right pace

I made sure to take advantage of the 10-minute break. Since the break is optional during GRE Test Day, I knew it would be easy to want to skip it and finish the test as quickly as possible. But taking the time to collect my thoughts, drink some water, and have a snack proved invaluable as it made me more comfortable heading into the next section.

Towards the end of the test, I started to get excited; I was almost there, the finish line just a couple of feet away. Once I found myself moving at a good pace with reading prompts and working through problems, the test started to go by quicker than I had anticipated. Before I knew it, I found myself at the screen prompting me to reveal my scores.

Revealing my GRE score

The nervous feeling I experienced at the beginning of the test had returned again at its end. It was like receiving a response to an email that you were afraid to send in the first place, where you’re anxious to read it, but look away with one eye closed as you open your inbox. I pressed the button and my scores were revealed in seconds for the test I had just spent nearly five hours completing.

Because I was happy with the numbers I saw, I chose to ask to have score reports sent to four schools; this is available at no additional charge if requested at the end of the test. I also told myself I wouldn’t think about them for the rest of that day. I wouldn’t go home and analyze the average GRE scores for every program to which I was applying, and I wouldn’t think about sections of the test where I thought I could have done better. I had completed GRE Test Day and was ready for the next step: finishing my grad school applications. But, before any of that, I would treat myself to a long nap.

Call it a trial run, a test drive, or just practice-makes-perfect. Sign up for our Official GRE Test Day Experience and start building your confidence.



Tori Owens Tori Owens is currently a senior at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, majoring in communication studies with a double minor in journalism and business administration. After graduation this coming May, she is looking to head straight to graduate school and receive her Master's degree in journalism and communications. When she isn't writing (which is hardly ever), she enjoys delving into a good television drama series or scrolling through fashion art and interior design boards on Pinterest. Have a particular idea or topic you’d like Tori’s insights on? Message her on Instagram @tbussss.


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