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My GRE "at home" experience

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My GRE "at home" experience [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2020, 17:19
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Hi everyone,

This debrief is primarily about my GRE experience, but I will draw some (subjective) parallels between the GRE and the GMAT. Perhaps, the debrief will be useful for some test aspirants who are currently contemplating between which test to go for in the next few weeks/months.

I have taken the "at home" GRE few days ago and got Q155 V155 (my AWA score is not yet available).

My setup.

I did take the test on the MacBookPro that was running Windows 10 via Bootcamp. The windows was empty since I installed it specifically to take the GRE test. I only installed few browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and ETS browser tool) and a password manager. You can download a free official copy of latest Windows 10 from Microsoft website. And here is an official step-by-step guide from Apple support on how to install Windows using Bootcamp. Quick note: make sure to upgrade your MacOS to the latest version prior to manipulating your hard drive via Bootcamp Assistant. This might save you a few hours of time.

I used the scratchpad from Manhattanprep which I bought a while ago to simulate the GMAT experience prior to taking my very first GMAT. Make sure to remove the front page with Manhattanprep printed text to avoid any confusion with proctors from ProctorU. Also, I used fine non-permanent markers from Staedtler.

I began my exam at 7:50am by opening the ProctorU account and starting the exam session. I connected to a proctor within 2-3 minutes. The proctor asked me to show the room as well as the desk using the frontal camera in my cell phone. The proctor asked to put the phone away once I showed the desk. I placed the phone on the dining table that is ~ 10 feet away from my desk. Note, the proctor did ask me whether my scratchpad fulfills the requirements. I said (and printed into the chat box) that I have a laminated scratch pad that can be easily erased with a damp cloth. I also demonstrated that I can clean the scratch pad in front of the camera so that proctor could see it. He took about 5 minutes to confirm that I could use my scratchpad, but then returned back and said "OK, you can use it".

Before I will describe my testing experience, I would like to share the results of the GRE practice tests. Note that I have been preparing for the GMAT from 2018 (you can find my unfinished journey here). I took a 2-3 week break in late December 2019 - early January 2020, but then re-started preparation which included review of quant notes, and Verbal practice. So, I took GRE while preparing for the GMAT, i.e. I was not taking the exam "cold".

Free test #1: Q162 V152. I took my first ever GRE around Christmas in December 2019. I did not prepare for the test at all (I only went through ~40 samples questions to get acquainted with the format of some GRE specific questions). I made 6 or 7 mistakes in Quant and most of them were careless. So, I knew I could do a lot better in Quant. In Verbal, I missed 75% of vocabulary questions, and got about 75% RC and CR problems right.
Free test #2: Q158 V153. I took this test about 2 weeks ago, and I did spend about 10 days preparing for this test. I think I went through about 30 questions in both Quant and Verbal to prepare for the test. Quant performance is low, I made ~ 10 mistakes, 6 of which were super silly... So, I felt that I could do much better in Quant! This time Verbal was very weird. I did well in Vocabulary questions, and totally botched RC and CR...
Free test #1 (retake of the test that I took in December): Q167 V154. I did not remember most of the questions, so it felt like a "new" test for the most part. I was happy to see Q167, but was surprised that ETS algorithm deducted 3 pts for only 2 missed questions (one in each quant section). My Verbal performance was as expected. I answered incorrectly 80% of vocabulary questions, and correctly answered 80% of RC and CR questions.

It is worth to mention that quant felt quite easy in all free GRE practice tests that I took. I have not yet looked into the 2 Paper Tests that are available in the OG from ETS. So, I cannot compare question difficulty between free Online test and free Paper tests.

Real GRE "at home" test.

The two essays felt quite easy. I won't elaborate much on them, but I am confident I typed somewhat around 500-550 words per essays. I followed a famous template for the 2nd, Analyze the Argument, essay. I will update the thread once I receive my AWA score.

Overall, Verbal sections felt similar to those in the free practice tests that I took earlier, but Quant was way harder. There were a few easy questions, but I think they did not comprise more than 30% of the total number of math questions. The remaining 70% of the quant questions were not at all easier than those in the GMAT, and some of the questions were quite verbose. I run out of time in all three quant sections: I usually did not have enough time to solve 1-2 questions per section. I have spent quite a lot of time improving my Quant ability in 2019 and I worked with IanStewart, a quant pundit, who enabled me to climb from low Q40s into consistent Q47-Q48 on the GMAT (both practice tests and a real test). Notwithstanding, quant in real GRE kicked my butt. :dazed

Also, the GRE "at home" experience was somewhat enervating because it took about 30 minutes for proctors to login, check my room, computer system, etc. Also, the proctor software glitched during the 10 min break (at least it lagged during the break :D ...) and I had to reboot my computer a couple of times to login back into the ProctorU system. Thanks to mcelroytutoring, I was well prepared for some interruptions and glitches, I just did not know that this extra time will drain my energy... Anyways, once I logged in, I had to wait 10-15 minutes for a new proctor to give back access to the exam. Luckily, the new proctor was friendly and understanding. He just asked to show the room and the desk before allowing to continue the exam after the 10 min (scheduled) + 25ish min (caused by technical glitches) break. So, I started the exam at 7.50am and finished at 1.07pm. I think I spent 5-7 minutes choosing schools and cleaning up the scratchpad. The exam had one experimental section which ended up being Quant.

I cannot say which Quant section was experimental. All I can say is that I was completely exhausted in the last Quant section that started around 12.30pm. Also, I am not a person who uses restrooms often, but I did feel uncomfortable closer to the end of the exam. So, feel free to make your own inferences about the duration of the test.

My thoughts regarding GRE vs GMAT.

Although I did get Q167 V154 on my latest practice test, I wonder whether it was a fluke. Indeed, I drastically underperformed on Quant today, because Q155 is very low for someone who can regularly score Q47-Q48 on the GMAT. It seems that I might be better off going back to the GMAT since I am stronger in SC than in Sentence Equivalence. Despite the fact that I have learned around 600 new words in the last 3 months using Magoosh flashcards, ETS materials, and New York Times articles, I am not a native speaker. And in the last two months I have invested time (with guidance from GMATNinja and IanStewart) into RC and CR both of which are commonly tested in either test. Luckily, GMAC will be making an announcement about the availability of an "at home" GMAT on April 17th, which is around the corner. If GMAC will end up making a 2.5 hour "interim" test (Verbal, Quant, and IR) with one 8 minute break, such GMAT will be almost 2x shorter than the "at home" GRE.

My next step will be to take an official GMAT practice test soon to see where I stand score wise. Even though I took 5 out of 6 tests already, I took some of them in 2018 and mid 2019, so I have forgotten most of the questions anyways. Once I gauge my GMAT level, I will decide on where to invest time. It seems to me, though, that the GMAT is a much better way to go from now on, especially in a short term. :)


P.S. Some people would ask whether I saw opportunities for cheating. Yes, I did. I saw at least few of them and I do not believe a proctor would be able to quickly catch a savvy cheater. However, I hope that the majority of test takers are prudent and will not try to bypass the rules since such impertinent actions might lead to unforeseen consequences for the rest of test takers who are honest...
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Re: My GRE "at home" experience [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2020, 17:26
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Thank you so much Sir
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Re: My GRE "at home" experience [#permalink] New post 25 Jul 2020, 18:30
Thank you for sharing your experience.
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Re: My GRE "at home" experience [#permalink] New post 26 Jul 2020, 00:54
Thank you very much to take out your precious time. It is indeed a valuable input. Can we keep water bottle with us? 4 hour is too long
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Re: My GRE "at home" experience [#permalink] New post 26 Jul 2020, 09:12
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@Farina you cannot keep anything except for allowed items on the table. I kept the water bottle and snacks away in the same room, but I did mention these items to the proctor and show where they are placed. He approved and I continued the exam.
Re: My GRE "at home" experience   [#permalink] 26 Jul 2020, 09:12
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