My Experience of taking GRE & TOEFL at home – Athithyan Paramasivan

Hey there! I am Athithyan Paramasivan, a 4th-year undergraduate in the Department of Chemistry. GRE & TOEFL are much famed exams which are taken by countless students each year mainly by those who wish to go abroad for higher studies. This article elucidates my journey to take GRE & TOEFL at home amidst the lockdown.

Preparation Journey

I had prepared for a couple of months for the GRE, once the lockdown started, and a month for the TOEFL iBT using their official guides and apps as reference. In addition to the above, watching Hollywood movies without subtitles and playing listening games in the Elevate app helped me quite well. I must confess that I’ve had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by English speaking friends and consuming English media from an early age and that did give me an edge there, especially in the comprehension. In the end, I would suggest to first start out by simply taking a mock test and figuring out your own weak points and then going about rectifying the same.

Documents required

There weren’t any major requirements except one’s passport, and I believe one has to register using their passport and must display the original during the actual test. 

ETS @ Home Experience

However daunting the whole idea of giving these 3-4 hour exams at home may be, the IT infrastructure (ProctorU) was very convenient and does not require too much tech knowledge to get things up and running.

The set up is very similar to both the tests and a well-lit room cleared of most books, and a big enough writing surface would do the trick. The internet connectivity wasn’t an issue for me for the most part, nevertheless, switching off the Wi-Fi on other devices is recommended. In case you rely on Wi-Fi from a dial-up modem, setting up a hotspot on mobile would be a good backup in case your main modem craps out on exam day. With that said, let’s go on to the testing experience.

First off, you have to be comfortable with the idea that someone you don’t know is watching you on video, and the ProctorU app asks for a lot of permissions that set a lot of alarms ringing in a privacy nut like me. Secondly, both the tests give you the option of using an erasable marker and sheets of paper on a transparent pad, or, using a whiteboard and an erasable marker. I went with the later as I could procure those elements easily, and I’ll be sharing my opinion on that. 

I ended up getting a fairly large whiteboard that was quite cumbersome to manage. It took some time to get accustomed to the marker-board combination and it’s near impossible to write super quick (needed for TOEFL test-taking) with this. 

Apart from that, the testing procedure has its own occasional gaffes, but the customer support was very prompt in resolving the issue immediately, so props to ETS and ProctorU for that. The odds of it happening isn’t zero, but you can be rest assured of their customer support being top-notch. 

With regards to the actual test, it was as seamless as it could be, and to quote a certain stormtrooper from Star Wars: Battlefront, it was ‘just like the simulations’ – as in, the mock tests reflected the same experience as of the real counterpart. 

Sitting for 3-4 hours without moving can be stressful, and the 10 minutes break one gets can be used for a quick snack/bathroom break and makes the 3-4 hour-long duration more palatable.

My strongest takeaway from these experiences would be to remain calm and not crack under pressure, say, in a difficult question or in the case of technical issues. Please feel free to reach out in case of any queries, I’d love to help you out!

Some Helpful Resources

1)Princeton Preview

2)Magoosh Flashcard app

3)majortests.com

4)ETS Website

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