The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a requirement for many graduate programs. Some colleges require the GRE for admission to their schools, while others accept it as one component of an application. The exam can be challenging for students who have learning disabilities or psychiatric disabilities, as well as those who are simply nervous about taking exams or who suffer from physical pain when sitting still for long periods of time. For these reasons, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) provides accommodations on the exam that allow students with disabilities or medical conditions to take the test under more comfortable circumstances than would be available in a regular setting.
This blog post is a comprehensive overview of test taking accommodations that are available for the GRE and how test takers can apply to receive these accommodations. It covers what accommodations are available, who qualifies, when you can submit your request and how to submit your assessment profile or other documentation.
An Overview Of the GRE
The GRE is a standardized test that’s administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It’s used as part of the admissions process for graduate school programs in the United States and around the world.
The GRE consists of three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. You’ll also have to take a separate test for each subject area if you’re applying to a program that requires you to take an exam in your specific field. If you’re applying for a master’s program that doesn’t require an additional subject-specific exam, then you only need to take the GRE general test once.
The GRE is not an entry-level test and requires a high level of familiarity with college-level academic material. Most test takers will have taken at least one undergraduate class in each of these subjects: Literature Humanities, Mathematics (calculus), Natural Sciences (including biology) & Social Sciences. If you’re considering taking the GRE as part of your graduate school application process, it’s important to know what accommodations are available and how they could affect your performance on this difficult exam.
Introduction to GRE Accommodations
Accommodations are an important part of taking the GRE. Students with disabilities or health conditions have the right to be examined in a way that allows them to demonstrate their true intellectual potential and achieve the best possible score. If you have a condition that affects your ability to take the test in its usual form, you might be able to obtain testing accommodations through ETS Disability Services.
What is An Test-Taking Accommodation?
Testing accommodations are modifications made during standardized tests so that students with disabilities or health conditions can demonstrate their true intellectual potential and achieve the best possible score.
According to ETS, which administers the GRE, accommodations are changes made to the test or testing conditions so that people with disabilities can demonstrate what they know, rather than how they learn (or don’t learn). Simply put, the purpose of testing accommodations is to ensure that all applicants have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities when taking the GRE.
Types of GRE Accommodations
There are variety of accommodations available for students taking the GRE, and these include extended testing time & extra breaks, computer-related accommodations, test-taking assistance, visual accommodations, and alternative test formats. A student with a disability may qualify for any or all of these accommodations depending on his or her specific needs. The following is an overview of each type:
Extended Time & Breaks
The most common accommodations on the GRE are time-related accommodations. Most testers looking for accommodations will be familiar with these already. The GRE extra time accommodations are:
- Time and a half (50% extra time on all test sections)
- Double time (100% extra time on all test sections)
- Extra breaks (not included in testing time—can be used for bathroom breaks, refocusing, taking medication, etc.)
Time-related accommodations are most commonly provided to students with health related needs, such an digestion issues, immune or endocrine function, and cardiovascular problems. Extra time accommodations can help students with any of these conditions; for example, if you have diabetes and need to test your blood sugar or eat a snack to manage your glucose levels, then you would certainly want to apply for this type of accommodation.
If you believe these accommodations might help you, then they are worth investigating. Many people don’t realize that extra breaks are offered, but even this simple change can make a big difference. Extra time will allow you more time per question while allowing you to effectively manage your health condition, making it easier to complete all questions on the GRE within the allotted time without worry.
The GRE is a digital test, and that means that many of the accommodations options are fundamentally different from those for a paper test like the SAT or the ACT. On the GRE, the computer-driven test means that students have access to a wide range of accommodations for interfacing with the test. Students looking for accessibility accommodations can expect:
- Ergonomic keyboard
- IntelliKeys keyboard
- JAWS screen-reader software, with or without a refreshable Braille device
- Keyboard with a touchpad or trackball
- Screen customizations, such as magnification, changeable colors, and changeable fonts
The options above deal only with the written portion of the test. Accommodations are also available to assist students who need a spoken version of parts of the test, such as instructions. ETS offers the following verbal accessibility accommodations:
- Reading or scribing assistance
- Oral interpreter (including sign language)
- Braille options (slate and stylus, Perkins)
Alternate Test Formats
The GRE also offers accommodations in the form of alternate test formats for students with visual disabilities. These accommodations include a test in braille, larger print text books and answer sheets, and recorded audio versions of the test. These accommodations are only available for test-takers who are blind, legally blind, or have low vision.
While the above accessibility accommodations aren’t perfect, but they are a good way to make the test more accessible to all students. What’s more, if you contact the ETS with a specific accommodations request, they may be able to provide custom accommodations.
How To Apply For GRE Accommodations
The first step in applying for GRE accommodations is contacting ETS (Educational Testing Service) to request one or more of their services. Once you’ve made your request, ETS will review it and let you know whether or not you qualify for any of their services and if so, which ones. If you don’t qualify for any services, then you’ll need to contact each school separately and ask them about their policies regarding test accommodations.
In order to qualify for GRE testing accommodations, you must have an official diagnosis of your disability from an appropriate professional (doctor, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist) that verifies your diagnosis and outlines how it impacts your ability to function in an academic setting. If your disability is not obvious (such as blindness or deafness), then you will also need documentation from a qualified professional who can verify that you have a disability.
Your application must also include documentation of any past performance on standardized tests or other evidence of the impact of the disability on your current performance level. You’ll also need to provide ETS with a copy of your most recent assessment report from this professional. You may submit this material online through your ETS account, through email, or by mail or courier service. More information can be found in the ETS’ Test Takers With Disabilities Supplement.
Once all this information has been provided, ETS will review your application and determine whether or not they will grant you accommodations for the GRE test. If so, they will send you an email explaining what accommodations have been granted as well as instructions on how best to use them during the exam itself (i.e., which questions should be answered first).
The tough part is the waiting: it can take 4 to 6 weeks to process your request, and that’s during a normal year (at the time of this writing, we haven’t had a normal year in what feels like a decade). If you’re requesting custom accommodations, the process will take even longer, so make sure you plan ahead.
While you’re waiting for your accommodations to be processed, you should still be prepping for the test! Luckily, the ETS offers all its official test prep materials in accessible format, so you can practice exactly the same way you would take the test. Our test prep experts can walk you through the process and get you practicing the best strategies to beat the test in no time. Learn more about the test or find a GRE tutor to work with here.
Frequently Asked Questions About The GRE
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the GRE and accommodations for the GRE. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out in the comment section below!
How difficult is the GRE?
The GRE is a difficult test. It requires you to think quickly, make sense of unfamiliar vocabulary, and solve problems in novel ways. The GRE is also a long test — it takes up to three hours and 45 minutes, with no breaks allowed.
This exam tests your general knowledge in different topics such as math, science, English skills and others. The test also measures analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as vocabulary usage. So, it’s quite hard to answer some questions correctly if you don’t have enough knowledge in these areas or if you’re not interested in them at all!
It’s also worth noting that the GRE is designed as an adaptive test, meaning that it adjusts its difficulty based on your performance on previous questions. This allows you to answer questions in order of their difficulty levels instead of guessing randomly at every question like some other standardized tests require you to do (e.g., the SAT).
How long does it take to prepare for the GRE?
The amount of time needed to prepare for the GRE depends on your current level of knowledge about a variety of subjects. If you’re currently studying at a university or college, then chances are that you know a lot about many different topics and concepts. This means that studying may not be as necessary for someone like this as it would be for someone who isn’t currently enrolled in school. However, even if you’re already very well-versed in most topics, there are still some areas on the GRE test where you may need to spend some extra time studying.
Additionally, while there are no official prerequisites for taking the GRE, applicants should have completed two years of undergraduate coursework (or equivalent) prior to taking the exam.
Can you get extra time on the GRE if you have ADHD?
The ETS has a policy that gives students with disabilities extra time on the GRE if they can show their disability affects “their use of standard time limits during the test” and “provides documentation from an appropriate professional who is familiar with the student’s condition that indicates when requested accommodations should be implemented during testing conditions and provides supporting rationale for such accommodations as well as documentation regarding their effectiveness for this particular applicant.”
If you have ADHD and can show that this condition impacts your ability to use the standard time on the test, then you can request additional time on the exam. However, it’s important to note that taking more time may not improve your score significantly if your problem isn’t related to attention or memory but rather a specific weakness in math or critical reading skills.
Related GRE Resources
- An Overview of the GRE and GRE Sections
- The GRE vs. The GMAT: Which Test Is Right For You?
- GRE Quantitative Comparison Tips & Practice
- GRE vs. GMAT For MBA – Which Is Better?
- GRE Analytical Writing: An Essay Unlike Any Other
- Taking the GRE: At Home vs. a Test Center
- GRE Sentence Equivalence: Tips & Strategies
- What’s Covered In The GRE Math Section
- How Does GRE Scoring Work & What’s a Good GRE Score?