What happens on the day of your GRE and TOEFL ?


Updated on May 28, 2018


Hi guys :) Hope you all are doing good. Thanks a lot for the response to the previous articles that I had written here. I have been approached by a lot of guys to write about what happens on GRE and TOEFL exam. So I thought I will dedicate this article towards covering that particular subset in your preparation to reach the US next Fall.

Before I begin, let me tell what this article is NOT ABOUT. This article will not help you get a 341 on 340 of GRE and will not somehow improve your TOEFL scores. Trust me, if I had known how to do that, I would probably be in MIT by now. NO. This article is about what happens on the day of your GRE and TOEFL and will brief you on your environment when you give these exams. While a lot of people might have given your exams already, this article is aimed at those who have not. And please note that this article is written a year later than the mentioned experiences. 
Guys who have just written the exams, please feel free to comment any corrections... Alright then, here we go.. 

GRE and TOEFL are two among the many exams conducted by ETS and whose scores are accepted by universities across the US as a measure of your IQ and some other stuff. Basically, according to institutions here, if you get a very good score, then you are very amazing. GRE is generally given by students who wants to do science based subject which includes Engineering and Arts. GMAT is given by those who pursue MBA. 


I got no idea what GRE is. I mean it does measure your math ability for sure and you need good math abilities if you are planning for engineering related fields. But I still, for the love of god, do not understand why we give the verbal part of GRE. I mean the verbal part mostly contains set of fiendishly tough words which I never knew existed in the English Dictionary and which is something I am very very sure that I will not use in the rest of my life. I mean people can understand if you point at your mouth and tummy that you are hungry. You don't have to say "I feel like performing photosynthesis". I mean, come on, is that even the right way of saying it? But like those many things that you did in your undergrad for no reason, you need to score well here. So I got three words for you.. "ALL THE BEST" :P TOEFL makes a lot more sense. It stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language. It basically ensures that you can understand the lectures in the US and that you will be able to communicate among your peers and make sure that you have a really good time :) 

Any Tom, Dick and Harry can answer this question about the pattern. So I am not going to explain in detail about all this. GRE has 3 sections: Verbal, Quant and Analytical writing. Analytical writing will have 30 mins each and 2 questions. Basically you have to write well and you are done. This will be followed by a MINIMUM 2 Q and 2 V sections. An additional fifth section can either be a Quant or a Verbal. And the worst part is you wont know which one was the experimental one. The experimental is not evaluated but you won't know which one is. I mean you will know whether the experimental section was in Verbal or Quant as you will be giving an extra session in either of those. But you will not know exactly which one among the lot was experimental. TOEFL has 4 parts: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing: For more details, take the ETS Sample exam for TOEFL and you will know how it is. 

The paces where these exams are conducted are termed as testing centers. On a personal experience though, trying booking a slot at the PROMETRIC TESTING CENTER. These guys provide you with the best possible atmosphere including mufflers and stuff so that the other person wont be able to disturb you by typing really hard on the keyboard ( I know that Prometric is preventing us from pointing to neighbors as a excuse. Damn. ) But all in all, try prometric and you guys will have a really cool experience.

Only your passport and the appointment confirmation letter. You will not need any pencils or scratch-sheets (Rough paper bro. Damn the GRE verbal). Everything will be provided by ETS. When I say everything, I mean the paper and pencils and stuff. Don't expect biscuits and tea just because I said everything. As a matter of fact, you will not be allowed to take anything inside the outside office of prometric. They are very strict about this. And YES, you will not be in possession of your passport. You will have to lock them in a locker provided to you.

Sure.. Hell happens if you don't do well. But I guess you guys know that already. So here is what exactly happens: 
1. You go to the outside office where a security guard ensures that your name matches the name in his list and that your face matches the one in your passport, 
2. After a successful verification, you will be given a locker room key with a number. You will have to show the number and you will be pointed in the right direction of the locker room. You will have to drop of EVERYTHING inside the locker room other than your clothes. Any food and water and your passport goes into the locker. 
3. Next, you will be asked to read a formal agreement between you and ETS whereby you take a vow that you will be honest in the exam (sigh!) and you will be asked to rewrite a 3 line printed message by hand right below it and sign. This is kinda like attestation that you have read the terms and conditions.
4. After this, your biometrics are taken and then your passport verified. It is after this point that your passport will say bye-bye to you and hello to the locker room 
5. After the Biometrics are done and they take a pic and your fingerprints, you will be asked to stand inside a square tile and face a camera. Here you will be asked to show all possible location of "bit". That is your sleeves, you hair, your pockets, your collar. etc. And then you will be prodded by a metal detector to ensure that you don't cyber-cheat. 
6. Next step is you will be assigned a computer number and a sign-in sheet and you will be given some rough papers and pencils. Collect these and go towards the lab in which your computer is. 
7. After you find the lab, you will be asked to wait outside while the technician logs into the system and then logs you into the system to give the exam. 
8. He then calls you in whereby you will see your picture on the designated computer and then you click OK and start your exam. 
9. In case you take a break after the analytical writing section, you will need to put up your hand and inform them that you are taking a break. You will have to sign the time-in and time-out sheet, go for your break and come back. When you come back, you will again be subjected to all kinds of show that you were made to do. (Step 5 - Step - 8). You will then be called to the same computer back and you will resume your test. 

GRE scores are made available immediately AFTER you choose to accept and send your scores to the universities. TOEFL scores take around 2 weeks for it to be available as some poor guy has to listen to the 20sec speech that we gave :P ( Poor guy indeed)

Using your mouth and tongue and jaw of course. But on a serious note, TOEFL is comparatively very easy with respect to GRE. You will be tested on basic English skills. For the speaking section, you will be tested in different ways.: You might have to read a passage and then answer a question asked about the passage. You will listen to an audio clipping and then talk about it. You will listen to an audio clipping followed by a paragraph and you will have to answer the question based on both of them. In case of writing, the first will be a paragraph and you will write an essay. The second essay is based on reading a paragraph and listening to an audio clipping and then writing the essay. For speaking, you will be given a good quality (Not BOSE Quality) microphone which you will test before starting the speaking session. You will then speak a sample sentence so that the computer will find the optimal volume level. 

PS: Your accent is not considered while grading. Unless you pronounces wrongly, you wont have any trouble.

We Indians are notoriously known for filling up pages thanks to our undergrad universities. :P But here try to use the sheet in a very judicious way. If you need anything at all, just put up your hand someone will assist you immediately. Do not panic and NEVER TALK TO THE PERSON IN THE ADJACENT CUBICLE

There is no sure way to answer this. However, TOEFL can be approached in a relaxed manner if you have the habit of reading books. You will be able to ace the TOEFL very easily if you have reading as a hobby. Just chill out and I am sure you will be able to do well. I guess that brings us to the end of this write up.

Do like and comment any positive reviews. There is no HATE button in Facebook, so mention any errors in the comments as well. Like always, its a pleasure helping you guys out. 

Seeya soon in the other side of the globe.. 
Your Friend, 
Arun. S

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