How to choose a good GRE center with maximum facilities?

Exam: Test Prep GRE Test - Graduate Record Examination Test: Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing

There are many, many testing centers around the United States and Canada that provide GRE testing services.  There are also many testing centers in major cities around the world, with the number of testing centers varying by country.  Many are located in capital cities at or near the US embassy.  For information on testing centers in your area, search on the ETS website at https://mygre.ets.org/greweb/action/RegPortal.

For those in the Unites States and Canada, you have the option to choose your testing center.  Even Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US, has two GRE testing centers – one in Cumberland and one in Warwick.  Where you take your GRE depends on a number of factors, including whether or not you have a choice.

1.Where you live.  If I live in Massachusetts (with ten testing centers throughout the state), I certainly should not sign up for a test in Alaska.  Most people will sign up for a seat at the testing center that is closest to them, since the test itself is the same no matter where you take it.  Traveling a long way for a test may be necessary, depending on your country of residence, but most people will try to minimize the effort needed just to get to the testing center.

2. How many testing centers are available/accessible to you.  Rhode Island has two testing centers.  Massachusetts has ten.  Larger states will have far more.  But Angola has one, at the US embassy in Luanda.  Indonesia has four centers, but all on different islands.  The entire country of Russia has six testing centers throughout the country, but getting to them from the more remote parts of Russia would be difficult.  Depending on where you live, you may only have one option.

3. The scheduling provided by the testing center.  Certain testing centers only offer the test twice per year, while others offer continuous testing.  I might opt to travel farther in order to take the test earlier or later than a closer testing center will allow.  This would be especially important when considering deadlines for applications to your prospective university – can you afford to wait until the center nearest you offers the test again? Do you have the option to go somewhere else?

3. The number of seats available.  Test centers may offer a test at the time you need to take it, but if there are no seats available, then you will either have to wait or find somewhere else to take the test.  If you live in an area where you only have one option of where to take the GRE, it would be best to register for a seat as early as possible in order to be sure you can take the test by whatever deadlines you might have.

4. The type of test offered by a testing center.  Some centers may only offer the computer-based test, while others may only offer the paper test.  Depending on which version you prefer, you may opt to test at a center that allows the version you would like to take.  Again, if you live in an area with only one test center and that test center only offers one version of the test, then you have little other choice.  But if you are fortunate enough to choose your testing center, you might consider going somewhere that has your preferred testing method.

5. Whether you even have a choice.  Many people will live in areas where there is only one testing center available or only one that is reasonable to get to.  If you have no choice in testing center, then your decision has already been made.

Differences in Testing Facilities

Is there a testing center that offers better facilities than others?  Yes, probably.  Testing centers probably differ in the quality of their computers or the squeakiness of their floorboards or whether they have air conditioning.  Can you know any of that ahead of time? Probably not.  This is why you need to dress in comfortable, layered clothing. 

Do testing centers differ in the facilities they offer relating to the actual test? The only differences might be testing centers that offer the computer-based test and not the paper test or vice versa, as mentioned above.  Otherwise, the materials you will be able to use are the same, the test you are taking is the same, and the way the test is assessed is the same.  There are no facilities that will forbid the use of a calculator, and no one is taking away your scratch paper.  You will still have a pencil.  You will still have the test.  That’s all you’re allowed to have anyway.

The only exception would be if you require specific concessions while taking the test de to learning disabilities, visual impairment, or any other situation that would require a more accessible variant of the test or differences in time constraints.  If this applies to you (or you think it may apply to you), look on the ETS website for more information and choose a testing center accordingly.  All test centers should be able to comply with whatever needs you have, but it would be best to make sure before you register for a seat.

So is choosing a testing center really that important?  Not really.  The test is going to be the same, no matter where you take it.  That’s the point of a standardized test.  The materials you are allowed will be the same, because that is what standardized means.  And in terms of the smaller things like the condition of the seats or the temperature controls or the location of the bathrooms, most test centers won’t tell you those things beforehand anyway.  Most of the time you spend in that center, you will be taking the test, so the facilities themselves shouldn’t matter all that much.

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