What to Bring to the GRE


What to bring to the GRE is a common thought students have, but often at the last minute. I myself will forget to address this in my lessons when I am making sure my student first properly prepare and then understand the ins and outs of quantitative comparisons. Then, the frazzled text messages come rolling in the night before my student sits for their exam and the panic is real. As it should be! If you do not take the appropriate paperwork with you on test day, you will not be able to take your exam. 

This article is meant to prevent that last minute stress of researching and gathering the documents you didn’t know you needed. I will discuss what to take to the computer-delivered GRE, paper-delivered GRE, what is considered valid and invalid documentation for both, what should be in your locker, and an efficient morning routine prior to driving to your testing location. 

What to Bring to the Computer-Delivered GRE

If you are registered for the computer-delivered GRE, you will need to take valid and acceptable identification, authorization voucher (if applicable), and your confirmation email which includes the location of the test center and the time of your testing appointment.

ETS will not keep your identification on file. Therefore, everytime you sit for the GRE, you will need to bring your confirmation email for that test date along with your identification. Technically, only one form of identification is required but it is highly encouraged you bring two. If there are any discrepancies with your first form of identification–and you do not have a backup–you will not be able to take your GRE. Also, if you forget your identification, the testing center will not hold your seat as you run home to grab it. 

Additional Identification Procedures

In addition to your identification document, there will be other identification procedures you will need to go through at the testing center. This ID verification may include biometric voice and photo identification, fingerprinting/thumbprinting, videotaping, and signature comparison. If you refuse to participate, you will not be allowed to test and will forfeit your fees. You might also need to turn your pockets inside out, lift your sleeves and bottom of your pant legs, and get scanned with a metal detector. 

Checking students in, assigning lockers, and going through the additional identification procedures take time. You will want to make sure you arrive to your testing center 30 minutes before your scheduled test time. Also, please make sure you know where your testing center is. If you are unsure how to get there, drive to your assigned location the week prior. The last thing you want is to get lost on test day. 

Prepare Score Recipients

Unlike the paper-based GRE, you will need to choose your four score recipients immediately following the end of your exam. If you are unsure who you want to send your scores to, you will be able to send them later but will be charged $27 per recipient. The only way to send four score reports at no additional cost is to do it at the testing center–so decide who your lucky recipients are prior. 

The calculator you will be using to take your exam is on the computer and scratch paper will be provided for you. Pencils will also be provided, but if you would feel more comfortable bringing your own (just in case) feel free to do so. You will just need to make sure they are No. 2 or HB pencils, not mechanical or any type of pen. 

What to Bring to the Paper-Delivered GRE

If you are taking the paper-delivered GRE, you will be required to take valid and acceptable identification, your confirmation email that confirms your test choice, test date, test center and score recipients, along with three to four sharpened No.2 or HB pencils and a good eraser. You will not be allowed to use mechanical pencils or pens. 

Similar to the computer-delivered GRE, it is highly recommended that you take two forms of identification just in case there is a discrepancy with your first document. Also, you will likely have to go through additional identification procedures, such as biometric voice and photo identification, videotaping, or signature comparison. 

Valid Documentation

So now that we know the proper identification is of the utmost importance, what is acceptable documentation? Technically, your ID identification will depend on where you plan to test and your country of citizenship (this information can be found at ets.org). 

In general, each ID document must: 

  • Be an original document
  • Be a government-issued national/state/province identity card that is recognized by the country in which you are a citizen or permanent resident
  • Be valid (expired documents bearing expiration dates that have passed are not accepted)
  • Bear your first and last name exactly (excluding accents) as it was when registering for the test
  • Include a recent, recognizable photograph
  • Include your signature (the name and signature on the ID document must match)

When you register for your GRE General Test, you will have to fill in your identification information. It is essential the first and last name you enter for yourself during registration exactly matches the identification document you will be taking in on test day (excluding accents). During registration, you have the option to add a middle initial but it is not required. 

If you are concerned about a potential discrepancy, you can contact TSReturns@ets.org before you register. 

Ivalid Documentation

Below is a list of various types of identification that will not be considered valid. Please note there will be no room for trying to talk your way into sitting for your exam if the following applies to your identification document. Not only will you not be permitted to take the GRE, you will not get your money back. 

  • Any document that is photocopied or expired
  • Any ID document presented at the center on a cell phone or any other electronic device
  • Any document that does not bear your first and last name exactly (excluding accents) as it was used when registering for the test
  • International driver’s license
  • Draft classification card
  • International student ID
  • Credit/debit card of any kind
  • Notary-prepared letter or document
  • Birth certificate
  • Social security card
  • Employee ID card
  • Temporary ID (excluding driver’s license, resident card and employment authorization card renewals)
  • Diplomatic, consulate, or embassy ID card
  • Any document that is not recognized by a government agency

What Should be in Your Locker

Outside of the pencils for the paper-delivered GRE and the clothes on your back (which should be comfortable and layered to account for hot/cold temperatures) you cannot take anything into the testing room. Everything you bring to the testing center will have to be left in your assigned locker (don’t worry, you will not need to bring your own lock). 

Halfway through your exam, you will be given a break where you can access your locker. It is a very good idea to have water and a snack in there. You want a snack that will give you energy and mental fuel (such as one packed with carbs). 

You can have a drink such as soda or coffee in your locker, but please do not experiment with high caffeinated or energy drinks if you don’t drink them on a regular basis. Test day is not the time to branch out of your normal food/drink routine. 

Of course your phone, wallet, etc. will all be left in your locker as well. You are not permitted to wear jewelry outside of a wedding ring/engagement band into the testing room. Please do not take anything of high value that you will have to put in your locker such as a diamond necklace, expensive watch, or laptop. Although the lockers are secure, you do not want to be worried about your belongings as you take your test. 

Test Day Routine

Many test-takers focus on their physical state of being prior to taking their GRE, such as having a full stomach and getting a good night’s rest. However, your mental state is just as important. It is crucial you warm up your brain prior to starting the GRE (similar to how a pitcher would stretch and throw a couple practice balls before starting a game). 

You do not want the GRE Verbal passages to be the first text your brain processes or the Quantitative problems to be the first thing your brain computes on test day. Therefore, spend 10 minutes reading a GRE passage from one of your practice books (something you have already read) and another 10 minutes working through some easy and medium difficulty level math questions (ones you have answered in the past). This is a time to get your brain warmed up–or movin’ and groovin’ as I like to say–but it’s not a time to stress you out. 

If you know the common mistakes you tend to make, spend the time verbalizing to yourself (out loud) that you will not make them. For example, if you have a habit of doing math in your head without writing down the steps and this causes you to make computation errors, say to yourself, “Today I will write out all of my math steps. I will not compute math in my head because it leads to me making arithmetic errors.” 

Tell yourself that the day will go exactly how you want it to and be excited! If you are thinking you are going to completely bomb the exam, you will put yourself in a bad state of mind. 

What to Bring to the GRE: Summary 

In summary, take your time when gathering valid documentation to ensure it meets the requirements. Print and take your confirmation email to the testing center, prepare sharpened pencils if taking the GRE on paper, and warm up your brain before showing up to your GRE test location 30 minutes early.