Taking Remote Tests

Since I’m working on grad school applications, I went through some standardised tests. Even though many colleges have waived the requirement for GRE for fall 2021 applicants, I still had to take it, as some programs I’m applying to still require it. To be fair, I expected something like this so I still spent some time working on the GRE official test guide. What was surprising to me was, most schools waive the English language requirement if a non-US applicant completed a post-secondary degree in the US (either for some time or finishes college completely in the US) or at a recognised institution where English is the primary language. One school specifically mentioned that they would not waive it for any reason. I personally do not think that this requirement makes a lot of sense, as they would still acknowledge my bachelor’s degree—and my ongoing pursuit of master’s—just not my ability to use English in the academic context. Since my TOEFL score has long expired (the last, and only, time I took it was in 2011), I had to take a English language test too.


For the English language test, I went with Duolingo, as they offer a faster grading turnaround. The test format is quite different from TOEFL, and it definitely needs some practice. The software has multiple sections where the test taker is presented with a sentence, and they need to record them saying it out loud under a time limit. To record, you need to click the ‘start recording’  button, and to end recording and move on to the next section, you need to click ‘end recording’, or let the timer run out. My issue was that the ‘start recording’ and ‘end recording’ is the same button, so if you take the test on a laptop and the trackpad is very sensitive, it is very easy to prematurely terminate the section, and there’s no way to go back and re-record.


For GRE, ETS contracted a third-party to proctor the test. The test had to be taken at an indoors location with no clear disturbance, and since I wasn’t sure how the proctors would react to the electronics in my living room (I have a TV and was unsure if they want me to move it somewhere else before I can start the test), I opted to take that in my bedroom. The test requires you to use a laptop or desktop with a webcam and microphone; on top of that, you need to install several software. One is made by ETS (used to deliver the test), another is a browser plugin made by the contractor to make sure you won’t cheat, and the last one was a software so that you can communicate with your proctor during the exam. One last change in the testing procedure is, instead of being given pencil and paper for taking notes and making calculations, I need to use a whiteboard (or a piece of paper inside a sheet protector, which I went with) and erasable markers. Otherwise, it was something that’s not too out of the ordinary.

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