How to get testing accommodations on the GRE: understanding the petition process

Davis: Hey everybody, this is GRE Bites. My name is Davis, and I’m an educator with over ten years of experience.

Orion: And I’m Orion, the founder of StellarGRE.

Davis: We’re here to bring you your weekly bite-sized episode on GRE prep and grad school admissions. Check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at And don’t forget, you can use the code “BITES” for 10% off any membership.

Alright, so today’s question, and the topic of discussion, is something I don’t think we’ve touched upon in previous episodes at all, really. Which is a question for you, Orion, how to get the appropriate accommodations while taking the GRE. What’s that process like, talking about things like time and a half, double time, or a room to yourself?

Orion: Sure, yeah, there are lots of different accommodations that students can receive when taking the GRE. And for better or for worse, the process of obtaining those accommodations is or can be long and expensive. And we can see why this might be the case, because there is a whole gamut of people who are attempting to secure accommodations for themselves on this test. And that spans from folks who, let’s say, very legitimately need these accommodations, to those who are simply trying to game the system to make the test-taking experience a little bit easier, so that they can secure a higher score for themselves. And so, the accommodations process is rather difficult to pass through because it has sort of a filtering function to try to screen out those who may not legitimately need the accommodations but may want the accommodations.

Davis: So where would someone scheduling a GRE first encounter the option to even pursue accommodations?

Orion: Yeah, so in order to schedule a test with accommodations on the ETS portal, a student needs to have already been approved for that accommodation by ETS. And that process can take several months to accomplish. Let’s walk through what that looks like. Basically, a student who is looking for accommodations needs to petition those accommodations from the staff of psychologists who work at ETS. They look at these petitions in the order in which they are received. And there’s generally a very long backlog, especially later in the year, which is when people tend to take the GRE. So the sooner you start this process, the better.

Now, what I’ve seen in the many years of helping folks prepare for the GRE is typically some students incorrectly assume that, let’s say, just because they received some testing accommodations in high school or college, that that will automatically apply to the GRE. And that is not the case. In fact, that very rarely happens in my experience.

Davis: So if it’s appropriate, can you give any examples of definite shoo-in cases where it’s going to be very clear, very delineated that yes, these are accommodations versus not?

Orion: Yeah, very clear shoo-in cases would be those with, let’s say, sensory deficits, like if you’re blind. Or if you have mobility issues, those are going to be much easier to approve because they’re less related to, let’s say, the student psychology. And most of the accommodations sought are based on some form of psychiatric diagnosis, usually things like ADHD or learning disabilities. And that’s probably how these students received accommodations in high school and college.

So if you’re one of these students who historically has received accommodations for, let’s say, ADHD or learning disabilities, which are the most common reasons for seeking accommodations on the GRE, you have to understand that those diagnoses may no longer be considered currently valid, let’s put it that way. You might not be able to say, “I got this diagnosis 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and it’s still the case today,” because people mature and people change.

And so what I would highly encourage folks to do is, like, I have a more or less a shoo-in process for getting those accommodations, but again, it takes time and it’s very expensive. Basically, what you should do is seek a testing bed from a licensed psychologist, and these, unfortunately, can run between one and $2,000. And they take usually a couple of days to just complete the tests, and then several weeks to complete the report.

But basically, to get a diagnosis of ADHD or LD, you basically need to take a battery of both aptitude tests and achievement tests, in the case of ADHD, maybe some executive functioning tests, to show that there is some sort of discrepancy between, let’s say, your innate ability, that’s your aptitude, and your actual performance, which is your achievement. And that’s the basis for these diagnoses. And you kind of want that official current report from a licensed psychologist, that’s going to get the attention of the psychologists on staff at ETS. Also, especially if you’ve only been recently out of school, if you received accommodations in college, you should contact your Office of Student Services and request a letter that basically delineates the accommodations you did receive in that academic context. Those two things, the report based on a complete psychological battery from a licensed psychologist, in conjunction with a letter of previous accommodations from your college, is your best possible chance of securing accommodations on the GRE.

Again, this could take several months; it takes about a month to just complete the psychological report before you can submit it, and then it can take, I don’t know, one to four months, depending on how busy the staff is, to actually review your case. And only then, once you’re approved, can you schedule the test, which, you know, depending on the time of year, might be another few weeks out from that approval date. So this is a process that really does need to get started sooner as opposed to later.

Davis: Thanks a lot for that. You’ve mentioned that it’s expensive. And is that particularly pertaining to this third-party psychology test? Are there also fees associated with the process?

Orion: No, there are no fees associated with that. It’s most of the psychological battery that’s very expensive. And one more thing to keep in mind is that a lot of folks, as we’ve said on this podcast, they struggle with the time limit. The hardest part of this test absolutely is the fact that you have to answer every question in 90 seconds functionally. And a lot of students think, well, if I had twice as much time, this test would be so much easier than it currently is.

And on some level, you’re right, it would be. However, when you get a double-time accommodation, you’re really kind of swapping one problem for another because now, instead of a four-hour test, you have an eight-hour test, so that you’re swapping, like, let’s say, efficiency within the time limit for endurance over an eight-hour time period.

So it’s like pick your poison. There’s really no perfect solution here. So that’s just something to keep in mind is that accommodations aren’t necessarily a silver bullet in a lot of cases.

Davis: Thanks a lot, Orion. That’s very informative. I hope that helps our listeners.

Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with another bite-sized episode of GRE Bites. If you have a topic you’d like discussed on a future episode, let us know at And if you’re ready to take your prep to the next level, check out our top-rated GRE self-study program at You can use the code “BITES” for 10% off all memberships there. Talk to you soon.

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