Taking the GRE in Madrid

Or How I Took the GRE So You Don’t Have To

Wait … that’s not how it works, is it? Oh well. Yesterday I took the GRE in Madrid. Apparently this is a topic of some interest for fellow expats in Madrid, because I’ve seen several mentions of it on the Facebook groups. I thought I’d let all of you nervous guiris know how it went.

First of all, I went to their website to register. It’s a fairly simple process, and there are loads of test dates, in the morning and in the afternoon. (Actually an American-style afternoon, as my exam started at 1:30 p.m.)

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You choose your city, which for me was Madrid. So if you want to take the GRE in Spain, you have two options: Madrid or Barcelona.

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Search for Madrid, and then click on “Schedule an Appointment.”

There are two places in Madrid to take it, and then you just click on “Check Seat Availability” to find a time and a date. As I said, there’s morning and there’s afternoon. One starts at 9:00 a.m. and the other at 1:30 p.m. Keep in mind that this is a four-and-a-half-hour test, so if you start at 9:00 a.m., you’ll finish around 1:30 p.m., and if you start at 1:30 p.m., you’ll finish at 6:00 p.m.

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After you register with the GRE, you can schedule your appointment!

On Test Day

Read their email very well. You are supposed to get there thirty minutes before your scheduled appointment in order to do some paperwork and all that jazz. This center does other sorts of testing, so there will be people there doing assorted types of exams.

I was scheduled to take the test at Go English Communications, which is located at Avenida de las Filipinas, 1 Bis. To get there, you can take the Metro Line 7 to the stop Islas Filipinas. It’s a short walk from there.

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You should go into the right-hand doors. The center is located on the seventh floor of the building.

Once you get there, you will have to write out (in cursive!) a statement saying you are not doing anything illicit, blah, blah, blah. You sign that, and then you are required to turn off your phone, and put all of your belongings in a locker, except your identity document (passport or NIE will both work).

When they are ready for you, they’ll take you into a second room. There, you have to turn out your pockets so they see they’re empty. Next they scan you with a metal detector! (I have taken the GRE before, in the U.S., and this didn’t happen.) You also have to lift up your pant legs to show you’re not hiding anything there either.

Side note: I was wondering about all this, as it seems a bit extreme for Spain. Mario and I concluded that it might have to do with the cheating culture in Spain, as it is more prevalent here than in the U.S., at least in my experience.

They took my photo with a webcam, which was fun, because I couldn’t figure out where to roll my chair to in order for them to get the “perfect” shot. As I waited, I noticed there were cameras everywhere! Even on me at that very second! Finally, they chose a computer for me and took me to the computer. Once there, I had to confirm the information on the screen was correct, and the exam began.

You get a 10-minute break after Section 2 of the GRE, but you are not allowed to leave the premises, so don’t do it. You are also not allowed to get out your phone or look at any notes. This may seem obvious, but just be careful.

I’m sure that the books and the information you find online can help you to familiarize yourself with how the actual exam is. I just hope to help those of you who, like me, are taking the exam in Spain, and especially Madrid.

If you have any specific questions related to the GRE, please feel free to email me.

Advanced Spanish … Where Do I Go from Here?

In case you didn’t know, I’m a perfectionist. If you read all my blog posts about Spanish grammar and trying to improve, you might get that impression, but I’ve tried my best not to come off too crazy. Did it work?

I’m trying to take the DELE, otherwise known as the Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera, or Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language. I’d like to take the exam in November, when I’ll already be in Spain. I got this book, El Cronómetro, but the exam format has changed, so I’m not sure just how useful it will be.

Cronometro

So, my question out there to all my Spanish-speaking friends/bloggers:

How do you improve your Spanish if you’re past the point of learning grammar?

I know the verb tenses, the irregular verbs, and how to conjugate. I understand when to use the subjunctive about 95% of the time. I sometimes slip up verbally when using por/para, but I know the right way. My pronunciation is okay, according to Mario. But I still lack vocabulary. However, I swear there are words I read, try to learn, and then forget—and then the cycle repeats itself, which is obviously maddening.

Tell me your strategies. I already have one of those personal dictionaries, and try to speak to him in Spanish, which usually works, unless he switches to English (which he does! all! the! time!).