Guild Wars 2 entered the beta testing stage in December 2011. There are several types of beta events:
- Closed beta — These are invitation-only tests; discussion of their content is protected by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
- Beta weekend events — All players that pre-purchased Guild Wars 2 may participate. Players may share media and impressions from these events.
- Stress tests — These are not true events, but are really just short testing sessions usually lasting a few hours to test the performance of game servers. NDAs are selectively applied to this type of beta event.
CBT1 — December 16, 2011
ArenaNet announced on the 14th of December, 2011, that closed beta testing would start on that Friday, the 16th. Aside from the date, nothing else was known about this first closed beta event. 
CBT2 — February 17–19, 2012
The test in February was the first widely-publicized closed beta; various members of the media were invited to take part. While the non-disclosure agreement surrounding was not lifted, select members of the press were allowed to talk about their experiences with the beta starting on Monday, February 20. The following is a partial list of their reports:
- AusGamers: Hands-On Preview: Guild Wars 2 Closed Beta
- Destructoid: Guild Wars 2 isn't like any MMO you've played before
- GamesOn: Impressions From The Closed Beta
- GameSpot: Inside the First Hours of the Beta
- IGN: Casting Aside Convention
- IncGamers: Beta first impressions
- KillTenRats: Closed Beta Bookends and Quick Impressions
- Kotaku: Ten Things I Learned From the Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend
- Massively closed beta impressions: Elisabeth's thoughts & Shawn's thoughts
- MMORPG: The Closed Beta Preview
- NecroBator: A Closer Look at Necromancer Traits
- TapRepeatedly: Impression: Guild Wars 2 Beta
- VG247: Hands on with the Guild Wars 2 beta
Closed beta registration
On the 22nd of February, ArenaNet offered players the opportunity to register to participate in future beta events; they received over 1 million applications in a little over 48 hours. Registration has since closed; invitees to future closed beta tests will be chosen from the original pool.
CBT3 — March 23—25, 2012
The third closed beta event included selected members of the press and a large number of players selected from the registration pool above. Testing followed a similar pattern to the second. Although invited players were covered by the NDA, individual publications were cleared to release relevant media beginning on March 26.
This event concluded with an Asura invasion of Divinity's Reach.
Beta weekend events (BWEs)
- For access to the client or for troubleshooting common issues with installing or running the client, refer to Getting Started.
Beta weekend events run between noon Pacific time on the designated Friday and end at 11:59 p.m. Pacific on the following Sunday. Participation in all public beta events is guaranteed to those who pre-purchase Guild Wars 2. Additionally, ArenaNet may selectively invite additional players who registered for beta testing for one or more such beta events. The beta testing registration was announced on February 22, 2012 and was opened for 48 hours.
Beta weekend events are not restricted by non-disclosure agreements; players are free to share their experiences.
BWE1 — April 27–29, 2012
- Players could create human, charr, or norn characters. The sylvari and asura were unavailable in this event.
- Players had access to Lion's Arch, the starting areas for the three races above, and six explorable zones: Queensdale, Kessex Hills, Wayfarer Foothills, Snowden Drifts, Plains of Ashford, and Diessa Plateau.
- Players were granted 2,000 (this required a valid credit card, although payment was not required during the event) and free transfers between worlds, but Guesting was not possible. 
- This beta concluded with a finale event: "The Great Critter Hunt" in Wayfarer Foothills; players fought overpowered animals such as racoons, rats, pigs, white rabbits, and black moas to gain norn glory. Some servers also saw an invasion of giant legendary castle lords.
Special codes were handed out to visitors of PAX East 2012. These were handed out on cards that contained three codes saying "One for you, and two for your buddies." These codes allowed access into the first Beta Weekend Event only.
BWE2 — June 8-10, 2012
The second Beta Weekend Event began on Friday, June 8, at noon PDT (UTC-7) (start time for other timezones) and ended on Sunday, June 10, at 11:59 p.m. PDT (UTC-7) (end time for other timezones). Shortly before the event, ArenaNet published a list of known issues.
Notable features & changes
- Notable changes:
- Characters created during the first BWE were still available for this event, allowing players to continue through to higher level areas. Like the previous BWE, only charr, human and norn races were available for character creation.
- Transfers between worlds were free until halfway through the event (June 10, 6PM PDT). For the second half, transfers required payment of 1800 and could only be made once.
- Every account received 500 for free and each was offered an additional 2,000 for providing a valid credit card. (Unspent gems from the original BWE did not carry forward).
- Updated the PvP reward system for Structured PvP and added automated 5v5 tournaments.
- Several junk items were removed and replaced with the Deleted Item object.
- The feature where dye seeds were taken to an NPC to grow for 24 hours has been removed. Players could now double-click on the item to gain its benefits.
- Added tiers to both utility skills and elite skills as well as the trait system. Players were required to re-assign their points in these areas from the last BWE.
- The Black Lion Trading Company out of Lion’s Arch officially took over operations of the Gem Store, Currency Exchange, and Trading Post.
- Other systems such as combat, chat, key-binding and the user interface also saw notable changes.
- Additional content:
The Beta Weekend finale took place on June 10, 11:20pm PST, where the branded minions of Kralkatorrik invaded the Plains of Ashford. If a player was killed by one of the branded, they would turn into one themselves. Subsequently, characters would receive a set of five skills to use and had their affinity changed to hostile, allowing them to attack unaffected characters.
BWE3 — July 20-22, 2012
ArenaNet announced on June 28, 2012 that the third and final Beta Weekend Event would take place from Friday, July 20 at noon PDT (UTC-7) (start time for other timezones) and end on Sunday, July 22, at 11:59 p.m. PDT (UTC-7) (end time for other timezones).
Notable features & changes
- All characters and account data will be wiped before this event, except for the contacts list.
- The Gem Store will allow gems to be purchased, either directly with a credit card or through PayPal.
- Any gems purchased during BWE3 will be re-credited to your account on launch.
- Additional content:
- Players can create asura and sylvari characters.
- Players can visit some areas in Maguuma Jungle including Rata Sum and The Grove.
- Introduction of vistas.
- Players can play the Keg Brawl minigame.
- New PvP map, Legacy of the Foefire.
- In WvW, players can battle Sentries to gain points.
- Ability to 'Deposit All Collectables', by clicking the Options button in your inventory.
- Ability to access the Bank from any Crafting station.
- Dynamic level adjustment is now max level for the area +1.
- Improved Pet AI.
- Introduction of Equipment preview.
- This weekend concluded with the finale "Hunger Royale" in which players were split into teams. You were given supplies and food, but after the food ran out you were left with a debuff that slowly killed you of hunger.
- Some servers, such as Kaineng and Sharpe’s Corner, were not available for selection during this beta.
Stress tests are minor beta tests that run for a limited time (less than 24 hours). They focus on collecting data about server performance and testing improvements to the game's infrastructure. Public stress tests are open to all players who have pre-purchased a copy of Guild Wars 2.
- An invitation-only, closed stress test took place on 13th of April, 2012.
- The first public stress test was on the 14th of May, 2012 from 11 AM - 6 PM PDT (-7 GMT).
- The second public stress test was on the 27th of June, 2012, originally scheduled from 10 AM - 2 PM PDT (-7 GMT) but extended to 10 AM - 3 PM PDT (-7 GMT).
- Documentation efforts (based on the BWEs) are ongoing and can be found here.
- ArenaNet sometimes refer to their non-closed beta events as public beta events, indicating that it is open to the general public who pre-purchased the game.
- ^ AMA about professions, on Reddit
- ^ Guild Wars 2 Limited Beta Test Begins Today! by Martin Kerstein, ArenaNet blog
- ^ Forum post regarding the press beta dates, GW2Guru
- ^ Innovative Guild Wars 2 Gameplay Piques Gamers' Interest NCSoft press release
- ^ Forum post noting pre-purchase benefit by Martin Kerstein, GW2Guru
- ^ Beta testing registration announcement
- ^ Choosing and Transferring Worlds in Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet Blog
- ^ AMA question on gem balances, reddit
- ^ The Big Beta Weekend Preview, ArenaNet blog
- ^ Blog post announcing release date and final beta, on Arena.net
- ^ Official tweet on the first stress test
- ^ Stress test announcement on Facebook
- ^ Help Us Stress Our Servers on June 27
- ^ Official tweet