So what’s the deal with the virtual GMAT?


For anyone else like me who’s naturally a planner, you’ve probably found yourself particularly frustrated by all the wrenches thrown at you and your MBA decision processes during the pandemic. You may find yourself asking questions like:

  1. Do I want to pay this exorbitant school tuition to take classes virtually?
  2. What’s the harm in waiting a year or two?
  3. Dang, these tests and applications are daunting, let me revisit Q #2 above…

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There aren’t blanket answers to these questions - you’ll need to set aside time to re-think your plan for why, whether, and when you want to go to business school given the global environment. That said, I hope that I can make one decision slightly easier for you to make: “Do I want to take the test online?”

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

The GMAT online vs the GMAT in person

Even during these strange times, prospective students still have various options to take the test, both in person or online (hey, there’s still a lot of money out there to be made by tastemakers and business schools).

During the pandemic, students have the option to take the test online up to two separate times, and there are actually some non-trivial differences to consider relative to the in person test.  First and foremost, you have the advantage of being able to take the test from the comfort of your home, or any other quiet place with good internet access. It’s also super easy to sign up through, and you have a ton of flexibility timing-wise (there are even time slots at 3am if that’s your cup of tea). Lastly, for anyone with a strong aversion to the writing section, you’ll be happy to hear that it is not included in the online version.

That said, you should also be prepared for numerous “tech checks” to get you started. When I took the test in person, I strolled into the testing center, filled out some paperwork, and got started at my workstation within 5 minutes. But for your online test day, you’ll have to:

  • Perform various checks of your microphone and webcam
  • Send four photos showing your workspace/room to the virtual proctor
  • Send a “before” and “after” photo of your scratch paper
  • Abide by a series of other warnings meant to prohibit cheating (one that I might consider noteworthy is that you can not mouth the questions while you read them)
I wouldn’t consider any of these factors to be deal-breakers, but they’re definitely worth considering, especially if you are easily distracted by tech issues. At the end of the day, comfort is the key to test-day success.


Choose a lane and stick with it

Sure, it’s easy to say something like, “I’ll take the test both online and in person as many times as possible and shoot for the highest score I can get!” But let’s face it: you’re probably quite busy with a myriad of obligations, and taking 5 different tests is probably not the best use of your time. So pick a lane, and stick with it. And if you prioritize online testing but don’t reach your target score, you always have a backup with the in person option.

Whether through schoolwork or through the experience of working in-office work vs. working from home, you probably have a sense of where you’re most productive. And in my experience, the same theme holds true for the GMAT. I’d submit that one of the most important factors of test-day success is being in an environment where you can be uninterrupted and fully focused. 

For me, I’ve been working at home throughout the pandemic and feel comfortable and at ease with my home setup. If I were to retake the GMAT today, I’d take it online. But if you have a 2 year-old child running around who might barge in at any moment, I’d feel safe to say that in person testing is the way to go. 

Don’t overthink it: choose the option that your gut tells you you’d be most comfortable with, and start there. 

Taking the test online

In all practicality, not much of your pre-test or test-day preparation should change too much. I always think back to my elementary school baseball coach who preached to “practice as you play” - the same holds true here. You know that you can’t write on your computer during test-day, so don’t practice circling or crossing off answers in your test booklet while doing practice problems. Continue to gauge your time management during all your practice. In short, don’t let the slight difference in scenery change much/any of your prep: just get online with plenty of time to calmly sort out any tech issues that might pop up, and treat the exam just like all of your practice.

National companies develop general curricula aimed at a broad population, the so called "average students." They do not tailor their curricula based on your needs because customization is expensive and time-consuming. We believe that a tailored program is a basic prerequisite for any effective tutoring relationship, particularly with GMAT students who are often juggling multiple priorities. We build each tutoring relationship around a unique student and we only work with students on a one-on-one basis. We typically meet with students once or twice per week for 90 minutes per session. Between each meeting, we scrutinize student progress section-by-section and problem-by-problem.

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Planning on taking the GMAT this year? Check out some other GMAT blog posts below!

That Fine Line between Pure Algebra and Testing Numbers on the GMAT 

GMAT Critical Reasoning questions: know your conclusion

GMAT Tip: Look for Dangling Modifiers!

Scott earned his MBA from Yale and BS in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell. He has worked as a management consultant and a semi-professional poker player. Currently, he works at Google.


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