GMAT Online computer

To keep aspiring MBAs safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, GMAC has started offering an online GMAT. You’ll be able to stay home and take the test while a proctor watches you over your video camera. This may sound great, but there are a number of issues to consider before you register for the GMAT Online. 

Read on for answers to your most pressing questions about technology, setup, registration, and the exam-taking experience. Also check out our GMAT info video at the bottom of this article. Should you have a question we haven’t answered, please tweet it to us!

When is the GMAT Online offered? Who can take it?

Currently, the test is available from April 20 until June 15, 2020. We anticipate that this could be extended if test center closures continue into the summer. According to GMAC, the GMAT Online examis intended for students who need to take the GMAT at this time, but there’s no reason you can’t take the test online even if you don’t have an immediate deadline.

What are the technology requirements?

Here are the tech requirements you must meet:

  • You must be able to use a laptop or desktop computer. No tablets or phones are permitted.
  • Your computer must have an approved operating system: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Mac OS 10.13 and above. The approved web browsers are the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
  • You must have some sort of speaker, microphone, and camera. These can be internal or
    external, but they may not be part of a headset.
  • It’s recommended not to use a work laptop, as it could have firewalls or other restrictions that
    prevent the GMAT software from operating properly.
  • Here are some more specifics on the system requirements, and here’s another document that is even more detailed.

What are the setup requirements?

You must meet requirements for when and where you take the test:

  • You must be alone in a well-lit room with no interruptions during the test. This means that public places are not allowed, nor are spaces in a home where a family member or roommate could walk in. Plan to take the test in a room with a closed door, where children and pets won’t be able to disturb you.
  • This isn’t explicitly stated on the GMAT website, but it’s safe to assume that you need to be sitting in a chair at a desk or table, rather than sitting on a bed or couch.
  • Your desk or table must be clear of all unapproved items, including books, notepads, and writing instruments. You are permitted to have a clear glass of water on your desk, but no snacks or gum are allowed.
  • The session will be recorded, so it’s a good idea to wear an appropriate shirt. Watches must be removed and placed out of sight.
  • You will not be allowed to use scratch paper. Instead, you must use a virtual whiteboard on the screen. This means we highly recommend the use of a mouse. If you don’t own a mouse, it’s a good idea to purchase one prior to taking the test (wireless is fine). A laptop trackpad may be difficult to draw with. Unfortunately, external writing tablets aren’t permitted, nor are touchscreens (if your computer has a touchscreen, that shouldn’t be a problem, but you won’t be allowed to use it during the test).
  • Here are more details about the required test environment.

You can use this checklist to ensure you’re prepared for test day:

✅ Computer with an approved operating system and web browser
✅ Camera
✅ Microphone
✅ Speakers
✅ Private location
✅ Desk or table and chair
✅ Computer mouse
✅ Passport, driver’s license, or other identifying document
✅ Compliance with all OnVue system requirements

Should I take the GMAT Online?

If you meet the requirements and feel you have completed or will soon complete your GMAT prep, it may be a good idea to take the test at home. It may be months before the option to take it at a center is available again. Remember that there will be pent-up demand for testing appointments at centers once they reopen. In addition, fall tends to be the busiest time for the GMAT, so that could also potentially make it harder to find an appointment. The online test is also a great option for people who might be distracted or bothered by features of the testing center, such as noises from other people or fluorescent lights. You’ll know in advance exactly what the test location is like because you’re setting it up yourself, and you won’t have to worry about factors such as traffic or parking. You can even wear pajama pants (but wear an appropriate top because you will be recorded)!

On the other hand, the whiteboard does pose some challenges. It’s not as easy to use an on-screen whiteboard with a mouse. Furthermore, you won’t be able to choose the order in which you take the sections of the test. There’s also no AWA section. For most test takers, that shouldn’t really matter—and the schools do, of course, know that the AWA is not included in this test. As always, however, it’s best to check with the schools about their requirements. You will have to weigh the pros and cons of taking the online test against the pros and cons of taking the in-person test later than you might have planned.

Will schools know I took the test at home? Will it hurt my chances?

Yes, the schools will know that you took the test at home. Scores for GMAT Online are reported separately from scores from test center administrations. Schools will also notice that there’s no AWA score!

That being said, taking GMAT Online will almost certainly not hurt your admissions prospects. Remember that GMAC works closely with business schools. They have discussed this version of the test with the schools and reviewed the reason for offering it. Because the test is substantially the same as the standard GMAT, GMAC will guarantee the validity of the scores earned on this test. GMAC also provides interpretative guidance to schools about test scores so the scores will know how to evaluate a GMAT Online score.

When should I register?

For the in-person test, we generally recommend registering about a month in advance because testing centers are limited in the number of appointments they can offer. For the GMAT Online, however, so far there seem to be many time slots available with as little as 24 hours’ notice. It’s still a good idea to register at least a few weeks in advance just in case that timeframe changes; advance registration also gives you a firm deadline and goal for your GMAT prep.

How do I register?

Registration for the online GMAT is simple. You’ll log in to your account on mba.com. Then you’ll go through the steps for registration, which will include filling out a profile and providing personal information. You’ll also be able to select your score recipients during the registration process if you’d like. Then, you’ll select the test date and time of your choosing. Use the calendar to find your preferred date. Note that it’s recommended to sign in 30 minutes prior to the appointment time, so choose a time that will allow you to do so. Once you’ve selected the time you’d like, you’ll pay the test fee ($200) and receive a confirmation email. Keep in mind that there is a fee to reschedule, so you should choose an appointment time that you’re certain will work. You’ll also receive a reminder email, likely one business day prior to your scheduled test time.

What if I have already registered to take the in-person test, but my test center is closed?

If you don’t want to reschedule and wait to take it, you can cancel your in-person test. GMAC is waiving cancelation fees temporarily. Then, register to take the test online. Note that you cannot directly transfer your appointment from a test center to GMAT Online because of the price difference in the two tests.

What if I don’t meet the tech requirements?

First consider whether there is anything you can do to meet those requirements. For instance, can you borrow a computer or purchase a camera or microphone? Do not register for the GMAT Online if you cannot meet the requirements. GMAC is very strict about its requirements, so don’t expect the proctor to be lenient if you are not prepared with what you need.

What if I qualify for accommodations?

According to GMAC, accommodations will be honored, but unfortunately there isn’t currently a process for implementing them. In the coming weeks, GMAC has promised additional information on accommodations for the online test.

How and when do I access the test?

Log in to mba.com up to 30 minutes before at your appointment time, and click “View Appointment Details.” Then you’ll click on the link provided, and then click “Begin Exam” (these instructions are provided in the email you’ll receive from Pearson). (There is a 15-minute grace period—after that, if you haven’t checked in, your appointment will be canceled and you will most likely not have your test fee refunded.) Once you click “Begin Exam,” you’ll be prompted to download the software, and then the OnVue program will guide you through the process. You’ll be asked for your cell phone number, and the service will send you a link that you will access on your phone. It will prompt you to take a photo of yourself in your testing area, of your identification document, of your desk area, of the side of the room that is behind your desk, and of the left and right sides of your room. Once those are accepted, you’ll be prompted to close any other windows on your computer and then wait to be matched with a proctor. This could happen in only a couple minutes, but it could take a little longer, so be patient. Once you’re matched with a proctor, the proctor will send you a chat and then speak to you through your speakers, making sure that his, her, or their voice can be heard through your microphone. You’ll speak back through your microphone. The proctor may also ask to call your phone. Your phone will be used in case there is a tech issue and the proctor needs to contact you. After that, we recommend that you turn your phone on silent and then completely off. You’ll be asked to place it behind you, out of reach. Once the proctor has confirmed that you are all set, the GMAT program will start. Follow the on-screen prompts, and begin the test. During the test, you’ll see a set of icons on the top of the screen that will allow you to access the whiteboard and open the proctor chat if you need to (but you won’t need to unless something goes wrong). You can also wave your hand if you need help, as you’ll be watched the entire time. Other than that, the look of the test and the type of questions will be exactly what you would be given in a testing center. Please note that the icons include the video feed of you taking the test. You can move this to the left of the screen so that you aren’t staring at yourself taking your test! During the test, you may not leave the room except during the five-minute break. When you finish the test, the OnVue program will automatically close, and you’ll be directed to a survey about your experience.

Will someone be watching me the whole time?

Yes, the proctor will be watching you via your camera during the test, and the video will be recorded.

Will I see and talk to the proctor?

You won’t see the proctor, but you will communicate via text-based chat and via your microphone and speakers prior to the test starting.

Do I need to remove everything from the walls and shelves of my room?

No, only the area you’re working on needs to be cleared off. That being said, be sure to put away any study materials. You will be showing the proctor all four sides of your room, and taking photographs of your room. It’s possible that you could have your test canceled sometime after taking it if any material that could have helped you is visible.

What dates and times are available for me to take the GMAT?

Luckily, you’re able to log in and start the registration process in order to see the available days and times, prior to or without actually registering for the test. We found that most days and times are available, but some popular slots can get filled. Additionally, only some weekend days are available. On the whole, however, the GMAT is offered online close to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is great news for early risers and night owls or those with unusual schedules. Be sure to consider what time of day your brain tends to be most alert.

Is the structure of the test the same as that of the traditional GMAT?

For the most part, yes; however, the online test does not include the Analytical Writing Assessment. Also, whereas the in-person GMAT allows test takers to choose from several section orders, the online test does not. The section order for all GMAT Online exams is Quantitative, Verbal, (optional) five-minute break, Integrated Reasoning.

What if there’s an issue?

Wave your hand or reach out to your proctor via the chat window (there’s a button at the top of the screen) if you need help with anything. If possible, however, wait until you are on the instruction page for the next section, before the timer has started. If there are technical issues, the proctor will let you know what to do. If you get disconnected, turn your cell phone on, as you’ll likely be contacted in that manner. In the worst case scenario, if tech issues prevent you from starting or finishing your exam, you’ll be able to take the test again at no extra cost.

What if I don’t have a cell phone/smartphone?

You’ll be able to take pictures of yourself, your ID, and your room using your computer camera.

What happens when I get a break?

There is one (optional) five-minute break. The break occurs after you have completed both the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the test. Just after seeing the instructions for the Integrated Reasoning section, you’ll be asked to select on the screen whether you want to take a break, and then if you choose to take the break, a timer will appear on the screen. You may leave the room, but be sure to come back before the timer runs out. We do recommend that you take the break to give your brain a rest.

What if my family member knocks on the door or comes in the room during the test?

GMAC has not stated what would happen in this case, but expect the worst: your test could be canceled with no refund. Take advantage of the flexible appointment schedule to choose a day and time when you’re least likely to be interrupted, and be extremely clear with anyone who lives with you that you must not be disturbed in any way.

How much time should I allow for the test?

If you have everything cleared off your desk and have gathered all the items you need, the check-in process shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. The online GMAT takes about 2 hours 45 minutes, so plan on spending approximately three hours total—but allow extra time just in case there are tech issues or it takes longer than usual to be matched with a proctor.

Will I get my score right away?

No, you can expect to receive your scores via email after approximately seven business days.

Can I cancel my score?

No. Canceling your score is not an option for the online GMAT. You do not get an opportunity to preview your score at the conclusion of the test. You also cannot cancel your score once you receive the email with your score. But—this is key—GMAT Online scores are separate from any scores that you may have from exams taken at a test center. So, you can choose not to send your GMAT Online score to schools.

How do I send scores to schools?

Your test fee includes sending your scores to five schools. You’ll be given the opportunity to select score recipients when you register for the test. You can also wait until you see your scores to select schools. There’s a link in the email with your scores that you can use to select schools.

GMAT Online scores are separate from scores earned at test centers. So, if you subsequently take the GMAT again at a test center, you can likely choose which score to send to schools. Unless you are on a tight deadline, it’s probably best to select schools after you see your GMAT Online scores.

Should I select schools when I register?

If you need to send scores to schools immediately, then you should select schools when you register. That’s the fastest way to report scores to schools.

If you are not on a tight deadline, it’s probably better to wait until you see your scores. Remember that GMAT Online scores are separate from scores earned at test centers. If you think you can do better, you may be able to take the GMAT again once the test centers reopen. You should then be able to choose which score to send.

Is there any other difference in receiving my score for the online GMAT?

Beyond the lack of AWA score, the GMAT Online Test does not count toward the 12-month or lifetime limits for taking the GMAT. Furthermore, at this time test takers can’t take GMAT Online more than one time. If you want to retest, you’ll have to wait to take it in person, unless this policy changes in the future.

Can I cancel or reschedule my test?

Yes, but you’ll pay a fee for either one. The fee to reschedule your exam is $25, and the fee to cancel is $100. No changes can be made within 24 hours of your scheduled appointment time.

How should I prepare to take the GMAT Online?

Taking the GMAT at home is more similar to your practice tests than taking it at a test center. Because you choose aspects of your setting, you’ll know exactly what to expect on test day. There are a couple of important differences, however. Because the online test doesn’t include the AWA section, don’t spend time preparing for it if you are definitely taking GMAT Online.

One of the most important differences between the standard GMAT and the GMAT Online is the use of a digital whiteboard for GMAT Online. You’ll definitely want to be prepared to use the digital whiteboard.

We highly recommend that you spend some time using the practice whiteboard on mba.com. Unless you have two monitors (which you cannot use during the real test) or a fairly large monitor, you probably won’t be able to use the GMAT practice whiteboard when doing practice tests. You could use the practice whiteboard for untimed online drills by switching back and forth between windows. You can certainly use the practice whiteboard when working on Official Guide problems.

You wouldn’t want to use the practice whiteboard to do all of your practice problems or practice tests. You do, however, want to do sufficient practice with the whiteboard so that you are familiar with the tools. You also want to do enough practice so that you know when you want to use the text tool and when you want to use the pen tool.

What are the features of the online whiteboard?

As noted above, you can check out the features of the GMAT whiteboard by using the version that GMAC has posted to their website. The whiteboard can be accessed here.

For the pen tool, start by choosing your preferred thickness. You can also change colors. For the text tool, simply click anywhere on the screen and start typing. You’ll also be able to erase (make sure to select a thick eraser to save time), undo, and draw lines and circles.

There’s a button that allows you to move to a different spot on the whiteboard. If you need more space, simply click that button and drag to move to another spot on the whiteboard. If you have moved on from a problem, just click the “Clear” button at the bottom to remove everything from the whiteboard. That may be the simplest approach. Because you can’t return to a problem, there’s no need to keep the work.

You can reposition the whiteboard window itself. You can also change the size of the whiteboard window. For most problems, you should be able to position the whiteboard so that it doesn’t block the problem.

Is there a way to practice with the actual whiteboard?

Yes! GMAC has posted a working version of the whiteboard to their website. The whiteboard can be accessed here. You won’t be able to easily use this online whiteboard while doing online drills or practice tests. You can, however, use it while doing Official Guide problems. Most importantly, you can get familiar with the different tools and practice using the pen tool with either a mouse or a trackpad.

Can I use two monitors when taking the test so I can have the test open on one monitor and the whiteboard on another?

No. You can only use one monitor when taking GMAT Online.

Can I use a graphics tablet or similar input device with the whiteboard?

No. You cannot use a connected graphics tablet or similar device.

If my computer has a touch screen can I use my finger to write on the whiteboard?

No. Input to the whiteboard is limited to either a mouse or a trackpad.

What are some tips for making effective use of the whiteboard?

A combination of pen and text will be most useful. For Data Sufficiency questions, you’ll probably find it faster to type AD/BCE rather than try to write it with the pen tool. You can also type when you’re writing something like x = 5. You can also type for a PITA problem: type out the five options and use the pen to label the columns.

You’ll almost certainly want to use the pen when working with exponents or fractions. Those can be difficult to type. You can take advantage of the shape tools for geometry problems. Whenever you finish a math problem, click the button on the bottom to clear the whiteboard, since you won’t need the work anymore.

It's important that you keep writing down your work when solving math questions. Don’t try to do the work in your head because you are using the whiteboard. Your work doesn’t need to look nice. As long as you can read your work, then it’s fine.

There are also at least two positive aspects of the whiteboard. You don’t need to worry about filling up the whiteboard the way that you can fill up the noteboards that are used at the test center. Also, because the whiteboard sits right next to the problem, you won’t need to transfer the question stem or statements to the whiteboard to work Data Sufficiency problems.

On the verbal side, you can type any notes that you want to make about reading passages or critical reasoning questions. For each verbal question, type out the answer choices, and use your pen tool to do process of elimination.

As a final reminder, use the whiteboard when taking the test! You most likely will not get your best possible score if you don’t write down your work. With a little planning and some practice, you’ll be ready to use the GMAT whiteboard.