Why The GMAT Should Be Given On iPads

Okay now don’t get too excited. There are NO rumors that I have heard that even hint at GMAC offering the GMAT on the iPad – I guess it just makes too much sense.

First, I will make the case for administration of the GMAT on a tablet device, then, since they likely will not implement my plan right away, I will make some suggestions for what to do now.

Whenever I ask one of my Veritas Prep classes what the big disadvantages are to the way the GMAT is administered 2 answers always come up.

1. “You cannot go back to a question once you have answered it” and
2. “You cannot write on the test.”

The adaptive nature of the test means that the first complaint is here to stay. You simply will not be able to go back to questions on the GMAT, but what about the second complaint? Is there no way to remedy this? Students note that you cannot mark up reading comp passages, you have to redraw geometry figures, and you cannot cross out or circle things on sentence correction. Transferring everything from the computer screen to the notepad takes precious time.

That is where the iPad comes in. It should be possible to develop a program, either now or in the near future, that will allow the test taker to write on the actual test. This would allow students to underline, cross off answer choices, and use the drawing that is already included with geometry problems. This would eliminate the tedious back and forth between the computer screen and the laminated sheets. Sure there would be some glitches to work out, but I hereby volunteer to be part of the testing program to expose and then correct any errors that may come up.

What to do until the GMAT is offered on a Tablet

Until GMAC takes me up on this offer we will have to do the best we can with a combination of computer screen, a yellow plastic note pad, and a marker. This means that you cannot mark up any of the verbal questions or passages as you would like and you cannot write on any of the quant questions, either. This is inconvenient for everyone, but you can gain an advantage if you practice the right way.

Do not do anything in practice that you cannot do on test day.

1)     Use your note paper when you do practice questions. You cannot write on the test on test day so do not write in your books when you practice.

2)     Get a book stand and keep your study guides vertical. When you are working with your written study materials, such as the Official Guide or the Veritas Prep books you should keep the book propped up vertically. If you can find a book stand or a cookbook stand it will be simpler to do this. Of course it is much easier to lay a piece of paper directly on the book you are working in. Then the geometry diagram you are redrawing is literally inches away. But on test day the computer screen is vertical and the notepad is horizontal. So you want to get used to the process of looking up to the screen and down to your notes. Do in practice what you must do on test day.

3)     Quantitative: Don’t leave anything on the screen. Bring all the numbers down to your notepad and do the work there. Do not forget to write down what the question is asking as well. The fact that your work is done on your note pad means that if you leave any numbers or facts on the computer screen and rely on your memory then you might end up making a mistake or an assumption or simply forgetting to include a fact. This is particularly problematic on Data Sufficiency where forgetting facts can easily lead to underestimating or overestimating the amount of information that you have.

4)     Verbal: Practice focusing rather than crossing out.  For the verbal section, you will naturally want to mark up the text: cross things out in sentence correction, highlight the conclusion in critical reasoning, underline things in reading comp. Instead you will need to practice focusing your attention. When you are doing sentence correction, practice looking past the prepositions and modifiers instead of crossing them out. In critical reasoning, write down the main conclusion on your notepad – or just focus on it – rather than circling it. And on reading comprehension practice going back to the text to find the information that you need, even though you cannot underline it. Train your mind to focus on the right things on the verbal section. That is until the GMAT is offered on the iPad!

David Newland is a teacher and tutor at Veritas Prep, a GMAT prep and graduate school admissions consulting provider. David is a GMAT expert, having taught dozens of GMAT courses, written extensively on the subject and scoring above the 99th percentile on the test himself. This is his first column for Poets&Quants.com.

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