The At-Home GMAT: What To Expect


The fact that GMAC is calling its at-home test an “interim” solution and not promising outright to launch it by mid-April speaks to the organization’s scramble to catch up and compete with the Educational Testing Service’s at-home GRE which will be taken for the first time by test takers on Friday of this week. The rush to market will, among other things, mean that GMAC will not be able to reproduce its Analytical Writing Assessment section in an at-home format.

“GRE made a change and the GMAT followed, especially considering the GRE seemed to have a platform ready to launch and the GMAT announcement was very light on details it’s tough not to see this as the GMAT trying to keep up,” says Geller of AtlanticGMAT.  “Pure speculation, but had GRE not offered at home testing I don’t think we would have seen GMAT offer it, at least not so quickly. If the corona test center delay had made GRE the only MBA test available then it’s not hard to see GRE gaining even more traction as an MBA test. Already we have many more people coming in the door asking about GRE options so any additional GRE advantage or convenience factor would probably increase that.”

It’s just the latest example of the fierce rivalry that has developed between the two big tests widely accepted by business schools all over the world. There are big stakes involved here. The less-expensive GRE has been steadily gaining market share from the GMAT in the past five years, making the primary source of revenue for GMAC more vulnerable than ever. As test centers around the world closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization’s revenue has taken a severe hit–and that’s on top of the already declining test revenue in recent years.


In 2017, the last year for which data is publicly available, GMAC reported $81.7 million in test revenue, a $3.3 million drop from the year-earlier total of $85.0 million. Roughly 90% of the organization’s total revenue, not including investment income, comes from its test operations. ETS, which also administers the SAT and other tests, does not break out its GRE revenue. With applications to full-time MBA programs in decline for what is expected a sixth consecutive year and more business schools waiving standardized tests for online MBAs and other degree programs, GMAC’s test revenue has almost certainly declined further since its last report to the Internal Revenue Service.

To increase revenue in the face of those declines, GMAC increased the cost to take the GMAT exam in February by $25, or 10%, to $275 from $250. It was the first price increase in North America in 15 years. The boost in price made the GMAT cost $70 more than the rival $205 Graduate Record Examination. It’s not yet clear how GMAC will price its at-home version when it comes out, but it’s likely that the price difference won’t be nearly as great. Koprince believes this move will play well in the market. “Right now,” she says, “it’s a really good move for GMAT to put that out there because everyone is extremely anxious and extremely concerned about the immediate term and the longer term. Knowing that the organization is not just thinking about themselves but the students is a really good thing right now.”

However, the last thing GMAC needed was to be caught flat-footed with an at-home option as the coronavirus spread and test centers were shuttered. For its part, ETS says it started work on its at-home version six weeks ago, scrambling to develop the software and security measures necessary to allow a test taker to sit for the exam from home. Among other things, it settled on having a human proctor monitor test-takers at home, along with using artificial intelligence to detect if a student has other applications running in the background to cheat on the exam.


“We pulled this together very quickly,” says Chrystal Murphy Molnar, senior director of global education at ETS. “We actually decided to offer this solution when the global health crisis started happening.” There was no earlier work on an at-home option before the COVID-19 outbreak (see It Took Six Weeks To Adapt The GRE For At-Home Testing).

Test takers in the United States, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong (China) and Macau (China) began registering for the test on March 23. The at-home exam will be at the same cost of taking the GRE at a test center. In most countries, the cost of taking the test is $205. ETS is working toward making these at-home solutions available in additional locations in the coming weeks. Many scheduling options will be available for each test, with numerous test times each week. ETS also added an at-home option for its TOEFL language test.

For the GRE, the biggest challenge in creating an at-home option wasn’t software or security, adds Molnar. It was the dislocation caused by the health crisis itself. “We’ve been working very quickly to bring the test at home and have been trying to do that at the same time that this coronavirus has spread around the world. A lot of the ETS staff located in areas that have been impacted in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. People had to work remotely to get this launched. So we’ve been dealing with the health crisis ourselves at the same time that we were trying to get the solution launched.”

With guidelines to shelter-in-place, GMAC will likely find similar challenges in getting its at-home version off the ground. Fairfax County, where GMAC’s headquarters are based in Reston, Va., already has the most number of known coronavirus cases in Virginia.




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