Even as more business schools announce waivers of standardized tests to get into their prestigious MBA programs, the Graduate Management Admission Council today (April 14) began taking registrations for a new at-home version of the GMAT. The first test-takers will be able to sit for the exam in the comfort of their homes on April 20th.
Unlike the at-home GRE exam, which has been in the market for PC users since March 27th, the GMAT test can be taken on both Mac and PC platforms. GMAC said that appointments will run around-the-clock test dates in 15-minute intervals through June 15, 2020, at which time the need for the interim solution will be reevaluated. GMAC, moreover, is slashing the worldwide cost of its exam by 27% to $200 from the current $275 price for U.S. testtakers. The new price is $5 less than the rival GRE.
The at-home GMAT will be identical to the exam given in test centers with one major exception: the Analytical Writing Assessment will be omitted. That change will shorten the time of the test by 30 minutes to two hours and 37 minutes. GMAC expects test-takers to show up 15 minutes before the scheduled start of their exam to download the required software, take a photo of yourself that matches your ID picture and also snap photos of your immediate surroundings for a proctor to see. Otherwise, the Quantitative, Verbal and Integrated Reasoning sections will have the same type and number of items and the same time for completion. It will also use the same scoring algorithm and score scale for the Section Scores and Total Score as the test center-based version.
NEARLY A THIRD OF TEST TAKERS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE AT-HOME VERSION
According to GMAC, candidates will also be provided with one, optional five-minute break, after the 62-minute-long quant section and 65-minute-long verbal section of the test. The optional break then would occur before the final 30-minute Integrated Reasoning part of the test. While on break, test takers may access water, food, or comfort items such as tissues or cough drops. Candidates may not change any settings on the device they’re using to take the exam. They are not allowed to change computer settings, workstation or environment, or access any electronic devices, including cell phones or smart devices. GMAC isn’t allowing students to take traditional hand notes in their new online version of the GMAT. Instead, the organization expects students to use a new curser based ‘Whiteboard’ digital workspace. Some critics have already emerged to suggest that “it almost impossible to make quick/timely calculations for several quant sections, and 100% eliminates the ability to take summery notes during RC passages in Verbal.”
GMAC said it will prioritize the availability of the at-home test in “impacted markets.” But the new exam will not be available in mainland China, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Slovenia, and North Korea due to what it called “regulatory restrictions.” In the 2019 testing year, 70,838 GMAT tests were taken in those countries, accounting for 31.4% of all the 225,621 tests for which candidates sat. The vast majority of those exams–70,473–were taken in China. The administrator of the GMAT also said it is working to provide “appropriate online options for candidates with disabilities who meet specific eligibility criteria.”
The at-home version of the test comes as an increasing number of schools are waiving standardized tests. Only today, for example, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management said it is waiving the GMAT/GRE/TOEFL/IELTS requirement for those applying to its extended Round 3 deadline of June 1 for its full-time MBA programs. “We know that the online options for the GMAT and GRE that became available recently do not accommodate everyone and present the added challenges of studying in a crunched timeline,” wrote Kate Smith, Kellogg’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid in a blog post. “Nothing about the disruption you are experiencing should hold you back. So we’re removing what you and your future classmates have identified as a potential barrier to finalizing your applications in time for the extended deadlines.”
‘ONLINE VERSION IS AN INTERIM, SHORT-TERM SOLUTION’
In an interview with Poets&Quants, Vineet Chhabra, senior director and head of the GMAT product, called the online test “an interim, short-term solution that we have put in place to meet the needs of our stakeholders which are the test takers and the schools at a time when they are impacted by the COVID-19 virus. The current situation needed a solution and we wanted to be there to deliver it as quickly as possible. These are uncertain times that we are all facing.”
He declined to say precisely how many test-takers would be able to sit for the exam at any given time. “As we’ve worked over the last couple of months to bring this solution to market,” he said in response to the question, “we worked with our teams here and Pearson Vue to deliver the exam. We are confident in the solution we are bringing to market and we also confident about being able to meet capacity and demand.”
Chhabra said that GMAC will use a live human proctor at check-in and through the entire process of taking the exam. A test-taker can click on the chat icon at the top of the screen to contact the proctor who will observe the test-taker through their webcam and computer microphone. Pictures or notes are not allowed on the workplace before or during the test.
Chhabra expressed confidence that the security of the exam would not be compromised by at-home test taking. “We take the security of our products very, very seriously,” said Chhabra. “That is a key operating principle and that is underpinning the credibility and the trust and the integrity that the GMAT exam has provided the marketplace. As we have pivoted to this online approach, our thinking around our security hasn’t changed in any way. It has obviously been adapted to the online delivery model.”
Unlike the at-home GRE, the GMAT online exam will not afford test-takers the opportunity to preview their unofficial scores at the end of the exam. Instead, official scores will be sent via email within seven business days of completing the exam. If there is uncertainty about your result, GMAC says a test-taker can wait and select programs to send the results to after receiving the official score report via email. The Online GMAT will not count toward your yearly nor lifetime exam attempt limits which prevent test-takers from sitting for the exam more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total lifetime.
‘OUR ADVICE: TAKE THE AT-HOME EXAM IF YOU PLAN TO APPLY FOR ENROLLMENT IN THE FALL 2020 SEMESTER’
Test prep experts are encouraging their clients to register for the at-home option. “Creating a version of the GMAT that aspiring MBAs can take from the safety of their own homes is a win for test-takers, many of whom had their admissions timelines disrupted because of COVID-19-related test cancellations in March and April,” said Stacey Koprince, content and curriculum lead at Manhattan Prep. “This makes an uncertain and stressful situation a lot more manageable. Our advice to prospective business school students is to take the at-home exam, especially if they are planning to apply for enrollment in the fall 2020 semester.
“It seems likely that many parts of the world will still be hard hit by COVID-19 this spring and even this summer, making it unlikely that regular test administrations can take place for a few months. So even if you would normally prefer taking the exam in a testing center, waiting for a return to normalcy may not be a good investment of your time. The at-home GMAT will be available until at least June 15th, at which point GMAC will evaluate the situation. If local testing centers are not yet open at that time, it seems likely that GMAC will extend the availability of the at-home testing format.”
She also noted the advantage of taking the test on a Mac as well as a PC. “The GMAT will continue to be a test of endurance, but some test-takers will appreciate the fact that the at-home version will be 30 minutes shorter because there will be no essay as there usually is,” said Koprince. “What makes this at-home version especially student-friendly is that you can take it on a PC or a Mac. We know a lot of our own students use and prefer Macs, so this will be a relief to them. It will be interesting to see if this kind of at-home version sticks around for the long run, even if only as an alternative to the testing site version. Choice is always good.”
‘WE STARTED TO PUT THIS TOGETHER TO MEET A SPECIFIC NEED IN THE MARKET’
The timeline for how long it took for GMAC to develop its online version is unclear. It took Educational Testing Service, the administrator of the GRE, about six weeks to design and put into the marketplace its at-home version (see It Took Six Weeks To Adapt The GRE To At-Home Testing). GMAC only announced that it was working on its online version hours after ETS launched its at-home GRE. “We started to put this together to meet a specific need in the market,” explained Chhabra. “We designed and executed on this solution specifically in response to the COVID-19 situation and we are confident and proud of what we’ve built and are putting into the market.”
He added that speed to market was the reason that GMAC was unable to include the writing assessment portion of the test. “We wanted to get to market to start supporting our test takers and schools,” he said. “In doing so, we had to make certain decisions on the product so that we could bring to market the exam. What’s important really is to understand that the thinking behind this is to ensure that the test construct is exactly identical.”
Chhabra said that GMAC is working with the government authorities in China to make the online version available in that market. “China is a very important market for us and we are continuing to work with them to see how we can bring this solution into the market in China as well.”
PRICE CUT ON THE GMAT WAS A ‘BUSINESS DECISION’
Asked why GMAC slashed the price of the at-home test by $75 in the U.S. to $200, Chhabra said, “It’s a business decision taking into consideration the unique value the GMAT provides and recognizing the unique situation and the times we are in.” The GMAT test has been losing market share to the rival GRE in recent years. According to data compiled by Poets&Quants, over the past five years, the percentage of entrants submitting GRE scores has climbed at 42 of the top 50 full-time MBA programs in the United States (see Average GRE Scores At The Top 50 Business Schools).
Last year, six schools reported that 40% or more of their enrolled MBA students submitted a GRE for admission. This year there are nine schools above 40%, including two above 60%: Tennessee Haslam leads all schools at 67%, and Texas-Dallas Jindal jumped 22 points in one year to land at 62%. Among other schools with big jumps: UNC Kenan-Flagler, which grew its GRE population from 30% to 48%; and Florida Warrington, which more than doubled its GRE submissions, from 24% to 50%.
The closure of test centers, the greater flexibility at business schools to submit other test scores, and the early release of the GRE alternative at-home will likely cost GMAC more than $10 million in lost revenue for this testing year, according to Poets&Quants estimates.
Candidates who wish to register for the GMAT™ Online exam can learn more here: www.mba.com/gmatonline