TOO MANY UNKNOWNS?
Manhattan Prep GMAT tutor Stacey Koprince says she’s been receiving a lot of questions and concerns from both students and instructors since GMAC announced the registration dates. “There’s not a ton of information on the official site on how this feature is going to work,” Koprince says of the whiteboard feature.
Initially, Koprince says, they were excited to see the GMAT move online.
“Now that we’ve seen more details, we have concerns about how this is going to play out,” she says. “And my biggest concern is if this format is going to allow students to get the scores they’re training to get. It might be completely fine but it’s just unclear to me because I can’t see the whiteboard system and how it’s actually going to work.”
While there are a bit more details, Koprince adds that there still are a lot more unknowns.
“At the moment, there are enough unknowns that our official recommendation could range anywhere from ‘don’t take the test in this form unless you have to’ to ‘it’s going to be fine. You’ll need two weeks to practice — here’s how — and you’ll be good to go,'” Koprince explains. “That’s obviously a huge range. We’re hopeful that GMAC has tested this to the point that they know the whiteboard tool won’t materially affect outcomes and that the issue is just a lack of detail right now. But we can’t know until either that detail is released or we see it for ourselves.”
WAIT IT OUT?
So what are applicants supposed to do? Wait, Koprince advises. Koprince says she’s registered to take the exam on Monday, April 20th — the first day the at-home version of the test is available. “I will basically be telling my students to hold on,” Koprince says, noting she could see it going either way where the whiteboard feature works enough or it could be “clunky” and she’d advise her students to wait for a different version or to see if GMAC makes any changes.
But it’s not always that simple for anxious applicants that have spent a year or more — and thousands of dollars — prepping for the exam. “It’s not like we can just wait this out,” Adenuga says. “The returns a student gets on their studies diminishes the longer the student prolongs taking the exam.”
For the frustrated MBA applicant that chose to remain anonymous, she says she’s been holding off marriage and pregnancy till after grad school. And waiting for another entire application cycle to get the best possible score she can would delay all of that as well. “It’s a big deal for me,” she says of potentially waiting another year to apply. She also says she works at a management consulting firm and is at the point where she’s at an “awkward” level to keep moving up without an MBA. “Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not. But pushing it back a year is tough — to the point that I’m wondering if I do have to push it back a year, can I or do I even want to go,” she says of applying to business school.
GMAC IS NOT IN AN EASY PLACE
Adenuga acknowledges GMAC is in a tough position.
“I understand the challenging point that GMAC is at and I don’t envy the position they’re in,” he says. “And I commend them for how quickly they were able to adapt the GMAT to the online format and offer such a wide array of time slots for students that want to take the GMAT during this pandemic period. The GMAC is being proactive in a very encouraging way and I’m excited to see how collaborative they’ve been with schools and even students.”
Manhattan Prep’s Koprince says she also understands the need for something like the whiteboard.
“The reason they’re doing this is obvious. It’s for test security and validity and, frankly, it’s for fairness, too, although students aren’t going to see it that way.”
‘NO ONE HAS EVER TAKEN OR PREPARED FOR A GMAT WITHOUT HANDWRITTEN NOTES’
That doesn’t make it easier for many MBA applicants that are dealing with a lot of unknowns.
“I’m really hoping they either allow handwriting or that COVID passes and they’re able to open back up normal testing,” says the MBA applicant that chose to remain anonymous. “But nobody in the world knows when that will happen. It could be in a month. It could be in September after Round 1 passes. It’s unknown.”
Koprince is a bit more optimistic that GMAC could change the structure of the whiteboard.
“I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities that we see changes to the way this whiteboard works,” Koprince believes. “This is another reason I’m telling students not to take it Monday. Because there is a chance they get some feedback and make some changes.”
When asked for a comment on the concerns over the whiteboard, GMAC responded with: “We value market feedback and like all our products, will continuously explore ways to make the GMAT Online experience one that helps test takers perform their best on exam day,” according to Vineet Chhabra, global product and marketing head for the GMAT exam.
For now, however, the issue remains.
“This new version that the GMAC is forcing people to take is foreign — not just to me but to any GMAT test-taker around the world,” Adenuga says. “No one has ever taken or prepared for a GMAT without handwritten notes.”