The GMAC has released the GMAT online test that you can take at home, but there is one restriction that everyone is talking about and it’s making headlines: You can’t write using a pen and paper — not even an erasable whiteboard. The only option test-takers currently have: a digital whiteboard they can draw on using a mouse. Yes, a mouse. And that’s because, among other technical specifications, touchscreens are strictly prohibited.
Many are calling it a dealbreaker, but the truth is that there are people who will take the test anyway. If you are one of those brave people, let me share with you five tips that will have a direct impact on your testing experience, especially in the Quant section.
- If possible, use a PC with a webcam accessory. You want the biggest monitor that you have available or that you can get before taking the exam. Note that only one main monitor is allowed, and since you cannot use a headset for the microphone, it will need to be built-in to your webcam. The digital whiteboard is going to take some space covering the question, so a 20-inch Full HD resolution monitor is recommended. If you have a 27-inch monitor with 4K resolution, that works too. For Mac users, an iMac will be your best setup. If you only have a laptop, make sure it’s a personal one (not from work) and preferably with a 15.6-inch screen. Also, don’t forget to use an external mouse.
- In your computer settings, set your mouse pointer speed to 25%. It makes a significant difference when you are trying to write equations or draw geometric figures. Try it by using Paint or an equivalent program. For the full experience, take a GMAT simulation test using this setup. You can further decrease time spent per question by using keyboard shortcuts. At least in all GMAT Prep versions, you can use Alt-N to press Next, and then Alt-Y or Alt-N to confirm or cancel your answer before going to the next question. It saves valuable seconds that add up.
- Don’t use the eraser tool, instead use Undo and Clear Screen. Since the focus is speed, using Undo and Clear Screen will allow you to erase mistakes faster (Undo erases full strokes quickly without switching tools). Clear Screen will come in handy for Data Sufficiency where there are two statements to evaluate separately.
- Rely on Quant properties and patterns instead of using logic or trying numbers. Even if you had a pen and paper available, Quant properties and patterns are the best way to cut times by half or more in most cases, compared to using logic or trying numbers. You write less and answer with more conviction. I always emphasize the importance of memorizing properties and to practice recognizing them in the questions. It’s also very common for me to see endless operations and attempts from students that haven’t learned the properties for each topic.
- Practice solving using a written step, followed by a mental step. There can be a long discussion about this tip, but the gist is: you think faster than you can write. Don’t write down every little step (for fear of making silly mistakes), nor do the opposite and not write anything at all. This is a skill that you practice and if it becomes your new normal, it will help you cut a lot of time in the regular GMAT exam, but more importantly in the Online GMAT exam, since you want to write only the essential steps.
Points 4 and 5 can only truly be demonstrated using actual practice questions. For that reason, I’m holding a free online workshop via Zoom where I will solve tricky GMAT Quant questions using my best strategies. The workshop will be held today (April 17) at 8 p.m. Central Time and will last two hours. It’s free to register, just go to mbapreptutoring.com and sign up to my email list (you’ll receive other great GMAT tips as well). I will send the Zoom link a few minutes before we start.
Christian Pacheco of MBA Prep Tutoring describes himself as a quant expert. Based in Peru, he’s tutored students for the GMAT in many different countries over the past six years.
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