After enduring harsh criticism over a critical feature of its new at-home GMAT exam, the Graduate Management Admission Council today (April 23) rolled out a way to practice using the controversial virtual whiteboard for notetaking during the test. Ever since announcing the debut of the at-home exam, which was taken by hundreds of test-takers starting Monday (April 20), GMAC has faced a torrent of criticism from prospective students over a ban on using either scratch paper and a pen or a separate whiteboard to work out test problems on the desktop.
Thus far, close to 3,000 test-takers have signed up for the at-home test and several hundred people have taken it, according to Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC CEO. “We were able to get the test delivered quickly from a standing start,” he says, “and we were able to preserve the integrity of the test. Like anything you do at a rapid rate, you have to make some decisions to maintain the integrity and security of the test as well as the capability of the delivery platform. Anything new is change and change is uncomfortable and particularly change that comes about quickly.”
GMAC, however, put the new feature in without either a tutorial or any opportunity for test-takers to practice using the tool before sitting for the test. That fueled a storm of online protest. “‘GMAT at home’ will not allow test-takers the use of a whiteboard (as well as physical notepads) during the exam,” wrote one critic on Poets&Quants. “That’s CRAZY!!! No human brain is able to solve math problems without writing down notes, in particular under the <2min GMAT time restrictions.” More than 1,500 have already signed a petition demanding that GMAC allow test-takers to use scratch paper and a pen for the at-home exam.
The issue also puts the at-home GMAT exam at a severe disadvantage to the GRE which launched its at-home version nearly a month earlier than GMAC. Test-takers who opt for the GRE test at-home are allowed to take notes on a physical whiteboard with an erasable marker or on paper with a transparent sheet protector and erasable marker on their desktops.
A GMAC TUTORIAL ON THE WHITEBOARD FEATURE PLUS ACCESS TO THE TOOL FOR PRACTICE
A professional test-taker at Manhattan Prep who took the GMAT test on Monday has told Poets&Quants that she thinks she would have scored 100 or more points less if not for spending five to seven hours practicing with a similar tool recreated by her firm’s staff. Her advice to future test-takers of the at-home exam: Practice for at a least a week, if not two weeks, with the virtual whiteboard before taking the test (see She Took The At-Home GMAT Today. Here’s What Happened).
Besides adding the whiteboard feature for practice on its website here, GMAC also published a tutorial of sorts on how to use it. “During your GMAT Online exam you will have access to an online whiteboard to work through equations, use for scratch work, and take notes on,” according to the description. “With the online whiteboard (see below for how it will appear on your screen) you will have almost an endless canvas to work on, so there is no need to erase your work as you move through your exam.
“Leverage the Pan tool to reveal a new part of the whiteboard to work on and drag back to reveal your previous thoughts or work. You can move the whiteboard around your screen as you work on your exam to conveniently reference it simultaneously with the questions. The whiteboard will be with you throughout your exam, you can open and close it with the whiteboard icon at the top of your screen.”
GMAC is telling users that they can use its online whiteboard to write out equations or text or use it for scratch work, draw lines and shapes, enter text via a text box, zoom in and out on the whiteboard screen as well as erase or clear it to start something new. The organization also addressed another sore point with some test-takers: “If you have a touchscreen laptop, you may not use a stylus, your finger, or other writing apparatus to write on the whiteboard. The online whiteboard cannot be used with a connected writing tablet or pad, nor can you use dual monitors for taking the exam and accessing the whiteboard.”