When I first heard that GMAC was introducing the online GMAT, I was very excited. Test centers in Dubai were indefinitely closed because of the pandemic, and I was tired of my multiple physical test center cancellations. I was glad to be presented with the opportunity to take the cheaper and shorter online version of the test to allow me to meet some R3 deadlines potentially.
But, when the announcement finally came through, and I noticed that you wouldn’t be allowed to use scratch paper, I was devastated. I remember being extremely upset because I felt that this would cause a massive dent in my Quant score – my strongest section.
After taking about three days to vent and coming to terms with my options, I decided to experiment by taking the Official GMAT practice exams. I thought they would allow me to see how badly the online whiteboard would affect my score. So, after scribbling on an online whiteboard tool for a while, I purchased a couple of tests and did two full practice tests under test-like conditions and practiced using the whiteboard over three days. To my surprise, I noticed that my score wasn’t affected as bad as I thought it would be. My verbal score wasn’t affected at all, but my quant score did take a 1-2 point hit. So after about 4-6 hours of whiteboard practice, I decided to roll the dice with the online GMAT and registered for the exam on the very first day it was offered – the 20th of April.
ON THE TEST DAY
Before the testing day, I downloaded the software to ensure that my internet and computer specs were sufficient to run the test smoothly. Following a 15 min check-in process, I was allowed into the test and then began my journey.
Some of my tips:
- I noticed that the whiteboard tool was accessible during the exam information pages, so I used as much time as I could to test how it felt, and I highly recommend that everyone does it. And I believe now you can test it online too.
- The exam offers a fixed order, Q-V-IR. So, if, like me, you were practicing V-Q-IR, I would highly recommend that you practice in the same order as what the test offers. It might seem like a tiny change, but it does make a difference.
- The whiteboard is tacky and difficult to use. I would HIGHLY recommend spending enough hours practicing before jumping into a test environment. My background in abacus and mental math helped me out quite a bit, but if you struggle with mental math, it will be a nightmare using the board.
- If you happen to have your whiteboard open and hit the ‘Next’ button, there is a high chance that the whiteboard will cover the box where you need to click ‘Confirm’. I had to, essentially, close out the whiteboard, click ‘Confirm’ and then reopen the whiteboard. I found this to be the single most annoying and time-consuming operation based issue with using the whiteboard.
- It would help if you are comfortable using a mouse with a higher speed setting as this would help you move your cursor faster and will save some time, but please use the same mouse you are comfortable using. Also, make sure to turn off any extra mouse buttons if you have them.
TEST CENTER EXAM VS. GMAT AT HOME TEST
Finally, after eight grueling days of torture, I had my Official GMAT score emailed to me. I had scored a 740 (Q51, V41, IR 8). Even though it is an excellent score, I was a bit disappointed. The score was the bottom of my perceived range, and I believe the whiteboard prevented me from a potential Q51. But, the interesting thing to note is that the whiteboard only marginally affected my Quant score. I don’t believe it had a perceivable impact on my Verbal score.
Now, given the option between taking it online vs. at a test center, I would still lean towards taking it at the test center because the whiteboard wasn’t something I felt completely comfortable using. But, with that being said, I don’t believe the online version to be as scary as you might perceive it to be. I felt quite comfortable taking it at home and using my personal laptop and mouse. Also, it was relieving not having to write the AWA section. I believe that for many people, these changes could even turn to be an overall plus.
So, that’s my two cents on the whole experience. I hope it will be helpful to those of you who are considering taking the online version.