In-person GMATs have been postponed again and it looks like we won’t be seeing in-person testing (in most cases) until July. I know that’s stressful. I do have good news: The Online GMAT is a viable option and I’m confident that you can succeed taking it even with the now infamous online whiteboard in tow.
Yes, Zero Disadvantage
I took a fresh Official GMAT Quant section with the online whiteboard practice tool from MBA.com and scored identically to how I always score: Q49.
And that’s with making a bunch of careless mistakes, having a lot of time pressure that forced me to skip easy questions (not due to the whiteboard), and being very tired since my two amazing but sometimes up in the middle of night young children kept me awake most of the night. I also haven’t done a full GMAT quant section in at least a year so I was very rusty.
I made a video of the section with whiteboard recommendations per question so it’s worth having a quick look.
Beyond the score, I can tell you that while doing the section I didn’t feel at all held back by the whiteboard tool. I got things wrong because either I didn’t have a solid plan or just plain made mistakes.
We’ve also had feedback from students taking the online GMAT that echoes the above. The tool isn’t necessarily going to suppress your GMAT score.
Yeah, it’s clunky depending on how you use it
Zero disadvantage doesn’t mean that you won’t sometimes feel like the whiteboard is limiting. Mousing around doing math isn’t ideal. That said, there is a difference between feeling a bit boxed in by the tool and having that actually impact your score.
With a little GMAT whiteboard fine tuning you can reduce and perhaps even eliminate that clunky, stuck in the mud, whiteboard feeling. Use it for its strengths: Undo is great. The unlimited canvas is great. There are times I really appreciate the keyboard for how neat and focused it is. Also, not being able to create mountains of math may be a good thing. More planning. Less scribble.
GMAT Online Whiteboard Deserves a Fair Trial (for your own sake)
The Online GMAT and the unloved whiteboard have been skewered in the GMAT forums. There is an outpouring of spite for this test and for its maker, GMAC. Yes, GMAC can be tone-deaf. Yes, learning a new tool after you’ve already crushed yourself with GMAT studying over the past year is frustrating. No, I wouldn’t choose to do math with a mouse over paper.
Still, considering in-person testing is still far off I would strongly suggest giving the online whiteboard and GMAT Online a fair shake.
My earlier thinking was: well, even if the online test + whiteboard is limiting it’s still great practice. Now, I feel like in most important ways it’s nearly identical to the in-person test and we should go at it with a positive attitude full force!
Again, even in my non-ideal conditions (very tired, out of practice in terms of timing) my score matched four other Official GMAT Quant sections I’ve taken in the past bunch of years.
How long to master the GMAT whiteboard?
The time required depends a bit on the profile. Some GMAT studiers will snap right into place while others may require more work to achieve an effective workflow.
Without considering flaws in the actual critical thinking/problem solving approach and just thinking about acclimating to the whiteboard I would plan for 10-15 hours of GMAT study time over 7-10 days.
I would include 60 or so practice questions (broken up into 6×10 question sets) to get a process in place and do two official practice tests. Ideally do quant and verbal but if time is an issue just do quant.
I’d emphasize that with the whiteboard in play it’s even more important to work on official GMAT materials. GMAT questions are designed to require few if any heavy-duty calculations. Third-party materials don’t always conform so it may be very frustrating to work on with the whiteboard.
Here’s how you could schedule the whiteboard preparation:
Day 1: Read about whiteboard best practices. Take Quant Set 1 to get broadly acquainted and to start developing a workflow. Take this set untimed so there’s no panic and you can work on your process.
Day 2: Take Quant Set 2 Untimed. Continue refining your process.
Day 3: Take Quant Set 3. Take this one timed to start aligning your process with test day constraints.
Day 4: Take Quant 4 Timed. Continue consolidating.
Day 5: Official GMAT Practice Test 1 to apply what you’ve worked on.
Day 6: Day Off!
Day 7: Take Quant Set 5 Timed. Continue consolidating.
Day 8: Take Quant Set 6 Timed. Continue consolidating.
Day 9: Official GMAT Practice Test 2
Studying GMAT 24/7? I could see this being compacted to 6 days or so.
Let’s not forget Verbal!
Yes, GMAT verbal matters. A lot. It’s not really affected by whiteboard-gate so it’s being left out of the general GMAT conversation of late but it’s still incredibly important to keep sharp. And, hey, if you’re feeling a bit anxious about how your quant is going to mix with the clunk-board then hedge yours bets by investing in the verbal side of the test.
Even in the best of times verbal gets short shrift so let’s make sure to keep it on the up and up. Also, it tends to be that verbal reasoning improvement helps on quant as well. In addition the more you focus on your reasoning and critical thinking skills the more seamless you’ll find the online whiteboard experience.
Solid GMAT Skills Make the Whiteboard a Non-Issue.
In our GMAT tutoring program, we emphasize active reading, planning, and setup as critical components of GMAT success.That organization-first mindset will serve you extremely well on the GMAT Online. Basically, if you’ve learned GMAT the right way the whiteboard isn’t a barrier and sometimes it’s an advantage. You can do this!
Andrew Geller is the founder of AtlanticGMAT.com.
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