In this post, we’ll talk about how the GMAT Online is different than the GMAT taken in a testing center. If you have not yet read the GMAT 101 article, please start there, as this post assumes that you’ve already read it.
First, while there are a few important differences to know, overall there are very few differences between the two formats of the exam. We recommend that everyone be prepared to take the test in either format so that you have maximum flexibility by the time you’re ready to take the GMAT.
When is the GMAT Online given?
The GMAT Online is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will be available at least as long as there are test-center closures or capacity issues. It is available in most countries. The official website for the GMAT Online will tell you whether the GMAT Online is available for you to take.
How is the test different?
The GMAT Online includes all of the same question types and covers all of the same content areas as the regular GMAT. There is only one content difference: The GMAT Online has dropped the Analytical Writing Assessment (aka Essay) section of the exam.
The GMAT Online is always administered in the following section order:
- Integrated Reasoning (IR)
If you are planning to take the GMAT Online, when you take one of the official practice tests or one of ours, choose the third test order (which starts with Quant). If you know you’re not going to take the exam in a testing center, skip the essay. If you may also take the exam in the testing center, do the essay for the practice (even though you won’t get a score).
You will be able to take a 5-minute break between the Verbal and IR sections. There is no break between the Quant and Verbal sections—and that’s actually the most important detail to know.
We recommend that you plan to create an artificial 4-minute break for yourself between the Quant and Verbal sections of the exam. You will have to take time from one or both of the two sections and you will not be able to leave your seat—but you will give yourself a much-needed brain break.
If you consistently finish one of the two sections more than 4 minutes early, then take the entire time from that section. For example, if you finish early on Verbal, then let the Verbal section start but don’t start answering questions. Rather, close your eyes, look up at the ceiling, roll your neck and shoulders around, stretch out your toes, meditate. In short, take an in-seat break.
Alternatively, take 2 minutes from each section (Quant and Verbal) by guessing immediately on one extra question in each section. One question won’t change your score much, if at all, and the brain break will allow you to ensure that you don’t crash and burn due to mental fatigue during the Verbal section (which would very much hurt your score!).
How is the GMAT Online scored?
The online version of the exam is scored in exactly the same way as the testing center version—except you won’t receive an Essay score, since the online version doesn’t include that section of the exam.
How long is the GMAT Online?
The GMAT Online is a little over 2.5 hours long; it’s about 41 minutes shorter than the testing center version (30 minutes dropped for the essay; 11 minutes dropped from break time).
What are the tech requirements for the GMAT Online?
You can take the exam on a PC or Mac. You can run a system test to make sure that your system is compatible. Don’t wait! Do this well in advance of your test day.
You’ll use a mouse or a trackpad to interact with the test. You can’t use a touch-screen device or stylus. If you have a touch-screen laptop, the touch-screen functionality will not work with the test. (A touch-screen or stylus would definitely be handy, but they’ve barred this technology because not everyone can afford these items. They still have to make sure that the test is as uniform as possible for everyone.)
You’ll need to be alone in a room and ensure that you don’t have study materials within arm’s reach. You’ll give the exam proctor control over your machine and you will be recorded (video and audio) the entire time, so you have to have a working webcam, microphone, and speakers.
What are the rules for scratch paper?
You’re allowed to use a physical dry-erase whiteboard (see the official site for the specific requirements) and you’ll also have access to an online whiteboard. You actually do want to use both…but for different things. You can read our recommendations or watch us discuss them—here’s our YouTube playlist about the GMAT Online.
How long are GMAT Online scores valid?
All GMAT scores are valid for 5 years from the date of the test, whether taken in the testing center or online.
You can’t cancel your GMAT Online scores (as you can for testing center scores), but your GMAT Online scores will be kept in a separate record in your file. You can choose whether to send your scores from the online exam, your scores from the testing center exam, or both.
What do schools think about the GMAT Online?
Every admissions officer we’ve spoken with (or who has commented in a news article or other public space) has said that they’re evaluating the two versions of the exam equally in the admissions process.
The pandemic has disrupted the whole admissions process for schools, too. They want you to be able to take the test! They really don’t care whether that’s in a testing center or at home.
Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, EA, GRE, and LSAT for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests.