The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) recently announced that the GMAT Online, a take-at-home version of the GMAT introduced in April 2020 in response to COVID restrictions on public gatherings, is to become a permanent option for test-takers. At the same time, GMAC added the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) to the GMAT Online and made several other updates.
The GMAC, which administers and manages the GMAT, swiftly rolled out the GMAT Online for business school applicants who weren’t able to reach a test center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, there were a number of differences between the GMAT Online, and the traditional version taken in test centers, but over the last few months GMAC has been acting to close the gap between the two experiences.
Updates to the GMAT online
As well as the addition of the AWA, the GMAC announced that GMAT Online users will now have more flexibility to take breaks and choose the order in which they complete the sections of the exam. GMAT Online candidates can now take two optional eight-minute breaks – one between the Quant and Verbal sections and one before or after the AWA and the Integrated Reasoning sections, which is the same as those offered to test center candidates.
Candidates who take the GMAT Online will also now be able to see an unofficial score immediately after completing the exam and can book an online exam up to six months in advance.
If you prefer to avoid having to do the AWA section, there’s still time to do so. If you take the exam before April 7th, 2021, you’ll receive the AWA-free version.
GMAC chief product officer and general manager of assessments Joy Jones said that the changes are part of an ongoing commitment to improving the GMAT experience. “We’re focused on providing the flexibility and support to address the long-term needs of schools and test-takers,” Jones said, adding, “We’ll continue to make investments that support our schools and test-takers with enhanced and comparable online and test-center exam experiences.”
GMAC has been constantly striving to improve the GMAT Online as part of their struggle to remain competitive against the GRE. Since its rollout in April 2020, the GMAC has added better accommodations for candidates with disabilities, improved its whiteboard option, and chosen to allow candidates to retake the online exam.
Aligning test experiences is a positive development
Business school candidates and educational consultants have been broadly positive about the new announcement, although a number have pointed out that the GMAT itself is less relevant as many schools now waive the requirement for an entrance exam.
The main impact of these changes is that the online and test center experiences are now more closely aligned, which gives business schools and candidates more confidence in the fairness of the test.
The addition of the AWA section lengthens the at-home test by an extra 30 minutes, but it also allows candidates more opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities. Some GMAT Online candidates had felt nervous that their results wouldn’t be taken as seriously as in-person ones, because of the lack of the AWA section.
Allowing at-home exam candidates to see an unofficial score immediately after taking the test also makes a big difference. Many had preferred to take the exam in person simply to receive their results more quickly, so that they can meet deadlines and make decisions about their next steps.
There is still one significant difference between the online and in-person versions of the exam. Test-takers can take GMAT Online a maximum of two times. They can take the in-person version a maximum of five times in a 12-month period and a total maximum of eight times.
Nonetheless, with these updates, the decision between taking the GMAT in a test center or online is now a matter of personal preference. Business schools have made it clear that they don’t mind which version you take, so it’s down to personal factors like access to reliable internet, proximity to a test center, distractions when taking the test at home, and concerns about COVID-19. Consultants have also pointed out that testing stress can affect a candidate’s performance, sometimes by well over 100 points. Taking the test at home can reduce exam stress and help candidates perform at their best.
Overall, it can only be good news to business school applicants to have more options for taking the GMAT and a more equal experience for at-home and in-person tests.
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