GMAT™ Online vs. GMAT™ Test Center Exam: Which Is Right For You?

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Both the GMAT Online and the GMAT test center exam can help you stand out in the business school admissions process, but… which is the better fit for you?

We break it down so you can decide for yourself.

GMAT Online vs. GMAT Test Center Exam: What’s the same, what’s different, and what it means for you

To help guide your decision making, we’ve put together this quick reference guide to help outline the similarities and differences between the two testing formats. We’ll also highlight some questions you should consider about yourself and your preferences to ensure that you find the best option for you and your business school goals.

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The exams themselves

Nearly everything about the tests themselves are the same. The score scaling for the Section Scores and Total Score are identical; the key difference is that the GMAT Online exam does not include the Analytical Writing Assessment.

What it means for you: If choosing your section order gives you confidence and is important to you, the test-center based exam may be your best option. Similarly, if writing is your strong suit and you feel it could be a key differentiator for you in the admissions process, that’s a point in favor of taking the test center exam.

image of table A from GMAT online vs. in person exam

Registration, scheduling, and the ability to retest

Both the online and test-center based exams offer appointments seven days a week, with the online exam offering the added flexibility of being able to test 24 hours a day.

A new feature of the GMAT Online exam is that retesting is now permitted. You can take the online exam twice with a minimum 16-day gap between appointments. The test center-based exam may be taken once every 16 days no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total. Online exams count toward the lifetime total of eight attempts. 

What it means for you: If you’re busy and need flexibility with the timing for your testing appointment, you can’t beat the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week flexibility of the online exam. On the other hand, if you anticipate a need to retest, keep in mind that you get more total attempts with the test center-based exam. will have to do so in a test center.

2020 GMAT online vs. test-center graphic

The testing experiences

As you might imagine, the testing experience will feel a little different if you opt to take the exam at home versus at the test center. The convenience of the online exam comes with some minor added effort, specifically, ensuring your testing space is in accordance with test policy and your computer meets the system requirements.

A difference between the two testing options is breaks during the exam. The test center exam offers two optional eight-minute breaks, whereas the online test has just one five-minute break. Both testing options allow for scratch work. The online exam allows you to use your own qualifying physical whiteboard and an online whiteboard. The test center will provide you with a five-page laminated booklet and two dry erase markers.

While both exam options offer the disability accommodations of extended time and breaks, the test center offers additional support options, including human readers, scribes, and assistive technology.

What it means for you: If you live far from a test center and convenience is a priority, then the online exam is likely your best bet. Of course, the online exam requires an available quiet space at home, and a reliable internet connection. If you qualify for disability accommodations beyond extended time and breaks, the test center is likely also your choice.

Beyond convenience, another point to consider with the online exam is the flexibility of being able to use both a physical whiteboard and the online whiteboard. As you prep, experiment with the online whiteboard and determine if it adds to your ability to quickly and accurately move through the exam.

image of table B from GMAT online vs. in person exam

After the test: Receiving, sending, and cancelling your scores

At the test center, you choose up to five programs to receive your score before the test, and you preview your score immediately after the test. With the online exam, you receive your score within seven business days, and then decide whether or not to send score reports to as many programs as you like for no additional cost.

What it means for you: If you don’t think you can handle the suspense of waiting seven business days to get your scores, consider the test center, where you can know how you did immediately.

image of table D from GMAT online vs. in person exam

No matter which option you choose, you can test confidently

Ultimately, the choice between the GMAT Online and the GMAT test center exams is one of personal preference, and you can make your choice with the confidence that more than 7,000 graduate business school programs accept GMAT exam scores worldwide. Remember, the GMAT exam is more than just a test; it’s an opportunity to showcase your talent and elevate yourself to reach your highest aspirations and realize your potential.

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