Test Day Confidence: Five Things to Do Before Taking the GMAT Online Exam

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Being prepared and knowing what to expect from the GMAT Online exam can go a long way toward boosting your confidence and earning your best score.

It’s understandable if you’re a little nervous before your GMAT Online exam appointment, but there’s no reason to feel any added anxiety about the online testing experience. A little knowledge can go a long way: knowing what to expect, preparing, and visualizing your success will give you the confidence you need to achieve your best score.

Here are five simple things you can do ahead of your test day to ensure you’ll be ready when it counts.

1. Master the online whiteboard

An important new feature of the online exam is the online whiteboard, which you’ll have access to throughout the entire exam to work through equations, use for scratch work, and take notes on. During the test you access it simply by clicking the icon that says “Whiteboard” at the top of the screen, and you can resize or move the whiteboard around your screen as you move through the exam.

The number one piece of advice from those who have taken the GMAT Online exam is to take time to get familiar with the whiteboard before you take the exam. Especially for the Quant section, knowing how to best utilize the whiteboard for different types of questions will be important to moving through the section with speed and accuracy (read more about practicing for the exam like it’s the real thing below).

To help you get familiar with the online whiteboard, the makers of the GMAT exam created a practice tool that has all the same functionality as the version you’ll use on test day. Try it out now!

As you practice, keep these whiteboard tips in mind:

  • The power of the pan and zoom tools. The pan tool allows you to click and drag to move around the infinite canvas of the whiteboard, and the zoom in and zoom out buttons allow you to do just that: zoom in and out. With these tools, you can’t run out of space, so no need to erase or clear anything you don’t want to.

  • Undo rather than erase. Another reason to avoid the eraser is that you have a handy undo button. If you make a mistake while in the flow of working out a problem, you’ll probably find it’s easier to hit the undo button quickly than to use the eraser tool.

  • Text boxes and your keyboard are your friends. In many instances, creating a text box and using your keyboard to write things out can be easier and faster than using the pencil tool with your mouse. To create a text box, simply select “text” from the menu on the left and click where you want to place it on the whiteboard. Click the corner of the text box and drag it to expand the box horizontally. To expand vertically, click into the box and hit enter several times.

  • Use the shapes tools for geometry. The different shape tools (ellipse, rectangle, and polygon) work perfectly for geometry problems. Use them!

  • Optimize your mouse. If testing on a laptop, you may want to consider using an external mouse, as opposed to your laptop trackpad. Another consideration is adjusting your mouse speed. Some test takers are reported that reducing their mouse pointer speed to about 25 percent give them more control and precision in using the pencil feature. Experiment during your practice and find the speed that works best for you!

2. Think ahead about preparing your environment

You don’t want any surprises or added anxiety on test day, so give some thought beforehand to where you’ll take the exam and understand fully what you need to do to ensure the space is in accordance with test policy. Wherever you test, you should be in a walled room with a closed door. Keep in mind that if your workspace does not pass the room scan as a part of check-in (more on check-in below), you will not be permitted to take the exam—so don’t overlook this part of your prep!

On test day, your work surface will need to be clean and you can’t be within arm’s reach of any books, notepads, sticky notes, papers, pens, pencils, and other writing instruments or objects. Items on the wall with writing on them, such as whiteboards, will be inspected as a part of the room scan.

Read more on the prepare your test-taking environment page.

The GMAT Online exam can be taken on both Windows and Mac personal computers and laptops. Before test day, be sure to do a system test to ensure you are able to take the exam on your preferred computer. The day before your appointment, Pearson will send you an email with a link to download the necessary software to allow the proctor to observe your computer remotely.

A stable internet connection is needed for the exam. If your Wi-Fi connection is spotty at all, consider connecting to the internet via a hard line ethernet cable. Keep in mind that during the exam you can only use one monitor. If you’re using a laptop, make sure you’re plugged in before starting. If you’re using a wireless keyboard or mouse, consider putting in fresh batteries.

Read more on the system requirements for the GMAT Online exam page.

Many online test takers so far have noted that they really liked being able to test at home in a space that they could control. When asked what they liked most about the GMAT Online exam, one said:

“[I liked] being able to be in my own home and not having any distractions.” –Test taker from the United States

Take a moment to consider how you’ll achieve this in your home during your test. Are there family members or roommates you should let know before hand? Is there a time when you can schedule your exam for that may be quieter in your home (for example, when your spouse is working or when your children are asleep)? Take this into account when setting your appointment (read more in the last section below!).

3. Know what to expect during check-in

On test day, you should log in about 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam start time to allow time for the check-in process.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll be asked to pair your cell phone via a text message link. Then you’ll be prompted to take a picture of yourself and your valid ID (for example, passport or driver’s license). You’ll also be asked to take pictures of the four sides of your surroundings. This ensures your testing space complies with the exam policies and procedures and ensures fairness for all examinees.

The GMAT Online exam is remote proctored, meaning human proctors (supported by AI technology) monitor your session and workspace throughout your session via live video and audio feed, which is recorded. Your proctor will check the photos you took before the start of the exam and you’ll speak with them as they verify your identity and make sure you’re ready to go before activating the exam session.

For more, visit the policies and procedures page.

On test day, you’ll go straight from check-in into the live exam, so be prepared! 

4. Prep like it's the real thing

There’s no better way to prep for the exam than to mimic what the experience will be on your actual testing day. And now that the GMAT exam has moved online, this has both never been easier and never been more important. It’s easier in the sense that you can do a practice exam on the same computer in the same space you’ll do it on your testing day, and more important in the sense that some of the new tools and policies of the online exam require some practice to get comfortable with. 

Access your two free GMAT Official Practice Exams and purchase additional prep products here!

Here are some suggestions for your exam prep:

  • Mimic the environment.Do a full practice test in the space where you’ll do the real test, using the same computer setup you’ll use (remember, you can only use one monitor). Close the door and don’t let anyone interrupt you and only allow yourself water in a clear glass. No scratch paper or physical whiteboard—use only the practice online whiteboard.

  • Practice using the fixed section order.The GMAT Online has a fixed section order of Quant first, followed by Verbal, followed by Integrated Reasoning. Work through your practice exams in this order to get used to the flow.

  • Practice having one five-minute break. On test day you’ll only be allowed one optional break five-minute break between the Verbal and Integrated Reasoning sections. You will have 60 seconds to decide if you want to take advantage of the break before the next section begins. This is your opportunity during the test to be off camera, to use the bathroom, and to access food or comfort items such as tissues or cough drops.

  • Do a complete test at the time of your test appointment.To really get a sense of how you’ll feel on test day, do a complete run through at the time of day you’ll do the actual test. This will help you get in the mindset of visualizing what it will actually be like, as well as help you predict any interruptions on your test day.

5. Take advantage of being able to test 24/7 from home

The GMAT Online exam offers unprecedented convenience and flexibility with the ability to take it from the comfort of your own home at any time that works well for you—24 hours a day, seven days a week. Post-exam survey findings show that this is a major help to many test takers. One said that what they liked most about the GMAT Online exam was:

“Being able to take it in a time frame that met my schedule and not having to miss work for the exam.” –Test taker from the United States

Take full advantage of this and schedule your exam for the time works the best for you and may help you optimize your performance. Do you feel sharpest first thing in the morning? Book an early exam time. Worried your spouse, roommates, or kids will disturb you? Book an exam time that works around the times when they’re most disruptive. Remember you can register for an exam appointment up to 24 hours before.

Keep these things in mind and you’ll be ready to do your best when it counts. Have you reserved your testing appointment yet? Register today!


The quotations used in this article are from the GMAT Online exam follow-up survey and are used with the permission of the examinees.

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