GMAT online test Vs GMAT in-center test differences

GMAT Online Test

Update 9/23/2020: Beginning September 23rd, GMAT online exam can be taken twice. Also, GMAt Online has introduced a cancellation and reschedule fee.

Update 9/2/2020: Starting end of September’20, GMAT online can be retaken 2 times.

As you probably know, traditionally GMAT test needs to be taken physically in a GMAC authorized test center. However, to avoid disruption in the academic cycle and to support the MBA aspirants, GMAC responded admirably to the pandemic with an online (at-home) version of the GMAT test.

However, with the test centers resuming in all parts of the world, you have got a decision to make – Choose GMAT Online or In-center Exam?

As per the current understanding (August 2020), the GMAT online will only be offered till end of year 2020. If the pandemic continues, there is a possibility that the GMAT online format will be extended beyond the Dec 31, 2020 timeframe.

However, with the test centers resuming in all parts of the world, you have got a decision to make – Choose GMAT Online or In-center Exam? To help you decide between the GMAT in-center and the GMAT online exam, we have put together a list of differences along with advantages and disadvantages that GMAT online has over the in-center Exam.

We have made the comparisons based on the following parameters that impact you as an MBA aspirant. The differences that impact your:

Acceptance of GMAT In-Center Test vs Online Test

From what we understand, GMAT Online is NOT accepted everywhere GMAT In-center is accepted. Hence it is upto the MBA aspirant to do the research and make sure that their GMAT Online score will be accepted to the university they are applying to. This is an important difference!

GMAT Online is not automatically accepted in every university that accepts GMAT In-Center.

Your GMAT scores

In-Center ExamOnline Exam
Number of sectionsFour (4): AWA, IR, Quant, VerbalThree (3): IR, Quant, Verbal
No AWA
DurationApprox. 3h 7m
Excl. 30 min checkin
Approx. 2h 37m
Excl. 15 min checkin
BreaksTwo optional 8-min breaksOne optional 5-min break, before the IR section
Exam Section OrderFlexible, Three choices:
AWA → IR → Quant → Verbal.
Verbal → Quant → IR → AWA.
Quant → Verbal → IR → AWA.
Fixed:
Quant -> Verbal -> IR
WhiteboardPhysical scratchpadPhysical whiteboard (max 12″x20″)
OR
Online whiteboard
Score cancellationYes, before seeing the scoresNot allowed
Score AvailabilityImmediately after your GMAT exam5-7 business days after your exam

Per GMAC, the section order doesn’t impact the test takers’ score much. However, we haven’t seen the data behind this take and in our opinion – intuitively, it feels like a big difference. The inflexibility in the section order, along with no break between quant and verbal sections is one of the biggest disadvantage of the online GMAT exam.

Your mindset (and indirectly your GMAT scores)

In-Center ExamOnline Exam
LocationCommute to a physical location.Comfort of your home.
EquipmentProvided to you.Your own. Run compatibility check. Possible compatibility issues. Possible internet issues.
Test conditionsRequired to wear a mask. Secluded space within home.

The at-home location is one of the biggest pro in favor of online gmat exam. The commute to the GMAT test center location is a long documented stress inducer. A lot can go wrong due to the commute and it also ads to the overall test time.

On the flip side, since you will be using your own equipment, you will need to run compatibility test multiple times on your system. If there is a problem with that or it takes longer, test takers have mentioned it can cause stress. Also, for online version, you need to make sure you have absolutely working internet otherwise you may face disruption.

Your finances

In-Center ExamOnline Exam
Registration fee$275 (in US, differs worldwide)$250
Rescheduling feeDepends on location and advance notice.Temporarily waived. As of 9/23, $25.
Cancellation feeDepends on location and advance notice.Temporarily waived. As of 9/23, $100.
Score reportingYou can send your scores to 5 schools for free. Extra $35 for additional school. Any online attempts will not be reported with this.Infinite schools for free. Only online exam results will be reported.

The online GMAT exam is cheaper than the In-Center one. It also comes with an added benefit of score reporting to unlimited number of schools. This is a huge benefit, if you can prepare well and crack the exam, you end up saving a lot of money. For a successful test score, an MBA aspirant can save $150+ in score reporting.

Other

In-Center ExamOnline Exam
Availability24×7Can be
scheduled up to 6 months in advance. Depending on center availability
RetakesFive times in any 12 months, but no more than once in any 16-day period. There is also a lifetime limit.Update 9/2/2020: Starting end of September’20, GMAT online can be retaken 2 times.
You are not allowed. However, if you had issues, you may request a retake.

If you are looking for more information on the In-Center GMAT Exam, please check out the details here.

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