GMAT Online vs. In-Center: Which format is best for you? The test centers are opening again, and the new normal has set in: Which exam format should you take? This article compares the two forms, examining their similarities and differences.

Let’s start with the six enhancements made in the recent update to the GMAT enhanced Online exam: 

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): AWA selection is now available in online GMAT similar to test-center GMAT    
  2. Instant Score Preview: View your unofficial scores 20 seconds after pressing the submit button.   
  3. Select section order: Select the order in which you want to attempt the sections, just like the test-center exam.   
  4. Optional Breaks: Get two optional breaks of eight-minute each exactly the way you used to have at the test-center exam. 
  5. Aadhar Card as Proof of identity (for Indian candidates): You can now use your Aadhar card instead of your passport as proof of identity to take the GMAT Online exam.  
    However, recommend you to have your passport ready in case the Aadhar upload fails. You may also want to confirm that the name you use for your registration and profile is the same as the one on your Aadhar card.    Finally, be sure that your Aadhaar card is linked to your mobile phone number. For more information on this visit: https://www.mba.com/information-and-news/legal/aadhaar  
  6. Internet connectivity: You’ll need at least 1.5 MBPS bandwidth to pass the system requirement need to take the GMAT Online exam.  

 

So, with these 6 new enhancements, it is easy to see how GMAT Online might seem like the obvious choice. However, before you go ahead and register for the exam, there are some pros and cons that you should consider.

Here are the parameters on which we have compared the two exam formats: 

GMAT Online Vs. In-Center Exam – Key Differences

  GMAT Online Vs. In-Center 
Content and Structure   Four sections, to be completed in the order of your choosing.  

Quant – Verbal – Integrated Reasoning – Analytical Writing  

Duration   3 hours 7 mins (not including breaks)  
Order  
  1. AWA – IR – Quant -Verbal  
  2. Verbal – Quant – IR – AWA  
  3. Quant – Verbal – IR – AWA  

 

Registration   mba.com  
No of attempts   Five in 12 months / Eight in lifetime  

Up to two attempts for online, included in the above limits  

Exam cost   USD $ 250   USD $250  
Rescheduling fee  
  • $25 

 

  • 1 to 14 days prior to appointment: $150  
  • 15 to 60 days prior to appointment: $100  
  • More than 60 days prior to appointment: $50  
Cancellation fee  
  • Can Cancel 24 hours before the appointment, with a fee of $100 

 

  • 1 to 14 days prior to appointment: $200 ($50 refund)  
  • 15 to 60 days prior to appointment: $175 ($75 refund)  
  • More than 60 days prior to appointment: $150 ($100 refund)  
Reporting scores to schools   You can send your scores to 5 schools for free. Extra $35 for additional school*   You can send your scores to 5 schools for free. Extra $35 for additional school  
Scoring        
Section & total scores   Same   Same  
Score validity   5 years  
Score scale   200 – 800 Total  

6-51 Q & V / 1-8 IR / 0-6 AWA  

Score access  
  • Unofficial score at the end of exam
  • cannot print/screenshot
  • official score within 3 weeks 
  • Unofficial score at Test centre
  • can print official score within 3 weeks  
Cancelling the score   Not allowed   Allowed  
Score Preview Flexibility   Review and decide after exam, via mba.com   Preview and accept / cancel at Test centre  
Score reporting   5 Free score reports before exam  

  

Additional Score reports for fee after exam – USD $35  

Experience & Policies        
Place   Take the exam at your location   At test centre and wear a mask while taking the test  
Material   Online or physical whiteboard option   Scratchpad  
Breaks   2 Breaks: 8 mins each   2 Breaks: 8 mins each  
Retaking   2 Retakes allowed   5 times in 12 months, but no within any 16-day period.  
Appointment Availability   Available around the clock   Available 7 days a week during the testing centre operating hours  

Similarities: GMAT Exam Online and In-center Exam

Exam structure 

Currently, the GMAT online exam is identical to the Test center-based GMAT Exam due to a critical change made to the online test recently:  

 AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) is now part of the GMAT Exam Online. That includes the addition of a 30-minute AWA section that you will see.   

      • Both Online and test centers now get a Two optional 8-minute break   
      • The online test offers the same order as the test center, so you can choose the order you want to complete the GMAT sections.

Scores

The GMAT Online score is valid for five years, similar to the test center exam.   

You can also view the score you receive at the end of the exam and send it to five schools for free. Beyond that $35 fee is charged for every additional school.  

Both the exam formats are calculated using the same algorithm. 

Whether you take the GMAT Online or In-center Exam?, your scores will now include total, quantitative, verbal, IR, and AWA scores.  

Also ReadUnderstanding GMAT Percentiles and Scores

Registration Process  

GMAT Online exam registration fees have been revised to $250 per exam to match the In-center exam registration fees effective April 07, 2021.  

You can register for either of the exams on the mba.com account through My account and can take up to two GMAT online tests.  

Are the Test scores comparable?  GMAT Online Vs. In-Center Exam – Key Differences:

The total scores from the Quant and Verbal sections are used to calculate the overall score. Therefore, taking the GMAT Online or In-center Exam does not differ in how scores are calculated.  

The score validity remains the same between both exams, i.e. 5 years.  

Difference between – GMAT Online vs. In-Center

Let’s continue with the differences between the two exam formats now.   

Test Appointments and Availability

Both formats (GMAT Online or In-center Exam) offer GMAT test dates throughout the year.

The benefit of choosing the GMAT Online is that you can schedule your exam at a convenient time. This works great for professionals who work full-time.  

Another benefit with GMAT Online, you can schedule appointments on a rolling 6-month basis and in 30-minute intervals around the clock.

Whereas, if you take the in-center exam, you will have to choose a location near you and sign up for the available time slots.  

However, if you live: Mainland China (NEEA), & regulatory restrictions (Iran, N.Korea, Sudan, Cuba), an In-center exam is the only option available for you.  

System requirements  

When deciding between GMAT Online or In-center Exam, it’s essential to consider your computer’s operating system and software.  

You will need to be equipped will all the materials at home that the Test centers usually provide.   

  • Computer   
  • Desk   
  • Chair   
  • Scratch paper   
  • pens  

 

To ensure that your computer will handle the demands of an online exam, run a “System requirement for the online test” on your computer.  Taking the GMAT online is no different than taking the test in person, since here also, you will be closely monitored by a remote proctor. Therefore, you need to have a working webcam, microphone, and speaker as part of your computer system requirements.

 

Whiteboard options  

At the Test-center, you will be given a laminated scratch-pad (at the size of a legal pad) and a dry-erase marker for doing all scratch work and taking notes during the exam.   

While, in the GMAT Online exam, you are given the option of either using a virtual, erasable whiteboard (that is accessible within the exam of your computer) or an erasable physical whiteboard (if available with you).   

Specifications for physical whiteboard:   

  • 12 X 20 inch   
  • 2 dry-erase markers   
  • 1 eraser

The Online whiteboard allows you to type text and draw shapes and lines with a virtual pen or using forms and line creation tools.   

 Now that we have covered the system requirements between GMAT Online and In-center exams let move on to the difference between the two testing environments.  

Also read: GMAC Allows Physical Whiteboard on Online GMAT

Testing environment  

Whether you are taking your GMAT at home or the test center surrounded by other test-takers, the experience will be different.    

With Covid regulation still being followed in most parts of the world, taking the exam at the Test center means that you will be required to wear a mask at all times.   

Whereas GMAT Exam online allows taking the exam in your space without the worry of using public space. Make sure to choose a spot with no distractions (of people walking by or loud TV blaring through the wall).

However, remember that based on GMAC regulations, you are allowed to have only necessities such as a water bottle on your desk, with snacks stored nearby to access during your optional breaks. 

Next up, with the testing requirements covered, let’s discuss remote-proctored exams vs. in-person proctor exams.

 

Remote proctor  

 As in the case of test administrators available at In-center exams, a remote proctor is also made available for GMAT Online to monitor test-takers throughout the exam and answer any questions that you may have regarding the exams or address any computer issues.    

The difference here is that the remote proctor will view and listen to you through your computer’s webcam and mic.  

For any questions you have during the exam, you can initiate communication by clicking a chat button on top of your computer screen. (Note, the remote proctor is available only for the English language)   

Therefore whether GMAT online exam or In-center, the role of a test administrator or remote proctor remains the same. They can stop your exam at any point in time if they see that you are not complying with the GMAT rules.   

There are several differences between in-center tests and GMAT exams when it comes to check-in. Here’s how it works…  

 

Check-in process  

If taking an In-center Exam, it’s best to arrive at the GMAT testing center about 30 minutes before the scheduled test time, so you have enough time to check in. You may store personal items in the locker outside the exam room to maximize your waiting time while other test-takers check-in.

 As part of the check-in process, you will be required to present a valid form of identification, and the test administrator will take a photograph of you and record your palm vein pattern.

On the other hand, GMAT Exam Online allows you to log in 15 minutes with your computer’s webcam before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process with the remote proctor.  

To start with, you’ll take a headshot photo of yourself like like and show your ID on the webcam. You’ll then have to share a 360-degree room scan with your remote proctor to confirm that your workplace complies with GMAT Online rules. 

 

Accommodations  

Although both the in-person and online GMAT allows for accommodations that test-takers can request if necessary, only the in-person exam provides accommodations for some types of needs that the online version cannot accommodate.  

The GMAT In-center exam format also supports visually impaired test takers by allowing readers to read items, a recorder who can record their responses, and special software to answer questions.  

Regardless of which format you are opting for, it is advised to wait till you schedule your test appointment before finalizing your accommodation.   

Next up, we’ll go through another significant difference between the GMAT Online exam & the In-center exam – Score reporting.  

 

Score reporting and sending  

As of April 08, 2021, all GMAT test-takers, irrespective of taking the exam online or In-center, get to see their unofficial scores (minus the AWA section) on their computer screens upon completion of their exam. Test takers who have their tests scored at the testing center will also receive a printout of their unofficial scores.

GMAT Online exams do not allow students to cancel their scores, but the same option is available in the In-center exam.

It is also important to note that separate score reports are maintained for the GMAT Online exam and In-center exams. So, if you have multiple attempts, you get an option to select which online attempt you wish to send scores from.   

However, if you have multiple attempts comprising In-center and online exams, you still have to send scores from that particular attempt.  

For online scores, your official scores will be posted on mba.com within 7 days of your test date. You can then go ahead and select the score recipients.    

With the recent updates, both Online and In-centers exam formats allow you to send your scores to up to 5 schools. Beyond that, for every extra recipient, you will be charged USD 35   

Your scores are valid for 5 years after your test date for both test formats.   

While GMAT Online may look like an obvious choice, In-center cuts the bill with the option to get an Enhanced Score Report.  

 

Enhanced Score Report (ESR)  

ESR gives you 10 pages of broad data about what happened in your GMAT exam. It doesn’t tell the particular question or section name but an overview of the areas of weakness, how quickly you went through the test, and what types of questions you missed.   

The option to download the ESR report is one of the biggest differences in taking the GMAT Online exam vs. In-center exam.   

The GMAT Online exam does not currently have the ESR feature yet. This means you will miss out on the critical areas that will help you to focus if you are going to retake the GMAT again in the future.   

Having reviewed how scores are reported for each exam, we can now discuss the number of times you can take each exam.   

 

Retaking exam  

Regardless of taking the Online or offline exam, every test taker can sit for the GMAT up to 8 times. The catch here is that, not more than 5 attempts are allowed in 12 months.   

What differs between opting for GMAT Online is the number of times you can sit for either exam. You can sit for GMAT Online only twice. That means out of the allowable 8 attempts, only 2 are allowed in the online format i.e you are permitted one retake of the online test from an overall allowed 2 GMAT attempts.    

Whereas within the allowable limit of 8 times, you can take your In-center exam any number of times during a 12-month period.   

Whether you take GMAT Online or In-center, you still have to wait at least 16 days before sitting for your next GMAT.  

 

GMAT Online – pros and Cons   

Pros   

  • Round the clock test appointment   
  • Having two whiteboard options – physical & virtual   
  • No commuting needed – check in time – 15 minutes before the scheduled test time.   

Cons   

  • Access to official score after 7 days from the test date   
  • Score cancellation is not allowed   
  • The score report includes only the exam date you selected   
  • No access to ESR   
  • A total of 2 attempts allowed from an overall 8 attempts   

Which exam do the B-schools prefer?   

With the recent updates to GMAT online, you can stop worrying over which format of GMAT is considered more by B-schools.   

All MBA programs now view both online and in-center exams scores equally.  

 

Checklist for taking GMAT Online  

Are you ready to take the GMAT Online exam? Ask yourself the following questions before scheduling your test:

  1. Does my test location meet all the requirements in terms of having interruption-free?   
  2. If the answer to the above question is no, have you finalized an accommodation sufficient for your needs?   
  3. Does my computer meet all the system requirements ie functional webcam, microphone, and speakers?   
  4. If I need to bring my whiteboard, will I purchase one with the correct dimensions, dry erase markers, and erasers before the scheduled test date?   

 

Takeaway:

I hope you will use the information in this article to decide if taking the GMAT online or at a testing center is the right choice for you. If you have any questions in mind, please ask them in the comments section below or book a free consultation call with us today.  

 

Still confused on which exam to choose? I recommend you go through the side-by-side comparison again shared at the start of this article to evaluate your options.