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GMAT Online Vs GMAT In A Test Center: Which Should You Choose?

With the GMAT Online Exam now a permanent solution, you’ll need to weigh up the advantages of doing the GMAT online vs in-person in a test center

Thu Feb 11 2021


In our latest Applicant Question, Stacey Koprince, from Manhattan Prep, explains how to choose between the GMAT Online Exam vs the test center GMAT.


When the GMAT Online was originally introduced it was a temporary solution, allowing business school candidates to carry on with their applications as the coronavirus pandemic forced test centers to close.

But now, the online test is here to stay, and recent changes have made the experience even closer to what you'd get at a test center.

GMAT Online Exam changes: Good news for test-takers

Overall, these changes to the GMAT Online are a win for aspiring business school students.  

Now, just like their counterparts who take the exam at a testing center, they will be able to preview unofficial test scores at the end of the exam, have the same amount of time for breaks, and select the section order in which they take the GMAT. 

But as with any business world transaction, you can’t get something for nothing. If you take the test online starting April 8, you will also have to take the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), which adds 30 minutes to the testing experience. 

When the GMAT Online first launched last April, the AWA was included only on the exam administered at testing centers. A shortened testing experience was attractive for some test takers, but writing the essay is an acceptable trade-off to get your scores right away.

Business schools are likely to feel better about the GMAT Online with this addition as it’s the only writing sample they’ll see from applicants that doesn’t include edits or suggestions from friends or admissions consultants. 

In the business world, the ability to communicate clearly is an essential skill, so the essay is an important data point for some business school admissions committees. 

New version of the GMAT online


GMAT Online vs GMAT: Key differences

The one significant remaining difference between the two GMAT experiences has to do with the scratch paper. 

At the testing center, you will be given five sheets of laminated paper. If you take the GMAT Online, you’ll have access to an online whiteboard, plus the option to use your own double-sided dry erase board. 

Some students may have a strong preference, but we don’t think it will be a differentiator for most.

Read: What GMAT Score Do I Need For A Top Master In Management?


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GMAT Online vs GMAT: Choosing the right format for you

Because the test center GMAT and the GMAT Online will be so similar, it’s really now just about preference for each individual test taker. 

One thing to keep in mind: For many test takers the GMAT Online will still be the only viable option because they don’t live near a test center. 

Given the option of driving two hours or taking it in a quiet and secure location in your home, the choice may be easy. Also keep in mind that if you register several months in advance to take the exam at a center, there’s no guarantee that the center will still be open on your test day. 

So much of what we do now, including test taking, is dependent on the status of the pandemic. Now that GMAC has made the GMAT Online a permanent offering and the test center and online experiences will be near-identical, students really do have the best of both worlds.