Tag: online GMAT

The Online GMAT: A Painful Experience

Online GMATI took the online GMAT today, in order to better understand how this new test format works. Unfortunately, I found the process to be a very frustrating experience. If you aren’t already familiar with the mechanics of the online GMAT, you should read my prior blog post on that topic before continuing.

Online GMAT Check-In

Last week, after registering for the exam, I went through the system test to ensure system compatibility. Although the system check hung a couple times, I ultimately got the system check to work and was therefore confident that my computer setup was fine. I spent some time yesterday cleaning up my home office, removing barred items such as papers / pens, and disconnecting my second monitor. So I was ready to go this morning.

I started the check-in process 15 minutes before my scheduled test time, completing the check-in procedure in 12 minutes. Everything proceeded smoothly, replicating what I experienced during the system check. On the last check-in screen, the OnVue browser informed me that a proctor will start the exam soon, within 10 minutes for most test takers.

Where’s the Proctor?

missing proctorAfter waiting 15 minutes, I started waiving and speaking into my webcam, hoping to get someone’s attention. After 20 minutes, still nothing. And after 25 minutes, still nothing. At this point, I informed my webcam that I need to contact someone for help and so would use my cell phone.

The Pearson system does not provide any way to get in touch with someone for help. The chat dialog was not yet present, nor was there any phone number or other contact information. I looked up the number for GMAC Customer Service. I tried calling twice, but both times just received a busy signal; the phone lines were probably overwhelmed.

So I decided to close the OnVue browser open on my computer and try again. I went back to my MBA.com account to restart the test, and fortunately I was able to do so. I had to go through the entire check-in procedure from scratch before again reaching the “proctor will be with you within 10 minutes” screen.

After 10 minutes of patiently waiting, there was no proctor. After 15 minutes, still no proctor. Once again, I started waiving and speaking into my webcam, hoping to get someone’s attention. After 20 minutes, just as I was about to close the OnVue browser again, a proctor finally announced her presence by placing a chat box on my screen.

Proctoring Experience

The proctor asked me to show (in my webcam) both the front and back of my eyeglasses and both the front and back of my wrists. Surprisingly, the proctor did not ask me to use my webcam to give her a 360-degree view of my room, as I was expecting. My online test then officially started.

During the exam itself, I could see that the system was recording me. But after a couple minutes, I was so focused on the exam questions that the monitoring was out-of-mind. Towards the middle of the Quant section, the proctor popped up the chat dialog to warn me that she heard me saying part of a question out loud. I think that I had faintly whispered a Data Sufficiency fact to myself, something along the lines of “x is an integer.” Apparently this was enough to receive a warning from the proctor. From that point onward, I had to ensure that I was completely silent; doing so made it harder to concentrate on the test questions.

Online Whiteboard

In the online GMAT, the Quantitative section comes first. I was most curious to evaluate the functionality of the online whiteboard. Since I conduct online tutoring with GMAT Genius clients, I am accustomed to using an online whiteboard. But I found the Pearson whiteboard challenging to use.

The text tool was clunky at best. It kept defaulting to 18 point Helvetica text, which I found quite large. Whenever I reduced the text size to a more manageable 12 or 14 point, it defaulted back to 18 point with the next text entry. I could not set the size of a text box, and at times the text box automatically word-wrapped, to my chagrin. Since the whiteboard lacks math notation, I had to use my own shorthand for math notation, such as r(3) for square root of 3 and x^2 for x squared.

If I made the whiteboard too big, the whiteboard covered up the Answer Confirm dialog box that appears after submitting an answer to each question. So I had to reduce the size of the whiteboard, limiting how much I could type in. The whiteboard had a tendency to keep zooming in on its own, further limiting the viewable whiteboard area. To counteract this, I often had to use the zoom out tool to see what I had placed on the whiteboard.

I was lucky in that I didn’t face many complex geometry questions. I tried to recreate one complex geometry diagram in order to work through the relationships, but it was very challenging to do so with the online whiteboard. The whiteboard does have a rectangle, a circle, and a free form shape tool. But these were useless with the more complex diagram that I had to recreate.

Tested Content

I cannot share actual test content, but I can share some broad observations. In terms of the content tested, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was surprised that (as I recall) my first 5 to 6 Quant questions were all Data Sufficiency. I was quite relieved to finally see a Problem Solving question. Although there were a few challenging Quant questions, I was surprised that several Quant questions seemed very straightforward and easy. I hope that this doesn’t foreshadow a Quant score below my regular Quant 51 score.

I also found the Verbal and IR sections to be more straightforward than my prior GMAT attempts. One very complex Reading Comprehension passage (science, of course) and a couple tricky Critical Reasoning questions arose. But overall I was surprised that the test content wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting. I will post my score when I receive it, but if it’s below 760 (my lowest score to date), I will attribute the results to the online whiteboard and to my frustration level after the miserable check-in experience.

Other Issues

Need to use restroomTwo other issues are worth noting. The lack of a break between Quant and Verbal was challenging. About halfway through the Verbal section, I felt the need to use the restroom. This urge distracted me a bit during the second half of Verbal. So I was very relieved when I finally got a five minute break before Integrated Reasoning. This urge was probably exacerbated by my very lengthy (over one hour!) check-in and waiting time. If my exam had properly started within 10 minutes of checking-in the first time, this would have been less of an issue.

Second, it was very anti-climatic after finishing the exam. The OnVue browser said that I will receive my results via email within two weeks, not the seven business days that the GMAC has advertised. Then my OnVue browser closed, officially ending the exam. It really would have been nice to have the instant gratification (or pain, as the case may be) of seeing the unofficial results immediately.

On the Plus Side

The online GMAT experience wasn’t all bad. It was far more comfortable to take the exam on my computer at my own desk. I didn’t have to drive to a test center and hassle with the test center check-in procedures. It would also have been more stressful to take the test at a workstation on an unfamiliar computer at the test center. It was much less distracting to not have others in the same room as me. At a test center, there are typically 10+ other test takers who are taking various exams, and the proctor comes in and out of the testing room to assist everyone. Finally, although I would dress comfortably for a test center appointment, I could be even more comfortable at home – no shoes required!

Summary

Overall, the online GMAT was a very frustrating experience for me. I certainly hope that my situation was an aberration. No one should have to endure over one hour waiting time from starting check-in procedures to starting the exam, with 45 minutes spent staring at my computer screen, hoping that a proctor will show up. The OnVue browser states that a proctor will start the exam within 10 minutes. So it is simply unacceptable that I had to wait 25 minutes before giving up and starting over, only to wait an additional 20 minutes for a proctor. At minimum, the OnVue browser should provide a method to contact someone for help. Ideally there should also be a real-time countdown timer that states “a proctor will be with you in X minutes.” Perhaps these “opening day” kinks will be fixed over time.

Putting aside what I hope is an aberration, the online whiteboard was very clunky and challenging to use. I think that I would have been able to complete the Quant section about 10 minutes earlier if I had the regular written whiteboard instead of the online whiteboard. This may be worse for most test takers, because I am accustomed to using a (more robust) online whiteboard. To minimize further pain, I did not use the whiteboard whatsoever during Verbal and made only minimal usage during IR. I am very surprised that Pearson couldn’t have designed a more robust and user-friendly online whiteboard.

Without the problematic check-in experience that I faced and with a more functional online whiteboard (or better yet – a physical whiteboard), I may actually prefer the online GMAT, despite the other drawbacks. But I would not want to go through today’s painful online GMAT experience again any time soon.

Interim Online GMAT Now Available

Online GMAT

The online GMAT is now available.

The GMAC released information today about the “interim” online GMAT. Appointments are available every 15 minutes, 24/7, from April 20 to June 15. Depending on how the coronavirus pandemic evolves, the GMAC may extend availability beyond June 15. The online GMAT is meant to be an interim solution while Pearson VUE centers are closed due to the pandemic. This exam is available to all test takers, but is specifically intended for candidates who are currently striving to meet current Round 3 and 4 application deadlines.

The online GMAT registration fee is $200, $75 less than the regular GMAT fee. The fee to reschedule your online GMAT is $25 and to cancel is $100. You can reschedule or cancel your appointment 24 hours or more before your scheduled exam.

Technology Requirements

You can take the online GMAT on both Windows and Mac personal computers and laptops. You must have a built-in or plug-in webcam and microphone. The online proctor will use these to monitor you during the exam. You can only have one monitor attached to your computer. Headphones and headsets are prohibited.

We highly recommend that you run a system test prior to your exam to ensure system compatibility, as detailed on the GMAC’s Prepare Your Environment webpage. This process takes 15-20 minutes and entails agreeing to GMAC / Pearson policies, ensuring that you have the necessary computer equipment, and taking and submitting photos of yourself, your ID, and your environment.

Online GMAT Structure and Mechanics

The online GMAT is similar to the regular in-person GMAT, but with some very important differences. First, there is no Analytical Writing (AWA) section in the online GMAT. Second, the Select Section Order feature is not available. The order will be fixed as Quantitative first, Verbal second, and Integrated Reasoning third. Quant remains as 31 questions in 62 minutes, Verbal is 36 questions in 65 minutes, and IR is 12 questions in 30 minutes. The scoring algorithm and scoring scales will be identical to the regular GMAT.

Your workspace must be clutter-free. You cannot have any books, papers, notepads, watches, electronic devices, or writing instruments within arm’s reach. You also cannot have any food or drink with you, not even water. The proctor will conduct a room scan with your webcam. If your workspace does not pass the room scan, you will not be permitted to take the test.

You can take the online GMAT only once. The online GMAT attempt does not count towards the GMAT limits of five times within a rolling 12-month period or eight times lifetime. But if you have already exceeded these limits, you cannot take the online GMAT.

Pros and Cons of Online GMAT

One advantage of the online GMAT is that you take the exam from the comfort of your own home or office, on your own computer. This may help alleviate the stress associated with going to a physical test center. A second advantage is that you can select up to five schools to receive your score report either before or after your exam at no additional charge. A third advantage is the lower test fee.

There are several disadvantages to taking the online GMAT, relative to the regular GMAT:

  • You are allowed only one 5-minute break, before Integrated Reasoning. In other words, you must do the Quant and Verbal sections back-to-back with no break in between the sections.
  • You are not allowed to use a physical whiteboard or paper / pencil. Instead, you must use an online whiteboard built into the special OnVUE browser that delivers the exam. Users who are not accustomed to online whiteboards may find this unwieldy and challenging to use.
  • There is no Score Preview feature. Scores will be sent to you via email within seven business days of your exam date.
  • Furthermore, score cancellation options are not available. No matter how you perform, the score becomes part of your permanent GMAT record for the next five years. So be sure that you are ready to perform well before you register.
  • Enhanced Score Reports will not be available. So you will not have the opportunity to analyze your test day performance as you can with an ESR for the regular GMAT.
  • Disability accommodations (e.g. extra time) are not currently available, so those test takers who qualify are out-of-luck for now. The GMAC hopes to make this available in the “coming weeks”.

Summary

Online GMAT successAlthough the online GMAT is far from perfect, it is a viable solution for those who have been unable to take the regular GMAT due to test center closures but who need a score due to impending application deadlines. The lack of a break between Quant and Verbal and the restriction of an online whiteboard are serious limitations. But we understand that the GMAC needs to take precautions to ensure test security. If you decide to take the online GMAT, we wish you tremendous success and hope to hear positive results.

The big uncertainty for those who are not applying now is how business schools will treat online GMAT scores in the future. If you are not applying in the current admissions cycle, it may be better to wait to take the regular GMAT at a test center. Unfortunately we cannot say with certainty when those appointments will be available.