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Taking the GMAT In-Person

Taking the in-person at a test center is very different from taking the GMAT online. The procedures and experience are so different that we describe each option on a separate webpage.

Test Center Check-In and Rules

Your appointment time is the time that your test is scheduled to start. You should enter the test center 30 minutes earlier to check-in. Plan to arrive at the test center at least an additional 15 minutes earlier, to allow for traffic and other delays. If you arrive early, you can relax a bit and review some notes before entering the test center. You don’t want to become stressed because you’re running late. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late, your appointment may be cancelled and you forfeit the test fee. Come alone, because friends and relatives are not allowed to wait in the test center or have any contact with you until your test is complete.

Test Center Security

The GMAC and Pearson VUE take test center security very seriously. We highly recommend that you review the GMAT Exam Policies and Procedures document. When checking-in at the test center, you must present a current government-issued photo identification that exactly matches the name and birth date used when registering. In the U.S. and some other countries, if you are a permanent resident but not a citizen, you must present either a passport book or permanent resident card (green card). You will also be required to agree to the GMAT Terms & Conditions at the test center. A test center employee will take your digital photograph and scan your palm vein pattern for identification purposes.

Locker for Personal Items

You will be assigned a small locker for your personal belongings. Bring the absolute minimum to the test center. In particular, do not bring any study notes or books into the test center. If possible, also avoid bringing in a cell phone. Leave them in your car or behind at home. Other than the clothes you are wearing, you can bring into the testing room only your photo ID, the keys to your locker, prescription eyeglasses, and a light sweater or jacket without a hood. Bringing anything else into the testing room can lead to score cancellation. You are not allowed to bring in any food or beverage (including water), wallet or purse, watch, calculator, electronic devices, medicine, personal care items (e.g. lip balm, lotion, tissues), hat, heavy sweater or jacket, hair clip, large jewelry, earplugs, or anything else not specifically approved. If unsure, ask permission from a test center employee. A test center employee may provide you with tissues upon request to take into the testing room, but you cannot use your own.

Video Tour

Although we cover the important points on this page, we highly recommend that you watch GMAC’s Tour of the Test Center video. This video reiterates important points and gives you a visual look at an actual test center.

Please note that this video is over 14 years old and some of the information is no longer valid. In particular, you now have one break (not two), you no longer choose five schools upfront to receive scores, and you no longer decide whether to keep or cancel scores. Students now can decide which specific scores they wish to send to schools after the exam is over (as described on our score reports page).


During Your Test

GMAT whiteboard packet

Whiteboard Packet

On the GMAT, you are not allowed to use scratch paper and a pencil. Instead, the proctor issues you a whiteboard packet. This consists of five double-sided 8.5” x 14” yellow thin whiteboards with a 1/4” check pattern, spiral bound at the top. Since the first page has GMAC information on it, you effectively have nine pages to write on. You cannot erase the whiteboards. You are also given two ultra-fine-point markers; unfortunately the provided markers do not always write very well.

We suggest that you try out the marker and whiteboard in front of the proctor before the test starts; ask permission first. You can exchange your whiteboard packet or marker at any time with the proctor, and you may wish to do so during your break. Unless you write excessively or really big, the whiteboard packet should be sufficient to get you through the exam.

The Proctor

The testing room is continuously recorded and watched by the proctor. If you need any assistance during the test, raise your hand and wait for the proctor to come to you. The various students in the testing room may be taking tests other than the GMAT, on different time schedules, since many different computer-based tests are administered by Pearson VUE at its test centers.

Focus fully on your test and don’t get distracted with the proctor coming and going to assist other students. The testing room can be a bit dark, not brightly lit. The testing room environment is supposed to be quiet, but can be a little noisy with different students typing away at their respective work stations. Upon request, the proctor will provide you with disposable foam ear-plugs, but they are not very comfortable.

NDA and Test Controls

At the beginning of the test, you must agree to the GMAT Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) on the computer before proceeding. If you do not agree to the NDA within 30 seconds, you will be reminded and given another 30 seconds. If you do not accept the NDA within that timeframe, your test will automatically end and you will forfeit your test fee.

You should already be very familiar with the test instructions and controls from your advance use of the Official GMAT practice tests. For example, on each question you must choose an answer and confirm your selection (with the pop-up Answer Confirmation dialog box) in order to proceed to the next question. You will also know from the practice tests that an onscreen clock counts down how much time you have left, and will alert you by turning yellow when you have five minutes remaining in a section.


If you wish to leave the testing room, even during your break, you must raise your hand and wait for the test proctor to escort you out. Your break starts from the moment you end a section on the computer and choose to take your break, not from when you are checked-out of the testing room by the proctor. Every time you check-out of or check-in to the testing room, the proctor requires a palm-vein scan to verify your identity.

Your break ends very strictly on time. If you are not checked-in and back in your seat by the time your break is over, you will lose time for the next section. So be sure to allow a couple minutes of your break time to have the proctor check you back into the testing room and escort you back to your seat.

During Your Break

During the break, you are allowed to access only water, food, and tobacco products. Using any other items, including medicines, tissues, or toiletries, must be pre-approved by a test center employee. You are allowed to use the restroom during your break, but you should ask permission from a test center employee first. If a test center employee observes you accessing any study materials, cell phone, or electronic device at any time before your test is over, your score will immediately be cancelled and you will forfeit your test registration fee. Other penalties may apply as well. To avoid any possible confusion, do not bring such items into the test center.

During your break, we recommend that you do the following, roughly in this order:
  • Keep an eye on the clock – allow enough time to check back into the testing room so that the test doesn’t start without you. Ten minutes goes by very quickly.
  • Avoid worrying about your performance so far – regardless of whether you think you did well or poorly, the last section is over and deserves none of your focus going forward.
  • Avoid smoking – there simply is not enough time.
  • Use the restroom – even if you don’t think you need to. Ask permission from a test center employee first, to avoid any confusion about your whereabouts.
  • Eat a light protein-based snack – quickly. Proteins help boost mental concentration, whereas carbohydrates can cause drowsiness. Whole-wheat carbs are fine if accompanied by protein. Avoid candy and sugary snacks. A few snack ideas: a cheese stick, a protein snack bar, some almonds or cashews, a couple slices of turkey lunchmeat, a hard boiled egg, or some peanut butter with whole wheat crackers.
  • Drink a few sips of water – not too much, because you shouldn’t need to use the restroom until the test is over. Coconut water and Gatorade are also good alternatives. These are better options than soda, juice, coffee, Red Bull, and other drinks. You want to be well-hydrated without consuming too much sugar or caffeine, which can negatively impact your mental functioning.
  • Stretch – to relieve tension and to give your body some change before sitting raptly in front of the computer for the remainder of the exam.
  • Take some deep breaths – to reduce tension and stress, and to help clear your mind.
  • Say a couple positive affirmations – to help put yourself in the right mindset and to bring positive energy with you back into the testing room. Some examples: I’m totally ready for this next section, I’m very confident in my GMAT skills, or I’m going to destroy the next section. Use whatever affirmations are relevant for you.