Learn about the GMAT Online Exam

by Dr. Amar, Founder of Austin GMAT Review
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GMAC, the maker of the GMAT, began offering the GMAT Online exam in 2020. With the threat of COVID-19 continuing, the GMAT online exam, proctored remotely, has become a longer term solution intended to help you complete your GMAT to meet business school deadlines.

GMAT Online does have differences from the regular exam in the testing center, but in 2021 GMAC introduced changes to improve the online testing experience. In this article, I outline for you the GMAT Online's requirements and testing experience.

GMAT Online Exam Structure

The exam includes the Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) sections. (The AWA had been omitted for about a year, but it's back.) Each section contains the same number of questions and time per section as the in-person GMAT exam.

Moreover, as of April 8, 2021, the GMAT Online section order can be changed. The sections are:

  • 31 Quantitative questions / 62 minutes
  • 36 Verbal questions / 65 minutes
  • 12 Integrated Reasoning questions / 30 minutes
  • Analytical Writing Assessment / 30 minutes

As of April 8, 2021, you will be able to take two separate 8-minute breaks between sections.


GMAT Online will use the same scoring algorithm and score scale for the Section Scores and Total Score as the test center-based version. As of April 2021, you will get to see your unofficial GMAT score at the end of the exam, but you cannot cancel on the spot (as you can at the test center). Instead, you can pay a fee to cancel the score within 72 hours.

The Enhanced Score Reports are also not available for the online option.

Originally, GMAC had said that the GMAT Online scores will not count towards your 12-month and lifetime GMAT limits. However, this has changed: As of April 2021, the GMAT Online score will count towards the limits. The GMAT Online score will be still be good for five years.

GMAC is emphasizing that this testing option is a temporary measure. You will get only one attempt to retake the exam online. Your retake cannot be sooner than 16 days after your first attempt.

To summarize: If you are taking the GMAT Online this year, make it count. You will get only one do-over.

Availability of GMAT Online

Although the appointment dates are limited, on purpose, appointment times are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can schedule an exam appointment up to 24 hours before an available testing window. The availability of testing slots from the test provider, Pearson, depends on the day you seek (weekends being the most popular) and how heavy the demand might be (the demand soars as business school deadlines draw near).

GMAT Online is available in most locations, including the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Proctoring is in English.

Testing Area Requirements

When you take the GMAT Online, you must be in a private area, with no other people present, just as you would be in a testing center. In addition, the test provider has several requirements put into place for the express purpose of preventing cheating.

Physical whitebooard for GMAT Online exam
Recommended: Physical Whiteboard
  • You are allowed to use a physical whiteboard for calculations and test-taking notes. We strongly recommend this option over the online whiteboard that is provided as part of the exam.
  • You will need to show the front and back of the whiteboard to the proctor at the beginning of the exam and after each break, and erase everything at the end of the exam.

Online whiteboard provided as part of GMAT Online exam
Online Whiteboard Provided with GMAT Online exam

The online whiteboard has significant limitations.

  • If you have a touchscreen laptop, you may not use a stylus, your finger, or other writing apparatus to write on the whiteboard.
  • The online whiteboard cannot be used with a connected writing tablet or pad.
  • You may not use dual monitors for taking the exam and accessing the whiteboard.

If you must use the online whiteboard, be sure try out the practice whiteboard provided by GMAC in advance.

Clear off your desk area prior to the GMAT online exam.
Clear Desk Area
  • Your desktop must be clean. No books, notepads, sticky notes, papers, pens, pencils, and other permanent writing instruments are allowed.
  • No pictures or photographs are allowed. Items hung on the wall with writing on them will be inspected by the online proctor.
  • Eating, smoking, and chewing gum are prohibited.
  • You may only drink water, and only from a clear glass, during testing.

Certain clothing items are also prohibited during testing.

  • Wallets, purses, bags, or coats are not allowed.
  • Hats or other non-religious head coverings are not allowed, because they might obscure facial recognition or disguise listening devices.
Hats off during the GMAT Online exam
Hats Off

No Electronics Besides the Test-Taking Device

You may not have access to cell phone, pager, headphones or headsets (wired or bluetooth), or other electronic devices. Watches are not allowed.

During the exam, the proctors will use your computer microphone or OnVUE chat function to communicate with you. However, during the check-in procedure, the proctor will text you via cell phone to request you to send pictures of your testing location. Therefore, have your cell phone with you at the beginning, then put it on silent and place it out of arm's reach.

Electronics banned during the GMAT Online exam.
No Electronics Except for Your Test-Taking Computer; But You Will Need a Cell Phone for Check-In Procedure

The test may only be taken using one monitor. Turn off and unplug any additional monitors and computers in the room.

System Requirements

As part of your GMAT preparation, make sure that you have the right equipment to take the test.

  • Computers or laptops are preferred. Tablets must be equipped with physical keyboard and meet the operating system requirements. Touchscreens are not allowed.
  • The system must have a web camera (internal or external) and audio and microphone. This is to allow the online proctor to see and speak to you. Again, headphones and headsets are not allowed.
  • Allowed Operating Systems: Windows 10, Windows 8.1 (32-bit and 64-bit), or Mac OS 10.13 and above (excluding beta versions)
  • Allowed Browsers: Newest versions of Microsoft Edge, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, or Internet Explorer 11
  • Required Connection Speed: 1 Mbps down/up is required. Using a wired connection, not wireless, is recommended. Tethering to a mobile hotspot is prohibited.

Final Check

You're ready to take the GMAT, but first go through this final checklist to ensure that test-taking goes smoothly for you.

  • Download OnVUE software at least a day in advance, and perform a system check.
  • Be sure to have the laptop or computer plugged in during testing. The test-taker will not be allowed to move out of view of the camera (except for the five-minute break), even to plug in the computer.
  • Except for the test-taking software, applications must be shut off on your computer. The proctor will check that no other applications are running on your workstation before launching the exam.
  • Enable Internet cookies.
  • Disable any pop-up blocking settings.
OnVUE Software System Check At Least a Day in Advance

Proctoring and Security During the GMAT Exam

Our students report that the proctors sometimes show up late to begin the exam. You must log in on time for your exam, but your proctor may arrive up to 20 minutes later: Mentally prepare for that possibility, and don't let it fluster or aggravate you.

You will have a headshot taken via web camera, and you will also be asked to hold up a photo ID. The headshot and photo ID will be compared with Artificial Intelligence. (Smile for the camera! Not only is this picture comparison used as a security measure, but the photo is also sent to the schools.)

You must take photos of the work space before beginning the exam (typically taken and sent with a cell phone via the link texted to you by the proctor). In addition, you will be asked to move the web camera to allow the online proctor to view the entire testing area (360 degrees).

Proctoring and security during the GMAT Online exam
Photo Identification and Testing Space Photos Required

You will be live-monitored via webcam and microphone by a human proctor, supported by Artificial Intelligence. The session will also be recorded.

You will not be allowed to leave the room during the exam, except for the two short breaks. If you leave at any other time, the proctor will end the test.

During the breaks, you may not access any electronic devices, including cell phones or smart devices. (This is also true at the test centers; save the texting until after the exam.) If you take longer than five minutes, your time on the Integrated Reasoning section will be reduced accordingly.

Sending The Score to Schools

During exam registration, you can select up to five programs to send your score to; selections can be changed up to 24 hours before the exam appointment time. You do not have to select any schools.

7 Days Later: After receiving the official score via email, you may send that score to as many schools as you wish at no extra charge. Use Additional Score Reports, and the fee will be waived by GMAC. If you did better than expected, be sure to send your GMAT score to your "stretch" schools.

Taking Some Time for Yourself and Others

Taking the GMAT is an important step towards a more enriching career for yourself in the future. Taking the GMAT during a global pandemic is, even more importantly, a reminder that you still have goals and plans, and nothing can stop you.

DId I ever imagine that I would describe the GMAT as a symbol of self-empowerment? No, but these are strange times.

After you take the GMAT Online, and as you wait for the score, I hope that you take some time to relax, reflect, and reach out to others (not literally, of course, but virtually). Stay safe, and be well.

Austin GMAT Review is the premier GMAT preparation company in Central Texas, offering structured GMAT courses to professionals preparing to enter full-time MBA or executive MBA programs. Austin GMAT Review caters to busy professionals who don't have the time to sort through masses of generic study materials. Meeting with an experienced professor during online GMAT classes - live from Austin, Texas - students receive the personalized coaching that they need and strategies to excel on the GMAT. When you're ready to apply to business school, Austin GMAT Review can help you successfully get through the admissions process.

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