We all probably remember our GMAT exam day. Weeks of preparation for some, while months for others. Covid-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on all students, as most classes globally moved online. Similarly, graduate school admissions application processes have been adversely impacted. Schools have relaxed deadlines, moved interviews online or even waived testing requirements. A key element of MBA graduate school admissions are standardized test, which for Business Schools is mainly the GMAT exam administrated by GMAC, Graduate Management Admissions Council.
Round 3 deadlines for many MBA schools are around end March and April, and some schools have rolling admissions accepting applications as late as June for the fall intake. While schools like INSEAD and Columbia even have a January intake. Some applicants applying for these rounds take their GMAT exam between March and July. Starting first week of March, nations trying to control the COVID-19 outbreak, started mandating lock-downs and stay at home orders, which not only forced the student to stay at home but meant all standardized exams held at invigilated test centers were cancelled or postponed. This was true for national board exam, higher education exams, university exams and professional certification exams among others.
Many of the global standardized test makers including GMAT and GRE responded by launching online versions of the standardized test. The GMAT exam that was started 67 years ago in 1953, has since evolved from a paper based exam to a computer adaptive test, this move temporary for now seems like another major shift in the exam.
The online GMAT test could be taken from April 20th till June 15th. I believe the success of this model may allow GMAC to make some if not all test at-home in the future because of the potential cost saving opportunity by eliminating large fees for centers to host test-takers. GMAC take-home exams is leveraging the online proctoring solution, Pearson VUE proctoring to administer the GMAT exam. One has to download a software available on both a MAC and Windows PC, requiring a minimum of 1 Mbps speed. Test-takers check-in by taking a head shot picture and a picture of their government issued Identity card or Passport. Next they take pictures of their surrounding which leads them into the exam. Test-takers are monitored throughout the exam using webcam and microphone. Proctors are also available throughout for live chat.
Below is a list of benefits and drawbacks of the take-home GMAT exam including differences with the traditional GMAT exams.
- Candidates can meet timelines for admission applications this year
- Candidates can give tests amidst a pandemic in the comfort of their homes
- Lower costs of taking the exam – $200 versus 250$ of the traditional exam
- Accepted by top Business Schools
- Unlike traditional exam the exam could be taken 24/7 and 7 days of the week, hence a test-taker does not need to wait for spots to become available at the closest center
Some of the major drawbacks:
- Potentially unreliable internet connections and power breakdowns in emerging markets
- Test takers cannot use scratch paper and instead have to rely on a virtual white board in the app that could slow down test takers – mainly the ability to solve math problems quickly
- Academic integrity violations and the ability to cheat
- No score cancellations and scores are not immediately available, one needs to wait for over a week to get them in an email
- I don’t believe the exam set-up is truly like for like with those taken as the center since the conditions are very different
- The exam only has a single break versus two breaks in the traditional exam, the break duration is reduced from 16 minutes to just 5 minutes
- Unlike the traditional exam individuals can not pick the order of the sections
- Critics are arguing proctors are not appropriately trained are making mistakes such as exam cancellations or false accusations of cheating
A comparison with the rival GRE exam
The biggest backlash for the exam has been the inability to use scratch paper, and one can argue that solving math problems and drawing diagrams on a ‘Paint like’ online white board is restrictive and more time consuming. Although the exam has several major drawbacks, I believe this is an opportunity for GMAC to continuously invest in their At-home proposition, which could continuously be bettered using AI and as a larger set of tests are conducted in the online environment to have a more fair like-for like comparison for the test takers. By making the test friction less in the comfort of a test taker’ home might result in more tests being taken per individual, and ultimately a better overall experience in the long-run. A key stakeholders would the admission committees of major business schools. Admissions committees might be hesitant hearing of incidents of cheating and integrity of the exam being compromised, but if GMAC is able to demonstrate security and proper invigilation, the Adcoms could continue to accept take-home exams, which could lead to major operating model shift for the GMAT exam.
Mba.com. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.mba.com/exams/gmat-online> [Accessed 2 May 2020].
Symonds, M., 2020. What MBA Candidates Need To Know About The Online GMAT. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2020/04/24/what-mba-candidates-need-to-know-about-the-online-gmat/#19ff6c8537c5> [Accessed 2 May 2020].
Poets&Quants. 2020. Poets&Quants | The GRE & GMAT At-Home Tests: A Side-By-Side Comparison. [online] Available at: <https://poetsandquants.com/2020/04/18/what-to-expect-from-the-gre-gmat-at-home-tests-a-side-by-side-comparison/?pq-category=gre-gmat> [Accessed 2 May 2020].
Poets&Quants. 2020. Poets&Quants | Amid Controversy, GMAC Rolls Out A Practice Whiteboard For Its At-Home GMAT. [online] Available at: <https://poetsandquants.com/2020/04/23/amid-controversy-gmac-rolls-out-a-practice-whiteboard-for-its-at-home-gmat/?pq-category=gre-gmat> [Accessed 2 May 2020].
Poets&Quants. 2020. Poets&Quants | Tales From The GMAT Crypt: Test-Takers Cry Foul Over Tech Glitches, Bugs & Poorly Trained Proctors. [online] Available at: <https://poetsandquants.com/2020/05/01/tales-from-the-gmat-crypt-test-takers-cry-foul-over-tech-glitches-poorly-trained-proctors/?pq-category=gre-gmat/> [Accessed 2 May 2020].