Taking the GMAT during a pandemic

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Are you planning on taking the GMAT during a pandemic? Concerned about how your preparation will translate to an online exam? Wondering how all of the coronavirus changes are going to impact your business school application process and outcomes? We spoke with recent exam takers about their experiences with the three exams (GMAT, GRE and Executive Assessment) and the pivots they made to adapt to the ever-changing climate of the last few months.

We asked what the experience was like, how their preparation changed, and if they would take it again in the same format. Feel free to share your own experiences!

G, current applicant, GMAT Online Taker: I took the GMAT Online

It had pros and cons – I took the in-person GMAT two weeks before and got the same score both times… the online GMAT felt easier but I was interrupted by the proctor so many times that I sort of lost my groove. They kept asking if I needed help and when I didn’t answer they’d check back in. It happened five times in the quant section and two or three times in the verbal.

Tbh I YOLO’d the online test because I thought my quant score on the first test was lower than it could be. I’m happy with my score overall and if I took it again I’d probably take it online, but go in knowing about the potential interruptions.

J, current student, GRE At-Home Taker: I took the GRE at home

I took GRE at home because it was at the time when GMAT did not offer the physical whiteboard option, so I pivoted my studying to do the GRE instead! I had started casually studying, planning to take it this fall and start school next fall, but once news about extended deadlines came out, I decided to fast track it.

My whole process was pretty quick so I only did about six weeks of actual, focused studying. Made the switch from GMAT to GRE roughly 3-4 weeks into it. The math was comparable for the most part, it was just about adding in all of the GRE vocabulary that isn’t on the GMAT.

I only used free resources I could find online: GMAT Club was amazing and had many practice questions and links to other free external practice pages. I also Googled things like, “free GRE vocab” or whatever I needed. Also I was able to use YouTube for some of the math concepts – Target Test Prep has a whole series that taught it really well.

On fitting exam prep into the application process: I balanced the application process as a way to give myself a break from studying! One benefit of doing this during the spring when everyone was locked down was that I had no distractions or excuses! I only applied to two programs from my original list which had the later deadlines. I can’t remember if I heard about that here or on the school email listserv – probably both!

UPDATE to this story

After we shared this photo (originally shared by @whatisnewyork):

Photo shared by @whatisnewyork

J reached out to share how she secured four hours of quiet time from her NYC neighbors during Memorial Day weekend in order to take her exam in quiet. She recently started her MBA at one of her top choices, so safe to say this was a TRULY brilliant move.

C, current student, Executive Assessment Taker: I took my EA Online

I would say, the Executive Assessment is easier but you need to prepare for it. I did do some GMAT prep tests, but I felt the EA was easier to prep for (particularly if you are working full-time and going for an executive program).

In terms of the shift to online testing, one big tip is to do your practice tests under exam conditions and in the room you plan to be in on test day. Also, buy a physical whiteboard – it is a God-send (the scratchpad isn’t great).

I found out about the Executive Assessment here on MBAchic, and I used the EA instead of the GMAT. My program did not promote it as an alternative but I asked if they would take it, and they did. They now promote is as an acceptable alternative to the GMAT!

To prepare, I read Laura’s interview and watched videos like this one from Manhattan Prep. My only advice is that your score should be the same or slightly lower as your practice exams (but programs are taking this into account).

Preparing for your exam

If you’re considering taking the GMAT during a pandemic (or any of these exams), or currently in the thick of preparing, make sure you’re ready for the different experience. Check out the latest from the test administrators (GMAC: GMAT, EA and ETS: GRE), and check out our pre-pandemic, crowdsourced list of study resources from our community.

Don’t forget to check out our “application” highlight on our Instagram (@MBA.chic) and share your own experiences and tips/resources — even for taking the GMAT during a pandemic — with us.

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Join us as a contributor! Click here and let’s get started.

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