GMAT Online Vs. Test Center: Which To Choose?

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Written by John Reed
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A few years ago there used to be huge variations between the online GMAT vs the in-person test administration at a test center.

The content, structure, and format of the two exams were completely different, to the extent that it would feel like taking two separate exams altogether.

This is no longer the case though, as the GMAC has taken plenty of measures to make the two versions as identical as they could possibly be.

So what does a GMAT online Vs. test center comparison look like in 2024. How similar are the 2 tests, really? 

Quick Summary

  • The online GMAT and test center versions are completely identical in content, structure, format, section order, and scoring.
  • Both exam formats test the same skills, with the same level of accuracy.
  • Online GMAT scores are widely accepted by all institutions that recognize the GMAT.
  • When deciding between the two options, consider factors such as convenience, flexibility, familiarity, and the importance of the testing environment in your overall test-taking experience.

GMAT Online Vs. Test Center Comparison


Test Centre



(*In the United States)


(*In the United States)

Exam Duration

2 hrs. 15 min. 

(With one optional 10-minute break)


3 sections

(To be completed in the order of your choosing)

Appointment Availability

7 days a week

(Around the clock)

7 days a week

(During test center operating hours)

Scratch Work Materials

1 physical erasable whiteboard + Access to a digital online whiteboard

5 erasable noteboards will be provided

Review & Edit (During the test)

Bookmark and review as many answers as you want.

Change up to 3 answers per section.

Immediate Unofficial Score?


(Appears on screen upon completion of the exam)



(All 3 sections are weighted equally towards your total score)

Score Sending

Up to 5 free score reports

(Additional score reports are available for a fee)

Score Validity

5 years

GMAT Exam Attempts

5 attempts permitted in a rolling 12-month period.

8 attempts in a lifetime.

GMAT Online Vs. Test Center: What Are The Similarities?


All business schools that recognize the GMAT will accept the validity and authenticity of all GMAT scores, regardless of whether you took the test online or at a test center. 

So you do not have to worry about your online scores being deemed inferior to the test center version.

Content & Structure

Both versions of the GMAT comprise 3 sections ie Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Data Insights, structured as follows:

GMAT Section

No. Of Questions

Time Limit

Quantitative Reasoning

21 Qns.

45 Minutes

Verbal Reasoning

23 Qns.

45 Minutes

Data Insights

20 Qns.

45 Minutes

Optional Break


10 Minutes


64 Qns.

2hrs. 25 Min.

Keep in mind that the new GMAT Focus Edition no longer features the Analytical Writing Assessment section, regardless of whether you are sitting for the online or in-person format.

a) Level of Difficulty

Whether you are taking the GMAT online or at a test center, the bottom line is that you are sitting for the exact same test.

Both feature identical content, with similar levels of difficulty and so the GMAT online exam is not harder than the test center GMAT, nor is the reverse true either.

b) Section Order

To allow for a more personalized testing experience, the GMAT sections can be tackled in any order.

This means that regardless of whether you take the GMAT online or at a test center, you can adapt the exam to exactly how you’ve prepared for it.

c) Optional Break

Both versions of the exam allow for one optional 10-minute break, which you can take whenever you choose: either after the first section or after the second section. 

d) Question Review & Edit Tool

For both exam versions, you can bookmark and review as many answers as you want.

Just as well, you are at liberty to change up to 3 answers per section, provided you still have time remaining in that section.


Because both GMAT versions feature the same content and difficulty level, both exams use the same scoring algorithm so there is no difference in scoring or score validity.

As reflected on the official score report, the GMAT score scales and percentile rankings are exactly the same for the two exams.

Whichever version you sit for, all GMAT test takers are presented with an unofficial score report on their screen, immediately at the end of their exam.

The official scores will be available typically within 3-5 business days.


The Graduate Management Admission Council, GMAC, which regulates and administers the GMAT, allows for various accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

For either version of the exam, you could get additional testing time and additional or extended breaks.

GMAT Online Vs. Test Center: What Are The Differences?


GMAT fees always depend on your location. 

That being said, there is a variation between what you pay for the online exam, versus the test center exam.

The online version is actually slightly more expensive for the test taker.

GMAT Focus Edition Fees

(**In the United States)


Test Centre

Testing Fee



Reschedule Fees

More than 60 days before appointment



15-60 days before appointment



14 days or less before appointment



Cancellation Fees

More than 60 days before appointment

$120 Refund

$110 Refund

15-60 days before appointment

$90 Refund

$80 Refund

14 days or less before appointment

$60 Refund

$55 Refund

Appointment Availability

As far as GMAT test dates go, both exam formats can be scheduled up to 6 months in advance, and you can schedule your testing appointment for any day of the week.

The big difference comes in that while the online GMAT can be scheduled around the clock, the in-person GMAT exam administration can only be scheduled within the test center’s operating hours.

Testing Procedures

a) Whiteboard

For the online GMAT, at-home test takers can choose to use a physical whiteboard, an online whiteboard, or both for scratch work and notetaking.

For the test center GMAT, in-person test takers cannot bring their own whiteboards and neither are they given an online whiteboard.

Instead, you will have 5 erasable note boards provided at the GMAT test centers.

b) Personal Items

At the test center, it is forbidden to have any personal items and this includes any food or drink. You can only store them in the provided locker, to access during the break.  

As for online testing, however, one is permitted to bring water in a clear container.

c) Comfort Items

Many test takers love the earplugs or headphones provided at testing centers to help block out any noise and keep you focused.

While taking the test online, you will not be permitted to have these items. 

d) Leaving The Workstation

If an emergency comes up during your exam at a test center and you must leave your seat during a timed section of the test, you will need to notify the test administrator. 

GMAT Test Center

Just keep in mind that the exam time clock will not stop during your absence. Also, keep your departure brief, and limit it to just one occasion otherwise you may raise suspicion for investigation by GMAC. 

On the other hand, the other GMAT test takers who are taking the online format do not get this luxury. When testing online, you can only leave your workstation during the optional break period.

If an emergency comes up and you must leave your seat during any other time in the online testing session, your exam will automatically be canceled.


Accommodations that involve access to other resources may only be provided at a test center.

For instance, a reader who can read items to you, a recorder who can record your responses, etc. 

Depending on the specific accommodations you need based on practice tests, and what’s allowed by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the option of testing online may not be available to you.

Technical Considerations & Workspace Setup

GMAT online students need to ensure that their computer meets the minimum system requirements for the GMAT online format. Additionally, there is a list of rules to follow on how your workspace should be set up.

Ultimately, if your testing area fails to pass the room scan, or if there is an issue with your GMAT online software compliance, you will not be allowed to proceed with the test and your entire exam fee will be forfeited.

On the other hand, professional testing centers will have everything perfectly set up for you. Just present your ID, comply with the regulations, and you can sit in your carefully proctored cubicle and start testing. 

There is nothing else you have to worry about.

Should I Take The GMAT Online Or At A Test Center?

The decision to take the GMAT online or at a test center will depend on your needs, preferences, and individual circumstances. 

Regardless of where the GMAT is administered, you will still face the same exam, testing the same skills with the same level of accuracy. 

Pros & Cons Of Taking The GMAT Online


– Convenience of taking the test from your own location. More comfortable and relaxed setting.

– No commute.

– Flexible scheduling. You can take the test at any time of the day or night, whether it’s 3 am or 3 pm.

– You get to have a bottle of water with you.


– Must adhere to strict workspace and technical considerations. 

– Even mouthing questions could be considered a violation of the testing rules. 

– Higher likelihood of technical glitches such as unstable internet connection, for instance.

– Costs slightly more.

– A whiteboard isn’t exactly an ideal working surface. 

– No headphones or earplugs for noise cancellation. 

– There is the likelihood of interruptions for the test proctor.

Pros & Cons Of Taking The GMAT At A Test Center


– You are guaranteed the security and integrity of the testing process.

– Dedicated testing space that’s quiet, private, and carefully proctored to be distraction-free.

– Access to ear plugs or headphones for noise cancellation purposes. 

– Little likelihood of any technical issues.

– Any technical difficulties that do come up are not your fault.

– Noteboards provide the satisfaction of working on pen and paper as opposed to a whiteboard.


– The nearest test center may be hours away.

– Intimidation of being in an exam room.

– Test dates are subject to availability.

GMAT Online Vs. Test Center FAQs

Can I Choose GMAT Online Or Test Center Format Based On My Preference?

Yes, you are free to choose between the GMAT online or test center versions based purely on your preferences, needs, and individual circumstances.

Do The Top Schools Accept Online GMAT Scores?

Yes, GMAT online scores are accepted by all the institutions that recognize the GMAT, including the top business schools. 

Are There Any Additional Costs Associated With The GMAT Online Or Test Center Option?

When it comes to the test fee, the GMAT online is slightly more expensive than the test center option by about $25.

That aside, there may be additional costs associated with traveling to a testing center or setting up a suitable workstation at home for the online exam.

Are There Any Limitations Or Restrictions For The Online Or Test Center GMAT?

The online GMAT has very specific technical requirements and you are also required to follow the online proctoring rules very strictly. 

When it comes to test centers, the availability of testing appointments may vary and you may not get a slot at the exact time when you wish to take the test. 

There are also specific rules and regulations you are required to follow during in-person testing, particularly pertaining to security protocols and ID requirements.

John Reed
The chief editor of I am an alumni of the university of Pennsylvania and my goal with the website is to help future graduates with their tests.

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