GMAT Online vs in person? [all new rules Oct. 2021]

GMAT Online vs In Person

Should you take a GMAT online or in-person? [updated with newest online GMAT rules]

Before September 23rd 2020 it was absolutely in your best interest to take an online GMAT (or two). Now it depends…

The tests are pretty much the same.

The big difference: do you want to go to a test center or do you want to take the GMAT at home?

Answer that and you’ll have a strong sense for which test to sign up for.

For some people, a mix and match strategy could be just the thing. Eh???

Well, there is no waiting period between an online and an in person test. So if you need retake your GMAT but don’t have 16 days to wait then you can take an in person (if your first GMAT was an online) or an online (if your first test was an in person).

Quick summary of pre-9/23/20 Online GMAT advantages:

-It didn’t count towards your 5 yearly or 8 lifetime GMATs

-It was cheaper to schedule and reschedule than the in person GMAT

-Online GMAT Score reporting was free

-No need to travel far and wide to find an open test center

-For some, taking the test at home is less stressful

You could even take two online GMATs and have all of the above benefits.

Well, things have changed and not for the better

Starting September 23rd 2020 online GMATs do count towards your yearly and lifetime GMAT limits. And starting October 20th 2021, you only get 5 free online GMAT score reports (must be used within 48 hours upon receipt of your official score).

That takes way some big positives and makes it so the online GMAT is no longer a 100% recommend. Still, it’s got advantages.


-it’s widely available

-very convenient

-combined with in person GMAT there is no waiting period between tests (This is probably the most interesting thing about the online version of the test).

Should you take an online GMAT instead of an in-person test? That really depends on:

  1. Is in-person testing widely available in your area?
  2. Are you comfortable testing in-person?
  3. Would you be more comfortable testing at home?
  4. Do you need to take two GMATs in less than 16 days?

I’ve taken two online GMATs and I find it very stress free taking the exam in my own space. That’s a big plus for me.

We have some students who are adamant about taking the GMAT in person. Others are the opposite and are hoping to get things wrapped up with the two online tests they have available.

If you actually have in-person GMATs available in your area it really comes down to personal choice as the GMAT online and in person now have almost all of the same features.

That said, if you have a tight deadline and need to retake quickly doing a match of online and in person is the only way to get around the 16 day waiting period.

Still, there’s no ESR available for the online GMAT (does that matter?)

Yes, it’s nice to have an ESR. It can certainly help diagnose test day issues especially those related to time management. Is it a deal breaker? I don’t think so. It’s more important to have access to a convenient GMAT location whether online or in person.

What if test centers get locked down again? Does that change the GMAT online vs in person debate?

Yes and no. It’s true that you only have 2 online GMATs available. So, if you use them now, don’t get your score, and then we have a winter lockdown and test centers close, you might be out of luck for an in-person retake.

Yes, that could happen.

My hope in that scenario is that GMAC will allow a third GMAT online. Done and Done (see below)!

If you want to be super cautious in terms of maximizing your chances of having GMATs available no matter what then it could make sense to your in-person availability while we have it. That said, while I might mention this to students as an option it’s not something I would put a lot of emphasis on. I would take whatever test, in person or online, you feel comfortable taking.

As of October 20th, 2021 you can take the online GMAT 5 times (same as in person). So no need to horde your online attempts in case of future lockdowns. Spend freely!