GMAT Test Day: What to Expect

July 21, 2012
Bret Ruber

Most students, after careful study, know what to expect on test day in terms of GMAT content.  However, it also important to know what to expect when you arrive at the Pearson Center.  Just as you have learned and practiced GMAT strategies, you should have a plan for handling your breaks and using your scratch sheets wisely.

When you first arrive at the Pearson Center, you will use your ID to check in and register a digital scan of the vein patterns in your palm.  Afterwards, you will place all of you personal items in a locker.  These include ID’s, watches, phones, wallets, keys, and even tissues.  You will not be able to bring anything with you into the testing room.  Furthermore, you will not be able to access these items during breaks in the test.

Once you are ready to get started, you will scan your palm at the door to the testing room, and you will be assigned a computer on which to take your exam.  Any time you reenter the test room you will need to provide a palm scan to prove you are still the same person.

Once seated, you will begin the GMAT, but keep in mind that other test takers will not be starting at the exact same time as you.  Some will be in the middle of their exams when you begin, and some may start after you.  Furthermore, some test takers will be taking tests other than the GMAT.  This means that everyone’s breaks will be at different times.  While no one will talk in the testing room, be ready for people to move around while you are taking your exam.  The proctor will offer you noise-canceling headphones when you arrive.  These can help to minimize these distractions, but you may want to take one of your GMAT practice tests with headphones to get used to the sound of your breathing.  It can be a bit distracting…kind of sounds like Darth Vader.

Your breaks will be 8 minutes long and are optional.  This is a tricky move on the part of the test maker.  We tend to have a sense of what 10 minutes feels like, but 8 minutes is a different story.  Make sure you locate the bathrooms before you start your exam, so that you can find them quickly once you are on your break.  The test will start without you if you are not back in time.  Remember you have some time-consuming security hoops to jump through to get back to the computer, so make sure you don’t take too long of a break.

Finally, you will be given four bound, double-sided wet erase sheets and a wet erase pen.  If you run out of room you can receive a new set of sheets; to do so you must raise your hand, and the proctor will bring a new set to you and take away your used set.  Since this process takes time, you want to minimize how often you trade.  The best move is to always trade during the breaks so that it doesn’t take up any of your test time.   Additionally, you may want to switch sets once in the middle of the quantitative section.  You should try not to trade out your scratch sheets during any of the other sections.

The vast majority of your prep time should be on GMAT content, but you don’t want to run into unnecessary test day stress because you are not ready for all of the rules at the Pearson Center.

Bret Ruber Bret has been teaching for Kaplan since 2005, and has helped over 1000 students with their GMAT preparation. He spent three years teaching in Manhattan, where he served as an Elite Teacher and a full-time instructor, before moving to London, where he is now the GMAT Master Teacher for Kaplan’s London Center. As the GMAT Master Teacher, Bret trains, observes and mentors teachers, in addition to continuing his own teaching and tutoring, and has taught courses across Europe, including Italy, Ireland, and Germany. Bret contributes to Kaplan’s GMAT curriculum on an on-going basis, and was also a contributor to Kaplan's 2010 GMAT course.

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