Of all the stresses that are involved in taking the GMAT, worrying about conditions at the test center should not be one of them. There are many potential issues that you can overcome or prepare for long before big day comes. Here are a few of them.
Noise: The test center is not a completely quiet environment. People in your center will be taking a variety of tests that start and end at different times, and have breaks at different times. You can expect people to be walking back and forth behind you, and you can expect a little chatter from outside as people enter and leave the room. Keep this in mind as you practice; don’t practice in a completely isolated and quiet place. You will be given headphones to help block the noise, but some people don’t find them very comfortable.
White Boards: You will be given white boards and a marker for your scratch work. Most people don’t find this problematic, but some test takers really have an affinity for the old number two pencil. If that sounds like you, pick up a felt tip pen and some white boards to practice on.
Missing Time During Breaks: You have two, optional breaks during the course of the test. However, when you enter and leave the test room, you need to check in and check out with the staff. If your test center is large or extremely busy, you may end up having to wait a few minutes until you can check back in. But if your break time is finished, your test will resume regardless of whether you are sitting in front of your computer. Be aware of the procedures and the volume of people in your test center and don’t plan on checking back in from break when there are just five seconds remaining.
Hunger and Cold: Dress in layers and bring a snack to eat during your break. There are lockers for your personal items just outside the test room. However, you should know that you aren’t allowed to use a cell phone during your break, so you should just leave it in your car to avoid the temptation and possibly have your score invalidated.
Getting Lost: Know where your test center is beforehand and plan to arrive 30 minutes early. You will forfeit your appointment and test fee if you are 15 minutes late. Every location is different, so visiting the center before test day can do a lot to help calm your nerves. You can also check out the forums to find out about other people’s experiences at your center so that you won’t be surprised by the conditions. You can even sign up to take a practice test in your test center if your nerves just seem to be unshakeable.
But even the most prepared test takers run into unexpected circumstances. Some people have reported computer glitches that erased their scores part way through the test, cleaning crews entering during test times, power outages (although all test centers should have generators for backup), or inclement weather that prevented them from getting to the test center. In the case of extreme weather (hurricanes, for example) the test center will be shut down and all test takers scheduled that day will be able to reschedule free of charge (this possibility should be good motivation not to wait to the the GMAT until the day before your B-school application is due!). However, be aware that if something happens in the center in the middle of your test, you will have to take the GMAT over from the beginning; it isn’t possible to resume an interrupted test. In the event that something horrible, such as a computer glitch, should happen during your testing experience, your options for recourse are limited, but it never hurts to try. You can, and should, file a complaint. GMAC will investigate and in the case that your complaint is found valid, you will be able to retest at no fee.
Knowing what to expect can go a long way toward calming your nerves. GMAT preparation is not just about knowing the content; it’s about being familiar with the entire process.
Image Courtesy of Marygrove College Library with Creative Commons License