GMAT Test Day: 18 Expert Tips to Rock the Exam


So, you’ve registered and prepped for the GMAT, and now the fateful day approaches: test day! Your GMAT exam date can be daunting, but knowing exactly how to prepare, how to follow GMAT test rules, and what to expect at the testing location will calm your nerves. In this article, I’ll go over the best ways to rock your test date, from the night before to the end of your exam.


GMAT Test Day Tips: The Day Before

The night before your scheduled GMAT date can be nerve-wracking. Here are the best ways to get and stay organized in the final hours before your exam.


#1: Double Check the Day and Time of Your Exam

Your GMAT registration details are available through your account at The day before the GMAT, do a final double check to make sure of the date, time, and testing location you signed up for. You don’t want to risk making a careless mistake and showing up late or missing your exam date entirely!


#2: Plan Your Route

Make sure you know exactly when you’ll leave the day of your exam and what travel route and form of transportation you plan to take. Check for any possible traffic or weather that might impede your route.

Getting lost or being delayed on the day of your GMAT will be an unnecessary frustration and distraction even if you manage to get to the testing location on time. You want to arrive to the testing site as calm and focused as possible.

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#3: Locate the Correct ID

You’ll need to show the appropriate form of identification, as defined by GMAT test requirements, to sign in at the GMAT testing location. Find out what forms of ID qualify here. The last thing you want to be doing on the morning of the GMAT is scrambling around looking for a missing ID, so make sure you locate it the day before and have it ready.


Make sure you have the correct ID available the day before your exam.
Make sure you have the correct ID available the day before your exam.


#4: Get Some Rest

Make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before your exam. Plenty of rest will help you stay focused and do your best the following day. Anxiety and exhaustion can affect your score even if you’re well prepared otherwise.


#5: Don’t Study the Day Before the GMAT

It can be be tempting to cram the day before the GMAT, but try to resist. Anything you study the night before likely won’t be retained, anyway. It’s best to give your brain a rest, get some sleep, and stay calm. Avoid any GMAT prep from the day before your test until the minute you sit down to take the exam.


GMAT Test Day Tips: Your Exam Date

Now your exam date has arrived, how can you maximize your chances of success? Let’s go over the best ways to physically and mentally prepare on your GMAT exam day.


#1: Set Your Alarm

It seems simple, but it could be catastrophic if you forget. Don’t oversleep! Make sure you set your alarm for well before the time you need to leave, so you’re not rushing out the door half-asleep. Leave plenty of time to gather your thoughts, go through your morning routine, and wake up a little.


#2: Eat Well

In addition to leaving time to relax before you leave, try to eat a good breakfast on the morning of your test. The GMAT can be exhausting, and brain food goes a long way.


#3: Leave With Plenty of Time

Make sure to leave with plenty of time to travel to the GMAT testing location. You should work a cushion into your travel plan so any obstacles that occur (parking, traffic, etc.) don’t stop you from arriving on time.

You should arrive at your testing location at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam, since you’ll need to park, sign in, store your personal items, and get settled after you arrive.

If you arrive more than 15 minutes after your appointed testing time, GMAT rules specify that you may not be admitted to the testing room, your registration fee will be forfeited, and you’ll have to reschedule.


#4: Bring Comfort Items

Testing locations have specific rules about what you can and cannot bring to the exam on GMAT test days.

No personal items or testing items, such as snacks, water, a cell phone, your wallet, or a calculator, are allowed with you in the testing room (except a light jacket) under current GMAT rules, unless you’ve made prior arrangements with the testing location due to a disability. You cannot access these except during the provided GMAT breaks.

There is storage space available at every GMAT testing location, where you can store personal items that meet GMAT test requirements. I would suggest bringing water and snacks to replenish your energy during GMAT breaks. Gather the items you plan to bring with you and lay them out the night before so you’re not scrambling on the morning of the exam.


Bring snacks to the GMAT. You'll be thankful during your breaks!
Bring snacks to the GMAT. You’ll be thankful during your breaks!


#5: Adhere to GMAT Test Rules

A few GMAT test rules apply to all testing locations. Some items, such as weapons (even for those with concealed carry permits and off-duty law enforcement officers), are prohibited entirely from all testing premises. In addition, you are never allowed to have a friend or relative wait for you at the testing site while you take the exam.

While taking the GMAT, you will be required to notify a testing administrator if you need to leave the room. If you’re away from your workstation for a lengthy amount of time, the testing location officials will be notified and you may be questioned.

You will also not be permitted to eat or drink while in the testing room, though you can eat during GMAT breaks. Use of cell phones, other forms of personal technology, and personal calculators is never permitted anywhere on the testing site.

Some GMAT test requirements are specific to the country in which the test is being administered. By registering to take the GMAT and signing in at the testing location, you agree to follow your country’s GMAT rules; you can find a comprehensive list of them here.

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GMAT Test Day Tips: The Testing Center

Once you get to the testing center, it’s hard to know what to expect. Let’s go over the process of signing in to the testing location and what will happen once you arrive to take the exam on GMAT test days.


#1: Show Your ID and Sign In

Once you arrive at the testing location, you’ll check in with an administrator. You will present the proper government-issued ID and, if your country’s laws allow, will also have a digital photograph taken and be asked to provide a digital vein palm scan. You will have to provide an additional digital vein palm scan if you leave the testing room at any time, and again when you return.


#2: Take the Test

Once you are seated at your computer, testing will begin promptly. You will be provided with a scratch pad and marker to take notes on during the exam. The timer will begin after you agree to the GMAT test rules (which will be provided on the screen), and you’ll start with the analytical writing assessment section (the essay).

If you have any questions or issues (such as technical problems) during the GMAT, or if you need to leave the room for any reason, raise your hand and a testing administrator will come to you and help you. GMAT test rules ask that you never get up from your workstation without permission once you’ve been seated and informed that you can start the test.


Watch the timer as you take the test!
Watch the timer as you take the test!


#3: Sign Out and Receive Your Unofficial Score Report

Once you hit “submit” for your last GMAT question, you will see a preview of your unofficial score report on the screen. You’ll be asked if you wish to cancel your scores. Make sure to have decided what GMAT scores you will keep and which you will cancel beforehand, so you don’t make any rash decisions. If you want to reinstate a cancelled GMAT score within 60 days, you’ll have to pay a $100 fee.

When you leave the testing location, an administrator will give you a printout of your unofficial score report. This will include your score for every section of the GMAT except the analytical writing assessment, which will be scored separately. Your official scores will be sent out to the MBA programs you chose approximately 20 days after your test date, unless you cancel them beforehand.


GMAT Test Day Tips: Testing Strategies

When you’re taking the exam, there are a few key GMAT test day tips you can use to make the most of your testing time. Let’s go over the top five ways to do your best during the GMAT.


#1: Take Your GMAT Breaks

The GMAT is just over three hours long, not counting two scheduled optional breaks. Both breaks are eight minutes long.

Use the provided GMAT breaks to your advantage! Go to the bathroom, have a quick snack or a drink, or stretch your legs. These breaks are short, but they’ll be invaluable to your continued stamina and focus in the taxing and lengthy exam process.

Remember, however, that according to GMAT rules, you cannot use your phone during these breaks. If you are caught using your phone, your exam scores will be cancelled, and you won’t get a refund for your testing fee.


#2: Keep Track of the Time

As you take the GMAT, you’ll see a timer during every section in the upper lefthand corner of the screen that will let you how much time you have left. Don’t obsess over it, but do keep track of how many questions you have left and how much time you have to complete them.

Make every effort to get through the entirety of every section, as this makes a big difference in your score. Make sure you’re not spending too much time on the initial five to ten questions, which is a habit of many test-takers.

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#3: Don’t Be Afraid to Guess

If you’re struggling with a particular question, do your best to use the process of elimination to get rid of one or more incorrect answer choices. Even if you can’t, take your best guess and move on. It’s in your best interest to complete as much of the test as possible and to answer every question.

Getting stuck on a certain question will only bring you down and could make you lose focus for the next several questions as well. The GMAT’s computerized adaptive format means that you have no idea what kind of question may be coming next at a given time. If you spend too long on a question you find difficult, you may miss the opportunity to answer several other questions correctly later on.


#4: Take Notes

Use the provided scratch pad to keep track of significant details, calculate solutions, or create outlines as you complete the GMAT. Some students think it will save them time to avoid taking notes, but that could actually cause you to skim over important details that would lead you to the right answer choice. You can find more details on the best ways to make use of the GMAT scratch pad here.


Taking notes as you complete the GMAT will save you time and help you answer questions more effectively.
Taking notes as you complete the GMAT will save you time and help you answer questions more effectively.


#5: Stay Calm

Whatever you do, try not to panic during the GMAT. Anxiety disrupts your focus and can cause you to spend too long on a question or make careless mistakes. Remember that you can always prepare again and retake the test if you don’t do as well as you hoped, so just take a deep breath and do your best.


What’s Next?

For more specific logistical GMAT test requirements and GMAT test day tips, check out our guide to exam registration.

Need to know more GMAT test rules about what you can and can’t bring to the GMAT testing center? Find a list of approved items here.

Find the test date that works for you at our list of 2017 GMAT test days.

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Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing.