Graduate Admission Exams Undergo Changes due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Prospective graduate students who are planning to attend post-graduate schools will be taking  their admissions tests online after the closure of test centers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The administrators of the Graduate Record Examination, Graduate Management Admission Test, and the Law School Admission Test have made a series of changes, including moving their exams to an online format, to provide continued student access. 

  • GRE for prospective grad school students: In-person exams are expected to remain on hold until June 30 and the online version retains the same content and structure. A computer device with Windows system and a functional webcam is required; whiteboards and papers with transparent sheet protectors are allowed for note taking. 
  • GMAT for prospective business school students: A temporary option of online and at-home exams is available between April 20 and June 15. The new version has the same time limit and number of questions but it does not include the Analytical Writing Assessment section. For now, test takers can only take the online GMAT once, and score cancellation is not available. 
  • LSAT for prospective law school students: An online proctored version of the LSAT called the LSAT-Flex will be administered in June and July for students who have already registered to take the in-person test. The new version will have three 35-minute scored sections and a separate LSAT writing portion.
  • MCAT for prospective medical school students: Three test appointments are now available per test dates at test centers between May 29 and September 28. The exam has been shortened to 5 hours and 45 minutes from the usual 7 hours and 30 minutes, and it will still have four sections. 

“We haven’t heard that any graduate school, business school, or law school will evaluate applicants who take the at-home versions of the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, respectively, any differently from applicants who took the traditional forms of the exams,” Jeff Thomas, Executive Director of Admissions Programs for Kaplan Test Prep, said. “The tests themselves, while slightly altered, still feature the same question and section types, so all the preparation strategies and techniques remain.”

Although the knowledge that is tested on the exam remains the same, Eleanor Roosevelt College junior Elle Peterson, an international studies – sociology student, told The UCSD Guardian about concerns that have arisen as she studies for her LSAT-Flex exam in June.  

“As I struggle to focus in my apartment I am extremely worried this will translate to my exam,” Peterson said. “Rolling out of bed like I do everyday to sit at the same dining room table isn’t conducive to that natural test anxiety that would help me succeed. Also, I have a noisy needy cat, 3 roommates, a sick parent at home where every call from them could be bad news, and my apartment is right next to a busy street. I feel like the distractions will make it a difficult testing environment.”

 Despite these struggles, Peterson also shared some positive notes about how she stays connected with other folks.

“The test is going to be different, but it doesn’t mean it has to be bad,” she said. “This is uncharted territory for everyone and you don’t have to go it alone. Reddit threads are your friend for updated information and talking about the outcomes of the LSAT-Flex with people who understand what you’re going through.”

Sixth College junior York Zhang, a bioengineering major who took the at-home GRE in April, shared his test experience and offered some advice for test-taking.

“The most inconvenient part of the GRE test is the note taking: you cannot use white paper; you need to use a white board or a plastic erasable paper instead,” Zhang said. “I used the white board so I have to half stand while writing drafts.”

York also provided some helpful testing advice to the Guardian which can apply to all at-home proctored administration exams: 

  1. The proctor will make sure your face is in the camera during the test. So they may remind you to make yourself visible during the test. To avoid such interruptions, it’s best to make sure that you are inside the camera’s viewpoint at all times. 
  2. Testers are responsible to make sure their equipment is working. Before the test, make sure everything, including the camera and microphone, is working well. It’s not a bad thing to check often before the exam. Because the online GRE uses the Windows system, for those who are unfamiliar with it, you can talk to the proctor directly if you don’t want to risk any accidents of switching the window.
  3. Make sure that any background noises are as low as possible, especially for those who are sensitive to noise. Someone like roommates or family members may interrupt you during the test, so be sure to notify them of your testing time advance. 
  4. Before the test, the proctor will check your ID. Then you will need to stand up and use your webcam to shoot the 4 corners of your room and the space underneath your table. Then you will be asked to turn off your phone in front of the proctor and put it to a place inside of the camera’s vision. If you leave the room during the test, you will be asked to redo the process above.
  5. When preparing an at-home test site, make sure there is nothing “weird” around you that may catch the proctor’s attention. Read the requirements one by one carefully, and don’t take any chance that’s not necessary.

The above exam updates are subject to change as the pandemic progresses. Students are encouraged to check official exam websites often for any future updates. 

Photo courtesy of US News and World Report.