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GMAT Exam Day

Updated 5 March 2021

GMAT Test Practice

During your preparation for the GMAT exam, you have probably spent a lot of time focusing on improving your basic math knowledge, familiarizing yourself with the format of the GMAT and completing lots of practice questions.

While you are busy focusing on your GMAT study plan, it is easy to forget to think about self-care before the test and what you will need to take with you on the day. 

There are some strict rules in place at the test center, so it is important that you don’t show up with an item that isn’t allowed.

Ensuring you have prepared thoroughly before the big day should help you to feel calm and ready to face the challenges of the test.

Read on to find out our top GMAT test day tips – then take a moment to check off the below GMAT exam day checklist, to make sure you’re completely ready.

How to Prepare for Test Day

1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Spending the night before the test cramming might seem tempting, but it is unlikely to improve your result. Instead, commit to getting at least eight hours of quality sleep.

Turn off any screens or electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep – or even better, leave them outside of your bedroom altogether.

2. Eat a Nutritious Breakfast

Enjoying the right foods on the morning of your exam is a great way to feel energized, alert and mentally prepared for the 3-hour GMAT exam.

Even if you’re not a breakfast person, it’s vital to give your brain the energy and fuel it needs to perform well during the test. The last thing you want is the distraction of a rumbling stomach halfway through the GMAT.

If you really can’t face eating food, try a smoothie or protein shake instead. Otherwise, choose from healthy breakfast options like whole-grain cereal, eggs, porridge or toast. Try adding a few ‘brain foods’ such as flaxseed, walnuts, figs or blueberries, too.

And don’t forget to have something to drink – this will help you to avoid dehydration. Water is the best option but tea (without sugar) is also good.

3. Avoid Studying on the Day of the Test

Since the GMAT is designed to test your mental ability (not your memory), you should resist the urge to study or practice on the day of your GMAT test. If possible, try not to study the day before the exam either.

Some people may find this quite a nerve-wracking prospect – if this applies to you, just do one practice test the day before your actual GMAT exam. You might find it useful to do this at the same time of day that you will be taking the real test.

4. Check Your Route to the Test Center

Find out exactly where the test center is and how long it will take you to get there. If you are planning to drive, find out whether there is an on-site parking lot, if you need coins to pay for parking and how long it will take you to walk to the test center from your car.

If you will be using public transport, make sure you choose an option that will get you to the venue with time to spare. If in doubt, aim to arrive at least an hour before your test starts.

You may wish to print out the directions to the test center, just in case your phone isn’t working on the day.

5. Arrive Early

Feeling prepared and in control is one of the best ways to avoid exam-day stress. By arriving early, you will have time to collect your thoughts before entering the exam hall.

Rushing in at the last minute or panicking that you might be too late for your slot is bound to leave you feeling stressed out during the exam.

What to Bring With You on GMAT Test Day

GMAC has several strict rules that you will need to adhere to. Make sure you stick to these to avoid having to reschedule your test or pay additional fees.

Read on to find out all of the essential and non-essential (but still nice-to-have) items you will need to take along with you on the day of your test.


  • Confirmation of your GMAT test appointment – You will receive written confirmation of your GMAT test appointment, either by email or post. Bringing this confirmation with you will enable you to iron out any queries or confusion that may crop up regarding your GMAT test date or time.

  • Photo ID – This must be both valid and approved for the GMAT. Choose from a government-issued driving license, government-issued national/state/province ID card, military ID card or an international passport.

    NB: If you are taking the GMAT in a different country to your country of citizenship, you must bring your passport.

    The document you choose to provide will need to show your name, written using the Roman alphabet and spelled in the same way as was recorded on your GMAT registration paperwork. It must also show your date of birth, which must be an exact match to the information provided by you during the GMAT registration process. Plus a recent photograph (which must be a good representation of your current appearance) and your signature.

    If any of the four criteria above are not met by the photo ID document you provide, you will not be allowed to take the GMAT. Similarly, if the photo ID document you bring with you has expired, you will not be allowed to take the GMAT.

  • Information on where you want to send your GMAT test scores – As part of your GMAT exam fee, you will have the opportunity to select up to five MBA programs to submit your GMAT test scores to. This is the only chance you will have to do this free of charge, so make sure you choose your programs before sitting the exam.

    Print out a list of the schools you want to submit your scores to and bring it along with you on the day. This will help you to feel calmer and more prepared.

    If you later decide to send your scores to additional schools, it will cost $28 per school – so it is worth planning ahead and doing it for free.

  • Prescription glasses/reading glasses – If you wear glasses, don’t forget to bring them with you.

Non-essential (but nice-to-have)

  • Extra layers – When getting dressed on the morning of the exam, make sure that you choose something that’s both warm and comfortable. You may wish to layer up, just in case the exam venue is hot. And it’s always a good idea to take an extra sweater or jacket, just in case you get cold during the exam.

  • Water and snacks – During the three-hour-long GMAT test, you can take two optional 8-minute rest breaks; it is a good idea to bring some simple refreshments to re-fuel during your breaks. Remember, you will only be able to access these refreshments during your breaks.

    NB: If you have a health condition or disability which may have an impact on your ability to observe this rule, you will need to complete the GMAT Exam Accommodations Request Form before booking your test appointment.

    Water is the best choice for something to drink – avoid fizzy or sugary drinks. When it comes to snacks, take something nutritious and easy to eat such as a banana, apple or granola bar.

  • Tissues – You will only be allowed to use these during breaks – keep a pack in your locker if you have a cold or suffer from allergies.

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Things Not to Bring

Bringing a prohibited item to the test center could lead to confiscation, revocation of your score or even a ban from further testing for a period of up to three years. Additionally, GMAC may choose to send a notification to your preferred business schools.

Here are the things that are not allowed in your locker or on the premises. Make sure you do not have any of these with you when arriving for your test:

  • Weapons – Hopefully, this one is obvious. Don’t bring any weapons (or anything that could be considered a potential weapon) to your GMAT test. This includes items such as razors, clippers and pocket knives.

  • Books/printed GMAT resources – This includes textbooks, thesauruses and dictionaries. If you’re the type of person who keeps lots of written notes in various pockets, make sure you check there are none on your person when you are entering the building. You will immediately be disqualified from the test if you’re found to have any printed GMAT aids within the test room.

Here are the things that are allowed in your locker but must not be accessed, even during breaks:

  • Electronic devices. You won’t be allowed to use any electronic devices (apart from the computer you are allocated to use for your test). This includes cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, watches and pagers. If you do bring an electrical device along, you’ll have to leave it in your locker and you won’t be permitted to use it (not even during breaks) so it’s sensible to leave electrical items at home where possible. The most common reason for canceled test scores is a candidate touching their cell phone during their break.

  • Calculators. It’s best to leave your calculator at home – you won’t be permitted to use it at any time during the test or breaks.

  • Handbags, wallets and backpacks. These can be stored in your locker but you won’t be able to access them until you have completed the test (even during your breaks).

Final Thoughts

If you’re hoping to study at a business school, taking the GMAT test is an important way to get your MBA journey off to a good start. This means it is vital to ensure you are fully prepared on the day.

When it comes to preparation, avoid revising or cramming on the morning of the test (or even the day before if possible). Chances are, you will know the date of your GMAT appointment well in advance, so you should have plenty of time to ensure you are ready without putting yourself under unnecessary extra stress or pressure in the hours leading up to the test.

Using the checklist outlined above, spend some time the day before your test preparing the items you will need to take with you, especially the essential documents required for GMAT. Remember, it’s vital that you take an acceptable form of photo-ID – you won’t be allowed to take the test without this.

Before leaving, check through your bag and pockets to make sure you are not carrying any of the prohibited items.

Plan your journey to the test venue and arrive early. This will give you adequate time to get your bearings, find the restrooms and put your belongings into your locker.

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