Online Alternatives to Testing Options

By Benjamin Boivin

shutterstock_1066845767By now, we are well aware of the situation facing our global society. Campuses are temporarily closed, and are doing their best to quickly adapt to full-time online delivery. Students are studying from home and finding innovative ways to celebrate senior year as it comes to an end. And new groups of prospective first-year graduate students are navigating testing requirements as they complete the the admissions process.

Some good news — technology is allowing college admissions professionals to continue their hard work from home (with some minor alterations).


Even before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, graduate schools had been loosening enrollment requirements by making advanced testing a thing of the past (see Graduate Schools that Don’t Require a GRE). For the less liberal graduate programs, taking a hard stance on admissions criteria during these trying times could potentially place a bigger burden on applicants, and make them consider another, more-flexible competitor.

Forward-thinking institutions making one-time-only testing policy adjustments for Fall 2020 might fear a weaker applicant pool, but the reward of yielding higher enrollment totals could outweigh the risk. Here are some suggestions of alternative options your institution may consider offering to potential students caught up in the pandemic.

GRE® (the most widely used graduate exam)

Due to public health concerns, ETS is temporarily offering a GRE General Test at home option. The test is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the GRE General Test taken at a test center. It is taken on your own computer at home and is monitored by a human proctor online through ProctorU®. Visit for more information.

GMAT™ (for MBA programs)

All cancellation and rescheduling fees have been temporarily waived. Since April 20, 2020, the GMAT™ Online Exam has offered OnVUE online proctoring, so students can complete the exam from their home or place of work. Noted on the site: “If test centers in your location are open and you feel safe accessing a test center facility, you are encouraged to do so.”

LSAT (for law programs)

In-person testing was canceled, but has been rescheduled for June 8, 2020 in many locations. The Law School Admissions Council recently introduced an online, remotely proctored version called the LSAT-Flex for test-takers who registered for the April and June 2020 that have been canceled in the U.S. and Canada.

MCAT® (for prospective doctors)

As of May 12, 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has not introduced any form of an online-proctored exam. However, they have expanded the 2020 testing calendar and developed a shortened version of the MCAT to accommodate three test appointments per test date at test centers.

TOEFL iBT® (Test of English as a Foreign Language, for non-native English speakers)

ETS is temporarily offering the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test. The test is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the TOEFL iBT test taken at a test center. It is taken on a computer at home and is monitored by a human proctor online through ProctorU®.

IELTS™ (an alternative language test for those that want to study or work in an English-speaking country)

The IELTS Partners have introduced an online test called IELTS Indicator. In locations that are able to administer the test safely, additional precautions are in place to protect the health of test-takers and staff.


Much like remote learning, online testing isn’t for everyone. Many students take practice tests, hire tutors, and buy multiple testing guides prior to taking these standardized exams, and the modified online format may throw off their strategy.

To help these students, communications such as a simple email or handy guide filled with preparation tips can be a highly valuable resource or motivation tool.

Here are a few creative (and light) ideas to help share with your potential students to get the best results during those crucial hours:

1. Notify your family of the date and time. As one of the most important parts of your graduate school process, your significant other, parents, friends, or kids need to respect your big day.

2.Create a professional setting.

Choose to take the test in a space where you feel focused. Clean the room, turn off all electronics, and take down any gaze-able wall art during your test.

3. Find the quietest room in the house.

This suggestion does not apply to city-dwellers or exotic bird owners, but a calming space is vital during your test-taking. Recreate the no-noise rule that is commonly found in testing centers.

4. Eat well before the exam and have extra water handy.

What you consume can impact how you test. This is not the morning to try new things. Choose a light and healthy breakfast, little to no caffeine, and have a couple of extra water bottles ready on the desk next to your laptop.

(and to keep things light..)

5. Invite your pet into the room (only if they soothe you).

Emotional support animals work wonders for millions of Americans, but not every animal is trained to keep the peace. Only invite your dog, cat, or baby goat into the room if he or she can keep you relaxed during the exam.

Get ready for the future

As cliché as it sounds, this too shall pass. One thing we have learned through this unusual experience is that humans are experts at adapting to change. We have also confirmed that community is essential for our personal, professional, and social wellbeing. When colleges and university campuses reopen (and they will), we can expect to see a resurgence of discovery, innovation, service, and creativity. All the things that make life at university a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Topics: Student Recruitment