GMAT Test Takers Fall Again in U.S.

GMAT testing by U.S. citizens fell for the second year in a row and the lowest level in the past five years, according to a new report out today (Feb. 14) on prospective students who take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Some 116,546 U.S. citizens took the test last year, a decline of 10.7% from the 130,508 test takers in 2009. Last year’s total was even below the 117,321 people who took the test in 2007. Some 41% of the test takers, a new record, were women.


Today’s report, published by the organization that administers the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admissions Council, also found that the decline in the U.S. was offset by growth in East and Southeast Asia, especially China, which represents 70% of testing volume in the region. In East and Southeast Asia, GMAC found, only 40% of test takers sent their scores to an MBA program in 2011, down from 64% five years ago.

During the five-year period covered by the report, the percentage of exams taken by citizens from countries other than the U.S. surpassed 50 percent for the first time in 2009 and reached 55 percent by 2011.

GMAC also said that U.S. citizens remain overwhelmingly attracted to domestic graduate programs. In 2011, 97.9% of their scores were sent to U.S. schools, a proportion little changed form 2007 when 98.3% of the GMAT reports were sent to U.S. schools. “Of the score reports that do leave the U.S., the majority are directed toward opportunities in Western Europe, Canada, and, more recently, Hong Kong and China,” GMAC said in the report (see table below).

Interest in full-time MBA programs around the world continues to decline, meantime, as significant growth in more specialized business programs in finance, accounting and management takes up the slack. GMAC said that worldwide the proportion of GMAT score reports sent to MBA programs fell to 67% in 2011 from 78% in 2007. This in line with the recent analysis by the Kellogg School of Management which last week disclosed that it plans to double or triple the number of students enrolled in its one-year MBA program and to decrease the size of its two-year program by up to 25%.

GMAC said far more test takers sent their scores to schools for more specialized business degrees. Those candidates tended to be younger, boasted less work experience, and were more likely to be female, according to the GMAC report. “Part of this shift may be due to the fact that more non-MBA master’s programs are using GMAT scores to inform their admissions process,” the report said.

Some 258,192 GMAT exams were taken last year, the second consecutive year of a decline from the 265,613 prospective students who took the test in 2009. Even so, the latest number represents the third highest annual total.

The U.S. remained the primary study destination for GMAT examinees, accounting for 77% of all score reports. Even though that percentage was down from 83% four years earlier, the U.S. still had an overwhelming lead over any other country for graduate business education. GMAC said that in 2011 the United Kingdom surpassed Canada as the second leading destination for business school talent, with 4.49% of scores going to business schools in the U.K. Hong Kong jumped to ninth from seventh place, while Israel fell to tenth from sixth place over the same four-year period.

“This report clearly illustrates the growing diversity of management education, from the types of programs available, to the number of quality programs worldwide, to the variety of people who are choosing to pursue a degree,” said Dave Wilson, GMAC president, said in a statement. “We see this diversity in the growing applications for specialized master’s programs that are attracting candidates who are younger, have less work experience and are more likely to be female than the typical MBA candidate.”

Other key findings:

* GMAT examinees sent a total of 750,399 score reports to management programs across 77 countries in 2011, up 14% from the 655,506 scores sent in 2007.

* The average number of GMAT score reports sent per exam taken fell slightly to 2.9 last year from an average of  3.0 over the past four years. However, the most common examinee behavior was to send either five score reports or just one.

* Although schools in the U.S. remain the primary study destination for nine of the ten citizenship groups in the report, all but one (Middle Eastern citizens)  sent a lower proportion of  their GMAT score reports to the U.S. last year when compared with 2007. In most cases, prospective students are increasingly interested in domestic and regional opportunities.


  • sivilengyneer

    John, I am sure I am not alone when I say I’M BADLY MISSING your high quality smackdowns.

  • Whyyale,

    For schools that have are trying to prop up their reported GMAt to look better in a ranking, a GRE candidate with a slightly lower score could be found to be far more acceptable. At Yale, however, the 10% number on the GRE is a consequence of the much broader diversity of the applicant pool. Many applicants are from the public sector and the non-profit space, and an MBA is perhaps just one of several master’s degree they considered getting. As you know, the GRE gives you more options than the GMAT which is strictly for master’s programs in business.

  • whyyale

    John, what do you think of schools like Yale who accept gre scores in lieu of taking the GMAT? Do you think it is clearly just another way to game the rankings and puts all applicants who had the courage and dedication to take the much more challenging (especially quant) gmat at a disadvantage? Since the GRE scores of students is not factored into the rankings, do you think the GRE is effectively a backdoor to programs like Yale trying to move up the rankings when you are just not better than other applicants, but good enough for usnwr standings?