GMAT Testing Hits Record Volume

The mad scramble to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) before a new integrated reasoning section debuted in June resulted in historic record volume, the Graduate Management Admission Council announced today (Sept. 23). Massive increases in test takers in both China and India also contributed to the record numbers.

Dave Wilson, CEO of GMAC, would encourage his son to go to China for an MBA

Dave Wilson, CEO of GMAC

The council said a total of 286,529 GMAT exams were taken during the 2012 testing year, which ran from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. That reflects an 11% jump over the previous testing year and 8% higher than the previous record of 265,613 in 2009.

The rush to take the GMAT confirms earlier reports that vast numbers of test takers took the GMAT earlier than usual to avoid the new IR section. Kaplan and other test prep firms were advising clients to sit for the old exam rather than take the new one. Andrew Mitchell, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-business programs, told Poets&Quants that it could mean a difference of scoring a 680 or a 710 with the same amount of prep time (see Timely Advice From The Guru of the GMAT).

GMAC conceded the record volume “partially reflects” increased interest in the exam brought on by the addition of the I section on June 5th. “Historically, test volume rises just before changes are made to a standardized exam as test takers opt for a familiar format at the transition,” said the council.

Ironically, some business schools have since taken a “wait and see” attitude toward the new integrated reasoning section, in part because only a small percentage of this year’s applicant pool will have taken the new exam. GMAT scores are valid for five years.

But the record test taking volume also is a likely sign that four consecutive years of decline in full-time MBA applications may reverse itself this year.  “There are a lot of people who entered the pipeline during this period,” said a GMAC spokesperson.  “The total numbers of scores sent to MBA programs grew during the testing year and we hope that will show in the 2013 app trends survey.”

MBA admission consultants also have told Poets&Quants that they are seeing record business from applicants who intend to file their applications in time for the round one deadlines (see Heavy Round One Volume Expected). And test takers of the alternative test, the Graduate Record Exam, also showed a significant increase last year. A record 800,000 people took the GRE in 2011, a 13% increase over 2010, according to the Educational Testing Service (see More MBA Applicants Taking GRE Test).. ETS reports its numbers for the calendar year, while GMAC reports its number for a fiscal year ending June 30th.

GMAC said 831,337 score reports sent to 5,281 graduate business and management programs around the world — also historic highs. The number of programs receiving scores was up 7% from 2011 and 21% from 2008. Roughly 560,000 GMAT score reports were sent to MBA and EMBA programs, and 240,000 scores went to other masters programs (such as accounting, finance, and management) in testing year 2012.


Though GMAT test taking increased in all regions of the world, GMAC said it was especially strong outside the U.S. Tests taken by non-US citizens rose 19% in 2012 and represented 59% of global GMAT volume. Chinese test takers, the second-largest citizenship group after the U.S., represented 20% of global testing. In 2012, the number of exams taken by Chinese citizens increased 45% to 58,196 exams. Indian citizens, the third-largest citizenship group, took 30,213 GMAT exams, a figure that increased 19% in 2012.

The percentage of exams taken by women hit 42.9% in 2012—a record for the third straight year.

GMAC said that metro areas in the U.S. with significant increases in GMAT testing among residents included New York City and Los Angeles (up 8%), Chicago and Boston (up 4%), and Washington, DC (up 10%) in testing year 2012.

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