Ross | Mr. Automotive Compliance Professional
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Digi-Transformer
GMAT 680, GPA 4
Stanford GSB | Ms. 2+2 Tech Girl
GRE 333, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthcare Operations To General Management
GRE 700, GPA 7.3
Chicago Booth | Ms. CS Engineer To Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.31
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Engineer In The Military
GRE 310, GPA 3.9
Chicago Booth | Mr. Oil & Gas Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 6.85/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seeking Fellow Program
GMAT 760, GPA 3
Wharton | Mr. Real Estate Investor
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Chef Instructor
GMAT 760, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Climate
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. New England Hopeful
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Bangladeshi Data Scientist
GMAT 760, GPA 3.33
Harvard | Mr. Military Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 3.9
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Chicago Booth | Mr. Private Equity To Ed-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Gay Singaporean Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Electric Vehicles Product Strategist
GRE 331, GPA 3.8
Columbia | Mr. BB Trading M/O To Hedge Fund
GMAT 710, GPA 3.23
Columbia | Mr. Old Indian Engineer
GRE 333, GPA 67%
Harvard | Mr. Athlete Turned MBB Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Ross | Mr. Civil Rights Lawyer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62
Stanford GSB | Mr. Co-Founder & Analytics Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 7.4 out of 10.0 - 4th in Class
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Environmental Sustainability
GMAT N/A, GPA 7.08
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Trucking
GMAT 640, GPA 3.82
Ross | Mr. Low GRE Not-For-Profit
GRE 316, GPA 74.04% First Division (No GPA)
Harvard | Mr. Marine Pilot
GMAT 750, GPA 3.98

Most Reliable & Valid MBA Ranking?

Professor Dawn Iacobucci

Professor Dawn Iacobucci

If Dawn Iacobbuci were a prospective MBA applicant instead of an accomplished professor, the MBA ranking she would most definitely consult before applying to business schools would be the annual list published by U.S. News & World Report.

Iacobbuci’s preference isn’t without deep study or consideration. As senior associate dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen School and a marketing professor who has also taught at Kellogg, Wharton and Owen, she has just completed a major study of the reliability and validity of three major rankings: U.S. News, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and The Financial Times.

The professor, who does not have an MBA degree, looked at every full-time MBA ranking ever published by those three publications: 13 separates lists from BusinessWeek which began ranking schools in 1988 and has published updated rankings every two years; 15 rankings from The Financial Times, which began its list nearly ten years after BusinessWeek, and 27 lists from U.S. News & World Report which started rating MBA programs annually in 1987.

Iacobbuci prefers U.S. News largely because she believes its ranking has shown greater reliability over the years and has greater validity. Her number crunching also found that every rank improvement toward the top on U.S. News yielded an additional $908.03 more on average for the school’s graduates in their first post-MBA job, significantly more than BusinessWeek‘s $605.27 or The Financial Times‘ $377.58.

“I would look at U.S. News as a result of this research,” she concludes, “partly due to objectivity of the measures and components that go into the ranking. They are less easily gamed. The Financial Times is pitched to favor the more international schools, and the BusinessWeek student poll has a good deal of variability to it. You don’t want to see schools slipping up and down and all over the place. If there is that much variance, what good can there possibly be to the ranking?”

VARIABILITY SEEMS TO TROUBLE THIS ACADEMIC

From an academic viewpoint, variability is bad if you’re looking for consistency from one ranking to another, or as this academic puts it, “The simplest expression of reliability is that of consistency.” And it’s true that wide swings in a school’s rank over a short-period of time tend to lack credibility. That’s why Poets&Quants routinely points out the biggest changes in every ranking which tend to occur further down each list when the differences in the underlying data are slim at best.

Iacobbuci, however, focuses less on this issue than the variability in the student satisfaction poll used by BusinessWeek. “Comparing across media,” she writes, “we see that BusinessWeek varied quite a bit over its first 15 years or so, and it has become stable since approximately 2004. We can laud the U.S. News as yielding the most stable results, year to year, even from its inception.

From an applicant perspective, however, measuring the subjective opinions of the latest graduating class—which is what BusinessWeek tries to do every two years—can yield valuable information about the quality of the full MBA experience. It’s not unreasonable to assume, for example, that a school can fall down on critical elements of what makes a top-ranked MBA worthwhile, from the ability of a school to get students the jobs they want to the quality of the teaching in the classroom. Those things tend to be variable–and important to applicants.

HOW THREE MAJOR PLAYERS RANK THE TOP TEN SCHOOLS

U.S. News                            BusinessWeek                   Financial Times
 1. Harvard  1. Chicago (Booth)  1. Harvard
 1. Stanford  2. Harvard  2. Stanford
 3. UPenn (Wharton)  3. Wharton  3. Wharton
 4. MIT (Sloan)  4. Stanford  4. London
 4. Northwestern (Kellogg)  5. Northwestern  5. Columbia
 6. Chicago (Booth)  6. Duke (Fuqua)  6. INSEAD
 7. UC-Berkeley (Haas)  7. Cornell (Johnson)  7. IESE
 8. Columbia  8. Michigan (Ross)  8. Hong Kong UST
 9. Dartmouth (Tuck)  9. MIT  9. MIT
10. NYU (Stern) 10. Virginia (Darden) 10. Chicago

Source: Latest rankings from U.S. News (2013), BusinessWeek (2012), and The Financial Times (2013) of full-time MBA programs

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