GMAT Test Taking Plunged 16.8%


The number of people taking the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) severely plunged last year, according to a new report on testing volume.

Some 238,356 GMAT exams were taken in the year ended June 30, down 16.8% from the record 286,529 a year earlier, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the exam. Test takers sent 675,733 GMAT score reports to nearly 5,600 graduate-level management programs around the world.

Test taking was down in every region of the world tracked by GMAC, and the decline in the U.S. was even greater than the worldwide totals. GMAC said that 90,541 tests were taken by U.S. citizens last year, down 23.0% from the 117,511 administered in the 2012 testing year. U.S. citizens accounted for 38% of the total numbers of GMAT tests taken, down from 41% in testing year 2012.


The drop was expected because of the earlier record volume bolstered by a surge of would-be applicants who took the test before the addition of a new section on integrated reasoning. Many MBA candidates did not want to study for the new section and instead chose to get the GMAT out of the way before integrated reasoning appeared on the test in early June of last year. As a result, the drop in testing volume may not signal a decline in forthcoming MBA applications because not all of the year-earlier test takers applied in that year.

Interestingly, when GMAT test taking hit record volume levels, GMAC issued a media release touting the data in September of 2012. This time, GMAC held back on issuing any news releases regarding the plunge in test takers. The decline was reported in a report called the 2013 Profile of GMAT Candidates which was issued in December with little fanfare or notice.

GMAC sought to downplay the decline in testing volume in the report. “Historically, test volume rises just before changes are made to a standardized exam as test takers opt for a familiar format at transition time,” according to the GMAC report. “A closer look at testing volumes for the last five years shows that the surge in testing year 2011–12 followed by the dip in 2012–13 average out to about the same number of tests taken in each of the three years prior.” GMAT scores are accepted by business schools for five years after they are taken.

Despite the comparison with a record year from test takers seeking to evade the new IR section, some say that GMAT test taking remains slow this new year. “We do expect GMAT volume to rebound,” says Lee Weiss, executive director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep. “But it seems like there is still stability and growth for international test takers. Domestically, it’s still down.”


In east and southeast Asia, GMAT test taking was down significantly less than the overall numbers: a fall of 10.9% to 69,322 this past year, versus 77,795 in 2011-2012. Test takers in the east and southeast Asia now account for 29.1% of all GMAT exams taken, up from 27.2% a year earlier. After the U.S., more GMAT tests are sat for in east and southeast Asia than any other part of the world.

The drop in testing volume also was less severe in Western Europe where the decline was only 6.1%. Some 17,717 tests were taken in Western Europe last year, versus 18,868 in 2011-2012. The result: GMAT test taking in Western Europe now accounts for 7.4% of all the exams, up from 6.6% a year earlier.

In Canada, testing volume fell to 6,500 exams, down from 7,820 a year earlier. The percentage of GMAT test takers in Canada remained steady at 2.7% of the world total.

Since 2008–09, the annual percentage of individuals taking the GMAT exam has ranged from 80 to 84% of total GMAT exams taken globally. In the most recent testing year, 190,658 unique test takers submitted valid scores, which translates to 80% of the 238,356 GMAT exams reported for the year. Although the overall rate has remained relatively constant over the five-year period analyzed for this report, there is often significant variation across global regions. US citizens, for example, had a unique examinee rate of 87% in 2012–13, compared with just 67 percent for citizens of East and Southeast Asian countries.

GMAC, in its 2013 Profile of GMAT Candidates report published in December, said that the highest average GMAT scores were obtained by test takers in Australia and the Pacific Islands where the average test score was 591, higher than the 575 mean score in east and southeast Asia. GMAC said that the mean total score for U.S. test takers this past year was 532, with an average of 549 for men and 504 for women (see table below).

Source: GMAC 2013 Profile of GMAT Candidates

Source: GMAC 2013 Profile of GMAT Candidates

(See following pages for further breakdowns of average GMAT 2013 scores and testing volume by world region)

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