TWO RECENT VALEDICTORIANS APPLIED WITH BELOW-AVERAGE ROTMAN GMAT SCORES
But she has often seen evidence to show that it matters little when it comes to real success. Two recent valedictorians at Rotman, she notes, both scored below Rotman’s average GMAT and both ended up in prestigious jobs at Nike. Not long ago, Gauthier notes, she met a young woman who showed up at an MBA Fair in India. “She was very articulate, very polished and had strong work experience, but she also had a GMAT in the 550-570 range,” recalls Gauthier. “She told us that as soon as other schools found out her GMAT score, they immediately wrote her off. She said we were the only school that would pay any attention to her.”
Gauthier also tells the story of a Latin American student at Rotman who had been rejected by a rival Canadian school because faculty sat on the admissions committee and refused to allow someone with a GMAT in the mid-500s into the program. Rotman accepted her and this past summer she received six internship offers in finance. “They were blinded,” she says of the faculty on the other school’s admissions committee. “They couldn’t see her true potential because they so completely focused on the GMAT score.”
For the first time ever, every admissions staffer who brought a candidate forward for committee discussion this past year had to list the applicant’s employment risk factors. The new approach will cost Rotman some GMAT points this year. But Gauthier says the incoming class’ average GMAT score, which was 673 last year, won’t go below 660.
WHAT GMAT SCORE PROVIDES CONFIDENCE A CANDIDATE CAN DO THE MBA WORK?
Of course, the other important question is how high a GMAT score needs to be to provide a high level of confidence that a candidate can successfully complete the rigorous academic work of an MBA program. “We need to know that students can do the work,” says Gauthier. “We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater but we are not going to chase GMATs or buy GMATs, anymore.”
Many admission officials say that a GMAT score of roughly 580, with decent quant scores, would give them enough confidence that an applicant can do the work. ”If I had to guess,” says Frey, “you would have to be absolutely confident about anyone north of 650. Below that, I have to run the numbers. it is certainly not predictive of valedictorians and great career success.”
Frey concedes that when it comes to a handful of major consulting firms and a few investment banks, the GMAT is in all likelihood predictive for employment. That’s because firms such as McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Goldman routinely ask MBA students for their GMAT scores and prefer candidates above 700. “GMATs matter a lot to a handful of firms in the world so it is a good proxy for them. It’s also true of some investment banks, but they are willing to make a lot of concessions around the GMAT. If we did a sub-analysis, I would think you would see GMAT scores to be very predictive of employment for a handful of consulting firms in the world.”
ROTMAN EXPECTING ‘A RICHER CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE’
A side benefit of the data crunching has been its acceptance by Rotman faculty. “To be able to stand up and show statistically significant results from a major study speaks to a business school faculty,” says Frey. “They are always saying, ‘Show me the data. We don’t want to hear your anecdotes. The fact we were able to show this to faculty has gotten us so much further toward buy-in from faculty on what we are doing in admissions. There is real respect that hadn’t always been there before.”
Ultimately, the class that arrives this fall at Rotman will look and feel different as a result. “We are going to have fewer super high GMAT scores,” says Frey. “But we are going to have a class that communicates better because we have seen how important the AWA and the admissions interview score is. We are going to have a class that is better at articulating their thoughts and that is a net positive for our MBA program and the careers of our graduates.” Adds Gauthier: “I think it’s going to be a richer classroom experience as a result.”
Using the analysis, believes Frey, Rotman can outperform a class that could cost a school a great deal more. “They buy all these high GMATs and we know it’s not predictive of employability. U.S. News has changed incentives so perversely that the market is blindly chasing GMATs without even knowing why it is doing so. It’s unfortunate. But if schools want to spend all their scholarship and effort recruiting a high GMAT class, we are going to cheer them on because based on our hard numbers, the GMAT does not predict the team that wins the employment game down the road.”
Billy Beane would be proud.