Schools: Interview As Critical As GMAT


Business schools say that the single most important criteria for admission into a two-year MBA program is the interview with an applicant. But exam scores on such tests as the GMAT and the GRE were almost as critical and not far behind were undergraduate academic transcripts.

That’s according to a new survey out today (Sept. 22) from the Graduate Management Admission Council, the organization that administers the GMAT exam. The emphasis on interviews and test scores varies from program to program, the survey found. In Executive MBA programs for students with more work and managerial experience, test scores only counted for 8%, with the interview representing 30%. For two-year MBA programs, interviews amounted to 21% of an admissions decision versus 20% for test scores.

Other crucial elements of the MBA application for prospective two-year MBA students include the academic transcript (18%), the resume (15%), essays (11%), and recommendation letters (8%) (see below table). These percentages, of course, will differ from candidate-to-candidate and from school-to-school.


Earlier this year, Poets&Quants’ asked leading MBA admission consultants to estimate the importance of each aspect of an MBA application. They significantly underestimated the weight schools place on the admissions interview, which they believe accounted for just 12% of an admit or deny decision versus the 21% schools reported in the survey.

They also underestimated the importance of undergraduate grade point averages, believing they represented about 10% of the an admissions decision compared to the 18% weight business schools say academic transcripts represent (see Business Schools Putting Greater Weight On GMAT Scores In Admission Decisions).

Not surprisingly, perhaps, consultants overestimated the importance of application essays. Compared to the 11% business schools say they attach to the essay, consultants thought they accounted for nearly 15% of the decision.


Of course, most schools only interview prospective students after a first cut in the applicant pool. GMAT scores tend to loom large in the winnowing out process to get to an admissions interview in the first place. And MBA admissions consultants and school admission directors say that more schools are putting greater emphasis than ever on GMAT scores, in large part because they are factored into the annual rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.

When asked to describe the ideal business school candidate, GMAC’s survey respondents from all program types were asked to list three adjectives; frequently used words included “motivated,” “driven,” “passionate,” and “ambitious.”

“Some program formats tend to be more selective than others in deciding which candidates to accept into their incoming classes,” according to the GMAC report. “Graduate business program formats also vary in terms of how much weight they assign to various admissions criteria when assessing various aspects of a candidate’s application for admission. Generally, academic transcripts and standardized exam scores tend to carry the most weight in terms of importance in the admissions decision for the majority of programs, followed closely by resumes and interviews. Biographical information and short-answer questions have the least impact on the decision-making process.


“Executive MBA programs differ notably from normal practice, however, giving more weight to a candidate’s interview (25%) and resume (24%). This difference reflects the nature of the applicant pool for these programs, whose candidates typically hold executive-level and upper management jobs and have 6 to 10 years of work experience, on average.

“One admissions criteria uniquely affects international candidates, who usually must clear the added hurdle of becoming fluent in the English language. Across all graduate management programs, English language proficiency exam results carry a minimum weight of 50% in relation to all other admissions factors for non-native English speakers, highlighting its importance.”

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