B-Schools Where GMATs Don’t Matter

Mike Ilitch, who owns the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, recently gave $40 million to Wayne State University's business school

Mike Ilitch, who owns the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, recently gave $40 million to Wayne State University’s business school


Kiantee Rupert-Jones stresses that the Ilitch School has not dropped the GMAT entirely, only given some students the opportunity to have the test waived. “It is still a requirement for admissions,” she says. “Some applicants must take it and some meet the criteria outlined on our website so that it can be waived for them.”

To get a GMAT waiver, applicants to the Ilitch School must meet the minimum GPA requirement (3.0) and post an acceptable score on the GRE, Law School Admission Test (LSAT), or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) entrance exam. They may also get a waiver with a 3.0 or higher from an AACSB-accredited business program, a GPA of 3.2 or higher from a regionally accredited university in any major, or at least three years of relevant professional experience.

Concerned about the effect of the GMAT waiver on the overall quality of admitted students, Ilitch School officials compared the average GPA of students before and after and found little change: Before, the average GPA was 3.27; after, 3.24.

There has been one big change in the Ilitch student body, Rupert-Jones says: It has grown older and more experienced. “The only change that we have seen is in the average years of work experience of our newly admitted students,” she says. “Then, four years; now, seven years. We think that this is a positive aspect of our increased enrollment and will contribute greatly to the pedagogy of our courses going forward.

“Our MBA program needed to appeal to working professionals looking for a quality program. This is why this and many other changes were implemented. We are happy to see that what we are doing is working.”


Mark Potter

Mark Potter

Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, has a unique relationship with the GMAT. Olin Graduate School of Management’s Blended Learning MBA program is geared toward working professionals interested in practical and relevant courses, says Associate Dean Mark Potter — and as such, the GMAT makes less sense for either the applicants or the school.

“What we have found is that for this type of student, standardized tests were simply not an accurate predictor of future program success,” Potter tells Poets&Quants. “Instead, our application process is focused on finding the right mix of students to form a curated cohort that values our overall innovative experience geared toward improving the organizations they work for, or starting new ones. We would rather have prospective students spend time on their essays and admissions interview than studying for the GMAT — and so far, with the program over 10 years old and ranked as one of the best programs of its kind in the world, success speaks for itself.”

The average participant in Babson’s 21-month blended program has eight to 10 years work experience, more than in the usual full-time MBA program, Potter says, with some Olin MBAs boasting 20-25 years’ experience. “One of the cool things about the program is how they interrelate with each other,” he says. The course starts in October, with between 100 and 120 students on each of the school’s Wellesley and San Francisco campuses. The program has a high acceptance rate: about 50%, Potter says, because “we don’t let students get too far before we have conversations with them. In other words, we create the criteria so that students pick the model and there’s an interview process that happens, so by the time they apply, there’s already a pretty good idea whether they’re going to be a fit for the program.

“They’ve tried out a class, they’ve been to a webX session, they’ve been to an on-campus visitor program, so that by the time they apply they already know if they’re a good fit for the program and we already know if they’re going to have good chance for success. So there are a lot of students who don’t even make it to the application process, and once they get to that point, we’ve gotten a pretty good idea: We’ve dated for a while, and we want to get married.”

Babson also offers an evening program for which the GMAT is required. But even there, students can get around the test by taking a tested-out course, “and if the elective goes well for them and they perform well in the elective, they can waive the GMAT requirement for our evening course.”


Online MBA programs began to proliferate about 10 years ago. Unlike most of the trailblazing programs of the era, from the start the online MBA at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business offered applicants a way out of taking the GMAT.

Like many online programs, D’Amore-McKim’s is designed for seasoned professionals, says Evelyn Tate, director of graduate recruitment and admissions — those looking to earn their MBA but who need the flexibility of an online program because they are continuing to work and applying what they learn in the workplace. The average work experience of a student in D’Amore-McKim’s program, which takes two or three years to finish, is 10 years, Tate says.

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