Standardized tests such as the Graduate Management Admission Test and the Graduate Record Examination not your forte? Don’t let that dissuade you from pursuing an online MBA program. Schools are simplifying admissions and you may be surprised to find out the number of top programs that are saying yes to test waivers.
Let’s face it. Some people simply aren’t good at taking tests. Schools recognize this — and what’s more, given the widespread belief in a “holistic approach” to admissions, a GMAT or GRE score suddenly becomes less of the end-all, be-all for applicants. Schools readily acknowledge that exams are just one indicator of a candidate’s fit for a program.
They also acknowledge that for professionals with multiple years of work experience — the primary demographic for online graduate business programs — a GMAT or GRE turns into extra busy work when the real-world experience they’d bring to a program is likely more valuable than saying they scored over a certain number on a test.
‘ANOTHER BOX YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHECK’
For applicants who have multiple years of professional work experience — and maybe even other advanced degrees or certifications — some schools are making it less cumbersome to get in by waiving the GMAT requirement for their online MBA.
Says Christine Estoye, online MBA program manager at the University of Tennessee-Martin’s College of Business: “For students, it becomes another box you don’t have to check.” She says that’s why UT-Martin began offering an entrance exam waiver a few years ago.
But if you’re looking for an exam exemption, tread carefully. Most schools report very lofty requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify. What’s more, exams are mostly waived on a very stringent case-by-case basis.
WAIVERS ARE POSSIBLE, BUT TOUGH TO COME BY
Of the top 10 online MBA programs in U.S. News & World Report‘s latest 2018 ranking, all but Carnegie Mellon allow a waiver, but only UNC and Maryland report that fewer than half of their students get in without standardized test scores. This signifies that a waiver is possible, but difficult to achieve at most schools.
At Lehigh University’s College of Business & Economics, ranked sixth among all online programs by Poets&Quants, an applicant needs at least 10 years of work experience for the school to consider letting them in without an entrance exam. Another alternative to skipping the GMAT/GRE requirement at Lehigh is seven years of work experience, but that’s with an accompanying Master’s degree.
The key word in all of this is “consider.” Even with these boxes checked on your application or resume, GMAT and GRE waivers are not always guaranteed as each candidate is looked at individually.
In other words, a lot of work experience is not a guaranteed pass through the gate. Says Andrew Ward, Lehigh’s associate dean of graduate programs, “Our average work experience is probably seven or eight years. This was the case even before we had the waivers. But we’re still looking for very high-quality applicants.”
It’s a similar situation at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business. Kaushik Sengupta, program director of the online MBA, tells Poets&Quants that getting into Zarb’s program requires the GMAT and at least three years of work experience — even though the work average the school sees hovers closer to 12 or 13. For those with a more-extensive work history, the school will consider a GMAT waiver, Sengupta says: “Anybody who has at least six years of experience in progressive managerial role we look at it, case by case, and waive.”
Still, even with strict standards found at schools like Lehigh and Hofstra, there are other avenues to pursue. Schools like Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business, and Ohio University have no entrance exam requirements at all. In these cases, schools are looking for quantity and quality of work experience as well as undergraduate performance.