More B-Schools Join The Test Optional Bandwagon

More business schools are going test-optional for MBA admissions this year

Two more highly prominent business schools have announced test-optional policies for the 2020-2021 MBA admissions cycle with a third school now opening the door to the shorter Executive Assessment as an alternative to either the GMAT or GRE exam.

The full-time MBA program at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business will pilot a GMAT/GRE test-optional admission process for fall 2021 enrollment, while the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business is offering a flexible test waiver program for both full-time and part-time MBA applications. Meantime, Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management will begin accepting the Executive Assessment test, originally created for applicants to Executive MBA programs, for its full-time MBA. Both Columbia Business School and New York University’s Stern School of Business also accept an EA in lieu of the GMAT or GRE for full-time MBA admissions.

Ever since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, many business schools began adopting more flexible admission policies. So this coming admissions cycle, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has made the GMAT and the GRE test-optional, along with the Wisconsin School of Business, Rutgers Business School, and Northeastern University. And when the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring shut down test centers, a number of schools, including Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and The University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, began offering test waivers for applicants directly affected by the pandemic. Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, meantime, has made the GMAT and GRE scores optional for applicants to both its evening MBA and Executive MBA programs, saying they are “unnecessary barriers” for working professionals.


School officials generally note that MBA admission decisions are made on a holistic basis and a standardized test score is but one of many metrics used to decide who to admit and who to reject. Some deans have also begun to question how strongly correlated test scores are with the success of MBA graduates. “We have many tools and data points at our disposal in the application review process,” said Katie Lloyd, associate dean of the full-time and evening MBA programs at Scheller. “We can predict a candidate’s potential for success in and beyond the MBA program without reliance on the GMAT or GRE. Basing decisions on previous academic experience, work history, and interview evaluations has been an effective admissions approach for our Evening MBA program, which began accepting candidates without a test score in 2018.”

Dean Maryam Alavi says the move reinforces Scheller’s strategic goal to foster a diverse, inclusive, and innovative community of students. Scheller’s diversity has been increasing across all its graduate programs over the past few years. According to Alavi, ” Beyond the complications Covid-19 has introduced in terms of access to exams, an overreliance on standardized test scores in MBA admissions decisions puts underrepresented minorities, individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and first-generation college applicants at a disadvantage. We move forward confident the change in this year’s admission process will attract our most diverse, qualified, and successful MBA cohort yet.”

Officials at the University of Maryland made similar arguments.  “The GMAT or GRE is an important assessment, but we review candidates holistically,” said Pasquale Quintero, senior director of full-time MBA and business master’s programs, in a statement announcing its change in policy.  “We will take into consideration academic history, work experience, industry certifications, and other factors that will strengthen one’s application.”


To qualify for the GMAT/GRE waiver at Maryland, prospective MBA students must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Industry certifications such as CFA, CPA, CAP, PMP, PHR, PE, or Six Sigma; with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale
  • Other exams such as MCAT or LSAT, with overall scores in the 70th percentile or greater
  • Earned graduate or terminal degree in business or STEM-related field; with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale
  • Earned undergraduate degree, equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s, from an accredited university or college with:
  • GPA of 3.2 or higher on a 4.0 scale, or Degree Classification of First Class or First Class with Distinction
  • 3 years of professional work experience
  • Completion of undergraduate coursework in statistics or other quantitative courses, with a grade of B or higher
  • Employer sponsorship: Candidates who are recommended by their employer for the Full-Time or Part-Time MBA program may qualify for a GMAT/GRE waiver

Active-duty military members or veterans with the G.I. Bill may also be eligible for the school’s GMAT/GRE waiver.

And at Vanderbilt’s Owen School, Associate Dean of MBA Operations Sue Oldham said the school would not accept scores from EA exams as part of the MBA program’s overall recruiting strategy to remove barriers for applicants. “We recognize that a standardized test can be a hurdle to many,” she said in a statement announcing the change. “Offering another option to our full-time MBA applicants simply makes sense and is an inclusive move to allow our applicants to submit their most competitive test score as a part of their application.”

At 90 minutes, the Executive Assessment is much shorter than the 4-hour GMAT exam and requires only modest preparation. The exam, consisting of three 30-minute sections with 40 total questions, measures skills such as higher-order reasoning, critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving. Oldham added that “the EA is an accurate readiness assessment of an applicant’s success in a competitive MBA program like ours and has already proven to be a successful option for those applying to our Executive MBA program.”

DON’T MISS: Should MBA Programs Make The GMAT & GRE Optional? or UVA Darden Extends Pandemic Accommodations Into 2020-2021 Admissions

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