Let’s get this out of the way from the jump: The Graduate Management Admission Test has never been less essential to getting into business school. In the coronavirus year of 2020, major MBA programs have offered a variety of ways to get out of taking it — and look likely to continue offering them. And what’s true for full-time, two-year MBA programs is doubly so for their online cousins, which didn’t need the chaos of Covid-19 to make the GMAT, the Graduate Record Exam, or any other entrance exam secondary to other admissions factors.
A nice illustration of this reality can be found in the number of schools in Poets&Quants‘ fourth annual ranking of top online MBA programs, out this week, that had an appreciable percentage of GMAT submissions by eventual enrollees: only 17 of 47, a little over one-third. The GRE fared little better with 18 schools. Last year, 50% of the 35 ranked schools had double-digit GMAT submissions, but the GRE was still so little-used that we didn’t bother to collect data on it. One thing we can conclude from all this is that, in this moment in time, the GRE waxes as the GMAT wanes; but it’s hard to draw any long-term conclusions when coronavirus is still raging around the world.
Among the 42 total B-schools that accepted GMAT scores this year, the average was 649.4. Among the 17 with submissions from 10% or more students, the average was 589.6. The school with the highest overall average GMAT score was Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, which reported an average of 687, followed by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (677), Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business (671), Creighton University Heider College of Business (670), Indiana University Kelley School of Business (650), and Imperial College Business School (650). However, at Baylor, only 1.7% of enrollees submitted GMAT scores, and at UNC, only 7%; CMU Tepper, on the other hand, was the top school for GMAT submissions at 83%. (See the next page for tables of all GMAT, GRE, and GPA scores for the 47 schools in P&Q‘s 2021 Online MBA Ranking.) Important to note: Indiana Kelley is our top-ranked school overall this year, CMU Tepper is second, and UNC is No. 5.
GRE SNEAKING UP ON GMAT
The average percentage of GMAT submissions at the 42 schools that took them this year was just over 18%. (The average at the schools that took more than 10%: 39%). Seem low? Consider the Graduate Record Exam, for which the average at the 41 schools that accepted them was 11.6%. (At the 18 with appreciable amounts of GRE submissions: 21.5%.)
CMU Tepper boasted the top combined (verbal plus quant) GRE average, at 324. At 21%, Tepper also was one of the 18 schools with more than 10% GRE submissions. It was followed by Georgia’s Kennesaw State University (322.5), the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business (320), Indiana Kelley (315), and four schools at 314: UNC Kenan-Flagler, Lehigh University, the University of Maryland Smith School of Business, and the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Washington Foster was also the leader in GRE submissions at 49%.
At the top five ranked schools — in order: Indiana Kelley, CMU Tepper, USC Marshall School of Business, George Washington University, and UNC Kenan-Flagler — the average GRE score was 314.4. The average percentage of GRE submissions at those five schools was 15.4%; Marshall led with 27%.
A NUMBER UNDIMINISHED IN THE AGE OF COVID
One number in the world of MBA admissions that hasn’t been especially diminished in the age of Covid is undergraduate grade point average. It still matters how applicants did in their previous academic lives — even when they’re applying for online MBA programs. Last year, Indiana Kelley, then ranked second, led 33 other schools in our ranking with a GPA of 3.45 — but it was tied with a much smaller, less-heralded program, then ranked seventh: Foisie Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. This year, as the Kelley School’s GPA slipped, Worcester Foisie’s improved, taking the top spot with a reported GPA of 3.54. Consolation for Foisie dropping in the ranking to 29th this year.
The thing is, undergrad GPA still matters, but it doesn’t make up for other shortcomings. After Foisie, the top online MBA programs for GPA are the University of Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management (3.48), the University of Michigan-Dearborn (3.46), the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Manning School of Business (3.45), and the University of Arizona Eller College of Management — none of which is ranked in the top 15. You have to go down the list to the ninth-highest GPA, at the Kelley School (3.42), to find a highly ranked school.
The 2021 Poets&Quants Online MBA Rankings Package
See page 2 for tables on the 47 ranked schools’ average GMAT scores and average GRE scores, and page 3 for average undergraduate GPAs.