Simply put, if you’re looking to get admitted in the next year to a top online MBA program — or for that matter a middle- or lower-tier one — you probably don’t need to take the Graduate Management Admission Test. Most programs have liberal GMAT waiver rules, and several new and popular programs have dispensed with entrance exam requirements entirely or made them a voluntary part of the application process. With few exceptions, even the programs that still require a GMAT score give applicants ways to get around it — and that was before coronavirus, which has only accelerated the move away from the GMAT.
As a result, a list of “top online MBA programs that don’t require a GMAT score” is much the same as Poets&Quants‘ fourth annual ranking of top online MBAs, with a few elite programs taken out and a few more thrown in that went unranked this year for one reason or another.
A couple of schools from the top of the ranking are not on the no-GMAT list, and a couple of others require explaining. Indiana University’s Kelly Direct online MBA, our top-ranked program, and Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business, the No. 3, both require the GMAT but offer limited numbers of highly competitive waivers; Indiana plainly offers more, as their percentage of currently enrolled students who submitted a GMAT score is just 32%, while CMU Tepper’s is the highest in the ranking at 83%. Because they both officially require the test, we have excluded them from this list.
And while some schools with higher percentages of GMAT submissions than Indiana are included here, it’s because the pandemic has led the schools to temporarily suspend their GMAT requirements.
THE COVID EFFECT
The fact is, the GMAT 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 P&Q‘s ranking 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), CMU Tepper (671), Creighton University Heider College of Business (670), Indiana Kelley (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%.
UNRANKED PROGRAMS WORTH CONSIDERING
Another wrinkle: Between the release of U.S. News‘ online MBA ranking in January 2020 and P&Q‘s collection of data this summer for our own ranking, there were drop-offs at some schools in the number of enrollees who submitted GMAT scores. For example, at ndiana Kelley, U.S. News lists the GMAT submission rate at 47%; later in the year, the school reported a rate of 32% to P&Q. Is coronavirus the culprit? Probably, but not every school responded to the pandemic that way. At CMU Tepper, the number reported to U.S. News and P&Q was the same: 83%. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, the number went up slightly, from 6% in U.S. News to 7% here. Same for USC Marshall, where GMAT submissions rose to 28% from 25%. Bottom line: Each school is different for different reasons, so check the schools’ websites for answers.
Several top online MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT were not included in this year’s P&Q ranking because they declined to participate. Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business offers a $90,000 online MBA with an 89% acceptance rate and requires no GMAT. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business has made headlines in recent years for its $22K iMBA for which no GMAT (or any other entrance exam) is required; that program currently lists its enrollment at just 3,000, far more than any other school in the P&Q ranking (or most anywhere, for that matter). Penn State World Campus and Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management have large, popular, costly, and — in the former’s case — highly ranked programs that demand to be included, even if they declined to be in P&Q‘s ranking this year. So you will find them in the table below.
And be sure to check out last year’s version of this story to see how the overall picture is evolving.
The 2021 Poets&Quants Online MBA Rankings Package