It doesn’t get much clear than this: “No GMAT/GRE? No Problem.”
That’s the way Boston College’s Carroll School of Management now positions its admissions policy on standardized tests for its prestigious full-time MBA program ranked 51st best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants.
BC, of course, is not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a massive wave of business schools to go test-optional or to more generously waive the GMAT and the GRE for admissions.
COVID IS CAUSING A WAVE OF RANKED MBA PROGRAMS TO WAIVE GMATS
At the top end, the full-time MBA programs at MIT Sloan, UVA Darden, and Michigan Ross are test-optional for 2020-2021. Five business schools with top 25 MBA programs now offer GMAT and GRE waivers, including Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (see table below).
But far more business schools with MBA programs ranked outside the top 25 yet still among the best 100 programs in the U.S. are joining the no-GMAT, no-GRE club. A new survey of admissions officers by Kaplan at more than 100 business schools across the United States found that 36% no longer require the GMAT or the GRE for all applicants. Another 24% of the responding admission officials say they have suspended the requirement for some applicants.
Many of these schools are still offering waivers on a case-by-case basis. Even Boston College, with its open invitation to candidates to apply without a test, requires that MBA applicants have three or more years of full-time work experience, an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher or the possession of a JD, MD or Ph.D., or a CPA or CFA or other professional certification. Yet, its crosstown rival, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business is not requiring a GMAT or GRE score for candidates who apply to either Questrom’s full-time MBA program, ranked 42nd in the U.S., or the professional evening MBA for the 2021 admissions cycle due to the pandemic.
TO WAIVE OR NOT, THAT IS THE QUESTION IN ADMISSION CIRCLES THESE DAYS
Until its final application round in the last admissions cycle, Kenan-Flagler had never even had a case-by-case policy for MBA applicants to waive the GMAT or GRE. “We ran a pilot during the summer and found that to be successful as the economy was dipping and people were losing their jobs,” says Danielle Richie, senior associate director of MBA admissions and student recruitment. “Candidates who were interested in an MBA but didn’t expect to apply then suddenly changed their minds thinking now was the right time for them. For this fall, we built out a more robust process for candidates to submit waiver requests.”
At Kenan-Flagler, MBA applicants can build a strong case for a waiver by having a 3.2 GPA and coursework in STEM, business, economics, or analytical fields from a U.S. institution or more than five years of work experience in a quantitative or analytical field. Otherwise, candidates need a CPA or CFA or can submit strong scores on the Executive Assessment, LSAT, PCAT, or MCAT in lieu of the GMAT or GRE.
Whether to waive GMAT and GRE tests has become the talk of the admissions field this cycle. “This has been an ongoing conversation,” says Richie. The discussions, she adds, tend to focus on how consulting firms and investment banks will treat MBA graduates without test scores and how U.S. News, which weighs class average scores in its ranking methodology, will adapt to the admission changes. “I have seen candidates with lower than average test scores get into companies like Bain, but it is still an important consideration.
“We are disrupting the market by making these waivers and forcing a change as well,” adds Richie. “There are schools that say our leadership team isn’t quite there yet and there are others that are moving forward with new waiver policies and test-optional plans. It seems like we are collaborating but we are not. It’s happening organically.”
SEVERAL SCHOOLS QUIETLY EXTENDED TEST-OPTIONAL POLICIES BEGUN LAST SPRING AND SUMMER
For many other schools, test-optional policies have been extended from the spring when test centers closed and schools opted to be far more flexible with admissions. The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University decided to waive GRE and GMAT test scores as a part of the admissions process for all master degree programs for this year after the school initially began waiving test score submissions for incoming students during the summer and fall of 2020. The school’s full-time MBA program is ranked 59th best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants.
“The decision to extend our admission test waivers was made to stay ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic as the situation evolves,” says Gregory Jonas, senior associate dean of academics and graduate programs. “The past year has created many challenges for incoming students, and our goal is to reduce the stress involved with the application process – particularly factors that are out of the control of students. We look forward to providing the same world-class education to our incoming students as we have in the past, despite the new challenges this year has created.”
Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, with a full-time MBA program ranked 40th in the U.S., is another school that extended its test-optional admissions policy from the earlier cycle. “The last few months have been among the most challenging our students and prospective students have ever faced,” says Matthew B. Myers, dean of the Cox School of Business. “Our goal is to give our graduate school applicants as much flexibility as possible in the face of test center closures. Streamlining the experience during this time period makes sense, and it’s the right thing to do.”
‘ASSESSING A CANDIDATE’S META-SKILLS ARE MORE PREDICTIVE OF SUCCESS THAN A TEST SCORE’
“The decision to continue our GMAT/GRE test-optional policy through August 2021 allows the Cox School to eliminate barriers to help alleviate anxiety and provide flexibility for those individuals applying to Cox,” explains Shane Goodwin, associate dean of Graduate Programs and Executive Education at Cox. “We have found that assessing a candidate’s meta-skills (intellectual curiosity, self-awareness, resilience, adaptability, etc.) are more predictive of success than a standardized test score.”
In some cases, taking advantage of a waiver can put you at a disadvantage for scholarship money. At Weatherhead, for example, candidates interested in being considered for scholarships are still encouraged to complete the GMAT/GRE tests to enhance their scholarship opportunities. But that is not always true.
Often times, schools put in test-optional policies for their no-MBA business master’s programs but still leave open the door for a no-GMAT and no-GRE MBA. At Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School, all of the full-time MS programs in business are test-optional for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
“If you have been able to test and believe a test score will add value to your application, you should submit one,” advises the school. “If you have not been able to test or believe your test score does not reflect your ability and potential for graduate study, please do not include a score.”
For applicants to the school’s full-time MBA program, Carey requires three or more years of work experience at the time of the program’s start in August of 2021 and a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies or an advanced degree.