The Complete Methodology Behind P&Q’s 2023 Online MBA Ranking


No ranking methodology is perfect. But at Poets&Quants, we’re constantly looking to improve ours. That means asking the deans and directors for suggestions on our methodologies each year and, when it’s merited, adjusting our approach accordingly. But while we’ve tinkered with the details of our methodology over the six years we’ve ranked online MBA programs, the framework of the methodology has remained the same.

We believe a quality education is centered on three attributes, all equally weighted in our ranking: admissions standards, academic experience, and career outcomes. The admissions standards data is reported by the business schools we rank, while our evaluation of a program’s academic quality as well as its career outcomes are based on an annual survey of the most recent graduating class. This year we surveyed students graduating between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.

Some 50 schools were included in this year’s ranking — down from last year’s record high of 52. But it’s still more than the previous year when 47 schools participated, which was up from 35 three years earlier, and 25 in the inaugural year. All but three schools — Clemson University, the University of North Texas, and Louisiana State University — met the minimum alumni response rate. Among the 50 schools to participate, we sent an alumni survey to 7,469 graduates. Of those, 1,351 responded for an overall response rate of about 18% — the same response rate as last year.

Last year we made two significant changes to the methodology. First, we significantly reduced the weight given to average GMAT scores. Second, we included alumni survey data from both two years. We kept that methodology exactly the same, except for schools that did not participate last year and, hence, did not have alumni data, we just gave them the same scores for both years. Last year, we gave schools missing data from the previous year an average of what all other schools scored. While beneficial to our readers and the ranking itself, we’ve noticed the alumni survey can create yearly wild swings that can occur if a single class of graduates was happy or unhappy. While there are still swings from the alumni survey (the University of Texas at Dallas jumped dozens of spots this year mainly because of the alumni survey), it helps cut down on most dramatic swings.

Admissions Standards

As mentioned, last year we reduced the average GMAT score weight from 50% in the previous four years to 20%. We kept it the same this year. That 30% was evenly distributed to the three other data sets within the admissions category. For example, the average undergraduate GPA was given a 30% weight this year compared to 20% two years ago. Likewise, the average years of work experience for the most recent incoming class was also given a 30% weight, up from 20% two years ago. The acceptance rate was increased from 10% to 20%. The upshot? This category remained exactly the same as last year’s ranking.

Academic Experience

Nothing changed this year in the academic experience category. The bulk of this category (80%) comes from the average score of 15 questions that are on a ten-point scale. The survey questions cover a wide range of aspects of an online MBA program. Graduates are asked if they would recommend the OMBA program to a family member, friend, or colleague, how accessible and helpful professors were, and their ability to create meaningful connections with fellow classmates and faculty. The remaining 20% comes from the average rating alumni gave their schools based on their ability to participate in student-run clubs and organizations and work on consulting projects with outside organizations. Before the Covid pandemic, we asked students to rate any international experiences they had, but for obvious reasons, we have suspended those results for the time being.

Career Outcomes

Again, like the other two methodological categories, there were no changes here. The most (40%) weight in this category is given to the percentage of graduates reporting a promotion and/or salary increase directly because of the OMBA program. Some 20% is the average rating given to the schools’ career advising office and career coaches or mentors. Another 20% is given to the percentage of students saying their primary career goal was met. And 10% is given to the percentage of students saying their secondary career goal was met.

2023 Methodology

Admissions Standards (100 possible points):

  • Average undergraduate GPA (30%)
  • Average years of work experience (30%)
  • Acceptance rate (20%)
  • Average GMAT (adjusted for the percentage that reported plus the percentage that had it waived with 10 or more years of work – 20%)

Academic Experience (100 possible points):

  • The average score of 15 one-to-10 scaled questions (80%)
  • The average percentage of three other questions looking at international experiences, student clubs and organizations, and completing a consulting project (20%)

Career Outcomes (100 possible points):

  • Average reporting a salary increase or promotion (40%)
  • Average rating of career coach/mentor and career advising office (20%)
  • Average of primary career goal being met (20%)
  • Average of secondary career goal being met (10%)
  • Average rating of ability to build a professional network (5%)
  • Average rating of satisfaction of that professional network (5%)

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The Complete Methodology Behind P&Q’s 2023 Online MBA Ranking