A number of top-ranked programs are waiving testing requirements, allowing you to submit your application without a GMAT or GRE score. Should you consider applying in round one without a GMAT/GRE score? Or should you take a test and see how you do, and apply in round two?
It’s a question we field often, especially in the final countdown to MBA application submission. Our advice, invariably, is that it depends on the student.
Broadly speaking, we advise against seeking a test waiver if you can credibly take the exam. Unless you’re a truly exceptional candidate with an amazing personal story – and have a really good reason for not taking the test – you should plan on submitting with your scores even for MBA programs waiving the GMAT or GRE.
Some schools are offering test waivers to accommodate the lingering effects of the pandemic on applicants’ careers and abilities to access the tests. However, schools generally accept test scores from tests administered remotely, you will need a good explanation for not supplying scores. And schools will require strong evidence of your ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment in lieu of scores.
In 2023, we found only two top-10 US schools waiving the GMAT or GRE. More schools in the next tier offer flexible exam policies for the 2023-24 MBA admissions cycle, including full-time MBA programs waiving test requirements altogether. Dartmouth Tuck School of Business announced a test waiver for applicants recently laid off from jobs in any sector — not just tech — but that option expired on March 1. Still, it’s a sign that schools are willing to be flexible and accommodate special circumstances.
Caution: Have you already taken the test but want to leave the test score out of your application? This is possible but is completely dependent on the graduate school to which you’re applying. With INSEAD, for example, if you have taken both the GMAT and the GRE, you must report both sets of scores – you can’t decide to just report one test and not the other because you want to pick the test where you got the best result. If you’re on the fence about taking it or not and whether to report it, be sure to check the wording on the relevant application forms where the test is optional.
Below we’ve listed the current policy at some leading schools. Always be sure to check for updates or options at your schools of interest.
Top Business Schools MBA Programs Waiving GMAT or GRE Exams
- MIT Sloan: Sloan will consider waivers of the GMAT or GRE only for applicants who can document that they “cannot safely access a test either in person or virtually. Applicants must request a waiver; responses are provided in one to three business days. If the MIT GMAT waiver is approved, and the candidate is admitted, no test will be required when applying.
- Michigan Ross: Candidates who can “adequately demonstrate their readiness for the rigor of the program” may submit an application without a test score. Instead, they must submit an essay that explains circumstances impacting the ability to demonstrate their ability via a test and cites alternative evidence of academic readiness. This may include candidates whose circumstances continue to be impacted by the pandemic. See website for details.
- NYU Stern: Those who are not able to prepare for or take a standardized test and can demonstrate academic readiness without a test score may apply for a waiver. The process requires a request form, resume, transcripts and other documentation of academic performance, and an essay.
- Virginia Darden: Requests for a test waiver are granted on a case-by-case basis. Requests are considered with a focus on evidence of a strong undergraduate record, including performance in analytical coursework or disciplines; a master’s or advanced degree in analytical discipline; and at least three years of professional work experience.
Note that these policies are for full-time residential MBA programs. Executive, part-time, or specialty focus MBA programs may have different requirements. More policies are listed in Fortuna Admissions’ in-depth article on this topic. Be sure to check the schools you are interested in to confirm their current policy.
Want more advice?
To learn more about why testing matters to top business schools, which test is best for you, and how to prepare, schedule a session with one of Fortuna’s expert coaches.
Caroline Diarte Edwards is co-founder and director of Fortuna Admissions and former director of admissions, marketing, and financial aid for the INSEAD MBA program. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation
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