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Could U.S. News Kill the GMAT Exam?

Claudia Baldwin

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You had to read the obscure footnotes in U.S. News‘ release of its online MBA and business master’s rankings yesterday to discover news as noteworthy as which business school topped the latest 2022 list. But in the dense language of the methodology for how U.S. News cranks out its ranking was arguably the most important news of all: For the first time, the ranking powerhouse removed GMAT and GRE scores from its ranking process.

For decades, business school deans and admission directors have obsessed about those standardized test scores, more often than not because of U.S. News rankings. Sure, a score can give an admissions official confidence that a candidate can do the quant work in an MBA or graduate business degree program. But no school needs a 700 score to know that. In all likelihood, a score of 600 would be sufficient to know that an applicant can handle the quantitative parts of the core curriculum in a rigorous MBA course.

The change was buried in the 25th paragraph on page four of U.S. News‘ explanation for how it ranks Online MBA and other master’s degrees in business:

A revision to this edition’s methodology is that new entrants’ GMAT and GRE scores were not incorporated in the calculations. In the previous edition, the indicator using these exams comprised 40% of each school’s student excellence score. That weight has been redistributed to the other admissions data as outlined below.

WHAT IF U.S. NEWS DECIDES TO ABANDON THE GMAT AND GRE FOR ITS FULL-TIME MBA RANKING?

Instead of giving standardized test scores that 40% weight in its “student excellence” category, the website doubled the importance of undergraduate grade point averages in its ranking, hiking the weight to 50% from 25% of the category. It also increased the weight it gives a program’s acceptance rate to 25% form 15% and boosted the importance of “experience” to 25% from 20%.

Could U.S. News follow suit with its forthcoming full-time MBA ranking in March? The ranking organization is mum. “U.S. News does not make announcements about future rankings and methodologies this far in advance,” says a spokesperson. But if it did, the move would likely have a major impact on admissions policies and the administrators of both the GMAT and the GRE.

After all, standardized tests are a significant hurdle for many applicants to business school. They prevent many highly qualified candidates from applying. And the tests are heavily weighed in admission decisions, partly or largely because of the U.S. News ranking which gives those scores more importance than they deserve.

If you want to know how obsessive schools are about their GMAT and GRE scores, you only have to read the recent headlines on the conviction of the former dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He was found guilty in federal court of leading a conspiracy to cheat on these very same online MBA rankings by inflating the numbers of students who had taken the GMAT along with the average score of an incoming cohort to game the rankings. For his sly handiwork, Dean Moshe Porat was able to get Fox’s online MBA program ranked first in the nation by U.S. News for four straight years.

While the vast majority of online MBA programs do not require standardized test scores and those that do often waive them for candidates, the change will have little impact on the ranking itself or the lucrative business of test taking. Even schools that ask for standardized tests for admission to their online degree programs have significantly relaxed that requirement in recent years. Just 2% of the latest cohort of students to join the online MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School submitted a GMAT for entry; another 2% handed over a GRE score. At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, just 19% of the latest Online MBA cohort took a GMAT test, while 9% sat for the GRE.

TEST OPTIONAL ADMISSION POLICIES ARE CAUSING BIG DECLINES IN TEST TAKING

And as the pandemic hit, the vast majority of full-time MBA programs began dropping their standardized test requirements or began to actively promote waiver policies on the tests. Largely due to COVID-caused closures of tst centers and concerns over the at-home versions of the GMAT and the GRE, the vast majority of the top 100 full-time MBA programs in the U.S. began waiving standardized tests for admission in early 2021. A Poets&Quants survey then found that 67 of the top 100 had gone fully test-optional or were actively promoting test waiver policies.

Two years ago, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business was among the first to go test optional. After receiving more than 1,300 requests for a test waiver from potential applicants last year and enrolling roughly 13% of its entering MBA cohort with an approved test waiver, the school is maintaining its test optional policies. It’s te same story at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business this year. Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at Ross, extended its more liberal waiver policy after being pleased with the quality of candidates in the previous cycle who applied to the school without a GMAT or GRE. “Test waivers were at the top of the team’s annual process review discussion,” she wrote in announcing the move. “We found that many incredible applicants applied using a test waiver. Whether it was prior coursework, work experience, or professional certifications, they demonstrated their ability to handle the rigor of the MBA program without a standardized test.”

The impact of these changes on the Graduate Management Admission Council which administers the GMAT have been dramatic. In testing year 2020, the first year impacted by the pandemic, little more than 59,000 tests were taken in the U.S. Only four years earlier, more than 109,000 GMAT tests were administered in the U.S. Since then, more business schools have dropped the GMAT for admission or now waive the test, only exacerbating the decline (see below).

International test takers could not offset the falloff. In testing year 2020, only 173,176 GMAT tests were taken worldwide, a decline of 40% from 2011. In testing year 2016, test takers sat for more more than 260,000 exams (see below). Some of the decline, of course, reflects the increasing popularity of the GRE as a rival test for business school admission decisions. GRE has been taking marketshare away from the GMAT for several years now.

‘SCHOOLS WANT TO CREATE OR MAINTAIN A PERFECTION OF HAVING THE HIGHEST STUDENT QUALITY’

What would happen to the GMAT if U.S. News no longer weighed standardized test scores its full-time MBA ranking? While it’s hard to say for certain, it would not help the Graduate Management Admission Council reverse the downward trend. If anything, it could make the GMAT exam–the still dominant test For MBA admissions–vulnerable.

Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm, begs to differ. He believes a decision by U.S. News to abandon standardized test scores in its methodology would not have much impact at all. “We would like to believe that the programs are only beholden to sky high GMAT averages for superficial ranking purposes — and that they would free themselves from the rankings trap if they could,” he says. “However, unfortunately, they probably care as much about keeping their averages up to put some polish on their class profiles, creating or maintaining a perception of having the ‘highest’ student quality.

“So, even if there were no implications for rankings, my guess is that HBS would still be quite reluctant to drop its GMAT average ten points below that of the Stanford GSB, even if they felt that they were getting better all around students. I find it ironic that programs that teach leadership just can’t break free from this test.”

DON’T MISS: GMAT AVERAGES REBOUND BIG TIME AT THE TOP 50 MBA PROGRAMS or  SHOULD MBA PROGRAMS MAKE THE GMAT & GRE OPTIONAL?  

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MBA Handicapping: Can You Punch Above Your Weight (GPA/GMAT) at Harvard/Stanford?

Claudia Baldwin

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https://youtu.be/IeQoyI-MlrI.

Shriya is a 27-year-old consultant working in London for a boutique firm. She applied to Stanford in round 2 last year and re-applied in round 2 this year, but had not gained an interview.

Her question: Has anyone ever gotten into Stanford on the third try?

Our answer: Not with a 690 GMAT score.

But Shriya does plan to retake the test, aimed for a 700-plus score and wants to apply again. She also plans to wider her options by applying to the first time to UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Wharton, Harvard, Stern and Kellogg.

Besides working as a consultant for two and one-half years, she also worked for Equiniti Group Plc, a London-based fintech firm for four and one-half years, during which she gained three promotions. She has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from the University of London.

In this episode of Fridays With Sandy, HBSGuru.com founder Sandy Kreisberg candidly tells Shriya to give up on a third try at Stanford and assesses her chances at her other target business schools.

If you would like to participate in a future Fridays With Sandy webinar, you can contact Sandy and John here.

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Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Ricardo Aaron Carrillo, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Claudia Baldwin

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Ricardo Aaron Carrillo

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“Hopeful dreamer.”

Hometown: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Fun Fact About Yourself: In the last eight years, I have lived in seven cities on three different continents.

Undergraduate School and Major: ITESM—Tecnológico de Monterrey, Architecture

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Woods Bagot Architects, Senior Designer

What word best describes the Tuck MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Encouraging. From my application process to being admitted, I have seen this value in all Tuck students and alumni. Every Tuckie I have met has been so invested in helping me achieve my goals. People like Michael Barbe (T’22), Kristin Ng (T’22), and Sanjana Tikkoo (T’22) exhibited selfless support to me even before I was part of this family. Compared to other top schools, Tuckies truly surprise you with an unparalleled level of encouragement. It is simply unique; I’ve never seen anything like this.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? It would be the general management program, challenging core curriculum, student collaboration, and career outcomes. The general management program at Tuck allows you to gain skills to be successful in any industry you want. A combination of cases and traditional classes are used to gain the hard skills that complement case discussion. For me, being part of a school that took a structured core curriculum and had a collegial student body was crucial in my MBA school selection.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Dartmouth Tuck? It is really hard to mention only one, but I will mention where I will be more involved. I am really excited to engage with Tuck Pride, the Finance Club, the Rugby Club, and the Center for Business, Government & Society. I am interested in Tuck Pride as I would love to attract even more LGBTQ+ individuals to our community and push forward LGBTQ+ representation in the business world. I also chose the Finance Club because I am fascinated by the power finance has to change the lives of many people. I chose the Rugby Club because I love to play rugby, and the Center for Business, Government & Society as I want to be more effective in creating social change.

What excites you the most about coming to live in Hanover? What is the one activity you can’t wait to do? The aspects that excite me the most about living in Hanover involve being in contact with nature, to have spaces to reflect on the big issues I want to solve and engage with my classmates 24/7. Hanover is a safe, friendly, and utterly charming place. One activity that I can’t wait to do is to play rugby. I love the comradery, collaboration, and open communication rugby brings out of each player.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I consider my biggest accomplishment to be the mentorship I offered kids, teenagers, and younger staff in my previous industry. Mentoring low-income kids and LGBTQ+ teenagers, while helping them to take positive changes in their lives, has been the best thing I’ve ever done.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 taught me a lot of lessons. It taught me to keep dreaming and be industrious while making positive change for a better society. The COVID-19 pandemic caused me to re-evaluate my life, goals, and relationships with others. In my career, I realized that I wanted to be a more effective agent of change for minorities—women, LGBTQ+, and racial minorities—around the world.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I am pursuing an MBA because of the impact it allows you to have in the world. I want to have a positive imprint on our planet. An MBA will help me develop the skills and credibility to bring more diversity to the workplace, to help others get better jobs, improve society, and work on nonprofit endeavors. After graduation, I hope to continue working in a company that allows me to advocate for more diversity and opportunities for minority groups while creating wealth for everybody.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Wharton, Oxford, LBS, Stanford, and Yale.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA program? I love this question! First, I would like to say there is no formula. Tuck is transparent in how applications are evaluated and what the school is looking for. Tuck looks for smart, accomplished, aware, and encouraging individuals.

Second, take the GMAT or GRE and score at or above the school mean. However, if you have taken it a few times and are still below the mean score, do not let it deter you from applying. Schools recognize that you are more than a score. On this subject, I personally recommend test prep services like GregMat, who was a game changer in my preparation.

Third, get to know Tuck. Go to the school’s Diversity Conference (DivCo) and Women in Business Conference. Attend admissions events, meet ambassadors, engage with clubs, and talk to alumni. I view Tuck as a family, not just classmates or a “network.” I really mean family, where you develop trust with classmates and alumni, and people will have your back. For this reason, I encourage you to get to know the family and demonstrate how you can contribute to the community here.

Fourth, do a lot of self-reflection on your essays, show your true self, be vulnerable, and leave your ego at the door.

DON’T MISS: MEET DARTMOUTH TUCK’S MBA CLASS OF 2023

 

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Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Francisca Carpentier, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Claudia Baldwin

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Francisca Carpentier

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“A curious learner who firmly believes that we change the world with our day-to-day actions.”

Hometown: Santiago, Chile

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am probably among very few women arriving at their MBA experience pregnant! My husband is a fellow Tuckie, and the school was very supportive with planning how to approach this academic year. We couldn’t be more excited. Many classmates have already volunteered to babysit!

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Business Administration, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and Master of Science in Economics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate at SummaPartners, a boutique firm founded by experienced consultants to join the worlds of management consulting and private equity.

What word best describes the Tuck MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Seekers. Tuck students are open to change and learning; students come here to question themselves and be questioned, to have an authentic transformational experience. I am also impressed by how humble successful Tuck alumni are, transmitting that same will to keep learning and challenging themselves.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I wanted a small school, a place where I would get to know my classmates and professors and truly connect. Before enrolling, every Tuckie I spoke with would always reflect on how transformative their two years at Tuck were and how Hanover was a special place to make human connections and life decisions. That’s what I was looking for in my MBA experience.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Dartmouth Tuck? Everything is exciting, but I don’t think TuckGO can be topped. The idea of traveling the world with a group of classmates and a professor to learn about the most relevant topics in our global economy is an experience I am sure no one could forget.

What excites you the most about coming to live in Hanover? What is the one activity you can’t wait to do? It is living in a place far from the noise and rhythm of the city. I’ve always lived in big cities, and I love it, but doing my MBA in a small place where I could focus on the experience resonated with me.

The one activity I can’t wait to do is skiing. I need to go to the Dartmouth Skiway at least once to say I did it!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My first project as an associate was to reduce a company’s size, given the risk profile of some of its operations. It was the biggest company in its industry in the region, so the project’s impact was huge. It was a multi-variable problem, where we had to work on several scenarios and consider multiple effects in a short time. We built a cohesive team with the client and finally came up with a well-thought-out solution. We accompanied the company through implementation and managed to reduce over 40% of accidents in a year, positively impacting the company’s results. In the beginning, we truly believed it wasn’t possible, and I will never forget an experienced partner telling me this was the most fun and challenging project he had worked on.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I think working on challenging projects without having day-to-day team interactions had an impact on me. I realized a huge part of why I enjoyed my job so much was the great team I was surrounded by and how those small breaks and jokes throughout the day truly made a difference. It changed my career because I now know how important it is for me to work with a cohesive team with whom I can have fun and learn from. It’s more about the people than the role, and that was a great life lesson.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After four years working alongside great leaders and mentors, I was more aware than ever of the dreams I had as a future leader and the gaps I needed to close to become that leader. After my MBA, I hope to join the strategic team of a large tech firm. I enjoyed consulting in tech and would like to keep growing on strategic roles in that industry because I genuinely believe those companies are changing the world.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Darden

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA program? Talk with Tuckies! They are the most open community I’ve known, and you will never meet anybody more willing to talk about Tuck, Dartmouth, and Hanover than alumni: they jump at the opportunity and truly enjoy it. So go through Linkedin. Find a Tuckie you can relate to because of your experience, what you want to do after your MBA, place of birth, or whatever reason and write; I always got an answer!

DON’T MISS: MEET DARTMOUTH TUCK’S MBA CLASS OF 2023

 

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