Where Do Chinese GMAT™ Examinees Want to Study Post-COVID?

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought many uncertainties to the global mobility of graduate business students. Now, with the wide availability of vaccines, the hopes of internationally ambitious candidates who previously deferred their plans are rekindling.

In China, the May reopening of US F-1 student visa appointments was a clear signal that international study is again a possibility for China’s young business talent.

For many students in China, the GMAT™ exam is the proven pathway to gaining a seat in top business school classrooms abroad. Taking the GMAT exam and earning your best score demonstrates to international business schools that you have what it takes to be successful, enabling you to realize the many benefits of an international business school experience for Chinese students.

Is COVID-19 still affecting Chinese applicants study plans?

To get a sense of Chinese GMAT examinees’ study destination choices in the aftermath of COVID-19, the makers of the test conducted two small scale of surveys through the official GMAT WeChat (Wechat: GMAT考试官方社区).

Comparing the survey data of potential GMAT test takers between two survey periods (Summer 2020 and Spring 2021), the responses overall show that Chinese candidates still have a strong willingness to go abroad for business school, but may be changing where exactly they want to go.

Chinese candidates are now less likely to say they’re postponing their application plans

As vaccination rates climb and travel opens up, more Chinese candidates are making definitive international application plans.

In Spring 2021, 28 percent of respondents said they were considering postponing their business school plans, compared with 35 percent in Summer 2020.

The survey responses suggest that while candidates were deferring their application plans last year, they made good use of their time working toward their business school goals. Compared with Summer 2020, those surveyed in Spring 2021 were more likely to have proactively contacted the admissions offices of their target schools (30% vs 17%) and taken an admissions exam (26% vs 19%).

UK and US remain top destinations, but Hong Kong is on the rise

While Chinese candidates are now less likely to be postponing their international study plans, where they want to go to business school has seen some changes between the two survey periods.

Overall, the United Kingdom and the United States remain the top two choices, however both saw declining interest over the course of the pandemic. In total, 50 percent of Spring 2021 respondents said the UK was their preferred destination (down from 56% in Summer 2020) and 46 percent said the US (down from 49%).

Where are Chinese candidates increasing turning their sights? Closer to home in Hong Kong SAR. The percentage of respondents who said Hong Kong SAR was their preferred destination increased from 25 percent last summer to 38 percent this spring—a 13 percentage point increase.

 preferred study destinations-2021

Another growing option for Chinese candidates is Sino-International programs based in China, which offer many of the benefits of an international business school experience with the convenience of staying domestic. 

Chinese candidates are ready to launch their international studies

In sum, COVID-19 certainly brought challenges to the internationally focused Chinese business school candidates. However, the attractiveness of getting high quality education abroad remains strong in the Chinese candidates’ mindset.

The United Kingdom and United States still act as the most popular business school destination for Chinese candidates; however, options like Hong Kong, as well as Singapore, may be more attractive to them in the post-COVID world due to their close proximity to home.

Zhenxuan Chen is the Regional Direction for Greater China at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), maker of the GMAT exam.

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