From Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting
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Do I Need to Take a Test for MBA Admissions?

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The buzz around test requirements for MBA programs has intensified over the last season as a result of the pandemic and access issues around test taking.

Across our client pool, we field questions about admissions exams daily. With former MBA admissions officers on our team for every top US and EU program, we have a unique opportunity to share insights through a new series of articles that reflect the active dialogue of our own “GMAT Club” community.

Here is the first in a series of questions and answers so others can take a sneak peek into the internal conversations that our Stacy Blackman Consulting team has been bantering about!

Do I need to take a test for MBA admissions?

Yes and no. There are two different camps on this subject—there are proponents of test taking and others who truly feel that standardized testing isn’t predictive or necessary for higher education admissions. Both camps are accurate, actually.  

Prospective business school candidates need to first identify which caliber and type of MBA program they aspire to, as those criteria influence whether to take a test and how important that test score will be in predicting relative admit chances. 

There are countless graduate programs, especially outside of top 15 MBA programs, that are “test lighter” in their expectations. Still, we see that demand for top 15, full-time MBA programs has soared because of the sterling value of the reputation, education, and alumni network. Even most of the top executive MBA programs require a test score and didn’t waiver much on some type of objective test measurement, even during the peak of the pandemic.

Bottom line: Almost all top brand MBA programs still expect and require a test of some type.

What value does a test score have in MBA Admissions?

A test score is the most objective measure of one’s ability to handle the quant-heavy coursework of a business program. A competitive test score that is close or at the average reported test score by the MBA program demonstrates to the MBA admissions officers that the applicant can handle the analytical coursework, which is the hallmark of business school programs. 

To assess academic aptitude, the test score is evaluated by the MBA admissions officers in conjunction with the college transcript and work experience.  “It becomes a moral question. I don’t want to admit someone who is going to struggle,” shared a college admissions officer in a recent Wall Street Journal article

Unlike MBA essays and letters of recommendation, which help paint the bigger picture of who the applicant is as a persona strong test score shows the top MBA programs that the candidate can commit to the academic exercise of test prep and score improvement through hard work and perseverance. Such attributes are proxies for success within and outside the classroom of a graduate program. 

For example, a former INSEAD admissions officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team shared the following about quant performance for most MBA applicants to INSEAD:

“Anyone who scores below the 70th percentile will be a ‘conversation’ and a committee discussion will ensue reviewing the academic record to see if there are overall concerns about the prospective student to cope with the rigor of the program. There is always some test score flexibility, but there’s definitely an agreement that quant performance predicts academic success within the INSEAD program.”

Should I take the GMAT exam?

If you’re aiming for top MBA programs and have access to the test—either the GMAT online exam or the test center version—we recommend taking the test and submitting the score. 

“Even for some programs such as MIT Sloan, which temporarily waived the test requirement due to the pandemic, we are seeing that our clients who submitted a test score have had more favorable admit outcome results overall,” shared a former MIT admissions officer who is now on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

Any test is better than no test for applicants focused on the top MBA programs for which acceptance rates are competitive.  There are other tests to consider, such as the Executive Assessment, if the GMAT isn’t ideal for the applicant.

Should I submit a test score even if the program doesn’t require one?

We almost always encourage minimizing risk by submitting a test score.

“Not submitting a standardized test score is only beneficial if all other measures work well, especially the grades,” shared a former Kellogg School of Management admissions officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team. “So, if you had stellar grades undergrad, the AdCom would probably be okay evaluating you without a test, if the program’s application requirements waive the test score.”

But if college grades were low in quant classes specifically, having a test score to help counteract those grades is essential. A test score is the most reliable measure of academic aptitude and it’s weighed more heavily than even if a candidate opted to submit any ancillary course transcripts such as HBx Core or MBAmath.  

What has changed in test expectations for top MBA programs?

Top programs have worked to deemphasize the GMAT in recent years, so it’s not quite as rigid as it once was. This pivot has helped to diversify the student class.

“When I was at Wharton Adcom, we placed less of an emphasis on stats (i.e., average GMAT score) as we realized Wharton had lost candidates to HBS and Stanford who were taking lower test scores,” noted a former member of the Wharton School admissions officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team. 

Programs still evaluate a candidate’s profile holistically based on all aspects. “All the test score shows, which is still vital, is that the applicant can do the work in addition to managing everything else that’s part of MBA experience,” shared a former Harvard Business School admissions officer on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

Stacy Blackman is the founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC). SBC is the only consulting firm in the industry who has on our team a complete panel of former MBA admissions officers from the top US programs and top EU programs. No other firm has this complete talent. 75% of our MBA consultant team hails from the top seven US MBA programs as MBA graduates and/or former MBA admissions directors. The SBC team has MBA expertise at every top US and EU school, has graduated from the elite MBA programs and understands career paths in every industry, traditional and non-traditional.  SBC offers a limited number of free consultations weekly for inquiries who have been pre-screened by our tenured team.

Are you ready to stand out in the MBA admissions process? Taking the GMAT demonstrates your commitment to earning your MBA and your ability to succeed in the classroom. Get started by claiming your free copy of the GMAT Success Kit and Practice Exams 1 & 2.

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