The business school application components have been fairly standard for a long time: GMAT scores, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes, and essays. In recent years, an increasing number of business schools, now more than 75% of them, have also begun to accept GRE scores in lieu of the GMAT. A developing trend, however, sees MBA programs skipping standardized tests altogether in favor of a more holistic approach to admissions and candidate review. Even the most eager MBA hopeful feels at least some trepidation about taking the GMAT, so the lure of a school with a GMAT waiver is strong. But before you jump at the chance of avoiding taking a standardized test for admission, consider the entire admissions picture and choose wisely.
Check the Fine Print
Policies for GMAT or other test waivers at business schools are as varied as the schools themselves. Several schools, such as the International School of Management in Paris, have chosen to dispense with standardized tests altogether and have instead opted for a holistic review of candidates’ academic records, work experience, and career goals. Several schools are seeing that their applicants’ GMAT scores haven’t correlated to post-MBA success, and are seeing less probative value in putting an emphasis on test scores over more qualitative factors. Typically, schools that offer testing waivers have a list of caveats, including a minimum GPA in relevant coursework, a minimum number of years of work experience, a combination of both, or other requirements. Other schools will simply state that GMAT or GRE waivers are available and to contact admissions for more information. Do your research well ahead of time and see if these schools offer programs you are genuinely interested in and which will help further your education and career.
Avoid Avoiding the GMAT
Sure, few people enjoy sitting through a four-hour, high stakes test, but the GMAT can truly mark the beginning of your business school education. It’s not an obstacle, far from it. The GMAT can open doors to fellowships, scholarships, and other opportunities. If you’re serious about going to business school, taking a test should not deter you from your path. In fact, if you’re hesitant about applying to business school because of standardized testing, think carefully about your preparedness for the academic rigors of the MBA curriculum. Currently, very few schools and programs allow you to opt out of the GMAT or GRE completely, so choosing a program solely based on test waivers will severely curtail your options. Look at a test waiver as a fun bonus, not a must-have.
Even if some of the MBA programs you’re considering offer a GMAT waiver, consider studying for and taking the test anyway. Doing well on the GMAT can only help support your candidacy by showcasing your analytical and critical thinking skills. You’ll be able to open more doors and be a viable candidate to more schools, and having the power of choice on your side is a powerful thing. In fact, studying for the GMAT can help nudge some of those academic genes that may have atrophied since your college days. Especially if you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, you’ll want to prove to the admissions committee that you’re up to the task of completing an MBA program successfully. Ultimately, admissions personnel don’t just want students, they want graduates. Pore over your transcripts and consider your strengths and weaknesses carefully to see where the GMAT can help enhance your applicant profile.
Looking at GMAT waivers with your motivations in mind can help you gauge your perspective on your academic journey to come. Why are you looking to avoid taking the GMAT and what, exactly, are you seeking to avoid? With honest introspection, you can decide whether to seek test waivers explicitly, or whether to take the GMAT anyway. Let us know, is the GMAT keeping you from applying to business school?