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Should B-Schools Stop Making GMAT and GRE Obligatory?


GMAT or GRE scores are considered sheer necessities when it comes to admission to business schools. Test-takers devote time for preparing for either of these to receive a high GMAT or GRE score. But are these scores absolutely necessary for securing admission?

This can be apparently explained by the instance provided by Scott Beardsley, the dean of Darden School of Business. Just like every other student, Scott back in his high school days followed the path for pursuing higher education in college – he sat for the SAT exam but dozed off while solving verbal. He still topped in his university. It is then Scott raises the question – ‘’I often thought should your whole life be linked to a standardized test?’’

The aftermath of the realization

Beardsley eventually joined Tufts University and worked at McKinsey for 26 years, went on to become the senior partner. Right when he became the dean of Darden School of Business, it didn’t take him a prolonged time to realize that these standardized tests are overrated. In fact, a survey by Poets & Quants stated that standardized tests are more valued than the four long year’s undergraduate program.

It is not an undeniable fact that GMAT/GRE registration fees are high, which raises an issue with students hailing from lower-middle-class backgrounds. It raises a disadvantage for students who are first-generation learners, or for international students for whom English is considered a second language. The sarcasm lies in the admission process of schools where they offer enormous scholarship opportunities to high scoring GMAT/GRE applicants so as to showcase their blooming class rankings. But the actually deserving ones are being deprived of it because of their 700 scores.

How Standardized Tests Are Connected To Racism

Beardsley further states that students coming from lower-middle-class background don’t possess the luxury of pursuing GMAT/GRE tutoring or prep classes whose charges cross $500 an hour, or working professionals who cannot leave their jobs to pursue full-time preparation.

Undereducated parents, socio-economic backgrounds play major roles in determining the result as can be seen from the data of SAT and ACT exams. The underrepresented minority groups scored 1 or 2 standard deviations below the average (which is really less). Welcoming only those who had spent lump-sum amounts in tutoring makes the process prejudiced if somebody who has achieved first-class honours from Carnegie Mellon then they will not be required to show their GMAT score for proving their knowledge skills.

Darden’s Act of Making GMAT/GRE optional

University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is officially making GMAT/GRE tests optional from the upcoming admission cycle. The announcement was made in June, and before the closure of application well before September, around 72 students pleaded to waive the standardized tests. The testimonials were so intense that they finally waived the tests and last year welcomed 50 students without GMAT/GRE scores.

An escalation in Number of Colleges Making GMAT/GRE Optional

Darden’s decisions have enlivened the ancient debate and have moved the other renowned schools to follow the same. Rutgers, Wisconsin, Northeastern University are few which has made the tests optional. Covid-19 has made a setback where test centres are shut down, which has resulted in schools like Kellogg School of Management, UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business waive the test.

Following the path, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School announced GMAT/GRE optional for their Executive MBA, Online MBA and Evening MBA programs stating they’re irrelevant for a working professional.

All these underlying reasons have made the following schools make the SAT/ACT optional: Brown, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, UPenn, Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale.

Why can’t GMAT be made optional when Berkeley and Harvard have made the SAT?

Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the Boston-based National Center for Fair and Open Testing stated in this regard that “If three-and-one-half years of high school is more than sufficient to replace a test score at the undergraduate level, graduate schools need test scores even less.’’ He further stated that the US has 30,000 high schools and 2,300 undergraduate colleges and this fact makes it feasible for the admission authorities to determine the value of an undergraduate degree.

GMAT: GMAC’s Revenue Earner of $80 Million Annual

Making the GMAT optional will pose a tremendous threat to the existence of the conducting body of GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Council. GMAC’s test operations brought in $80 million out of $95.4 million of the council’s total earnings in 2018. Surprisingly, this is just a trivial amount as there are additional sources of revenue like preparation courses, software platforms, tutors. Parents on an overall basis spent $1 billion a year for preparation purpose.

In this context, Soojin Kwon the director of MBA admissions and the MBA program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business stated that “GMAT and GRE scores help to predict an applicant’s ability to take on the rigour of full-time MBA courses. They are an objective and verifiable component of our evaluation.’’

Mandatory Requirements Regulated by Darden after making Tests Optional

Without the GMAT/GRE scores, candidates will now have to obviously provide the undergraduate transcript. That is not all, the admission staff will scrutinize the transcripts to check if the candidate has proper knowledge of quant as demanded by the MBA curriculum. Quite expectedly, an engineering major’s GPA would be valued more than an English major’s grades.

Once the test is waived, Darden has made the grade cutoff to be even more stringent. The test scores, like GPA for the class of 2021 is 3.5 but it is advised to score higher than that (since there are no GMAT/GRE scores to suffice).

USA’s Reaction to the Futility of GMAT

Dawna Clarke, the executive director of Darden has stated that it is equally tedious for them to assess without considering the GMAT/GRE. But she also stated that all this while the evaluation has only been restrained to these GPAs and standardized tests, and now when they are broadening the sphere, the other factors will also be counted.

Darden has added a very striking fact while stating their new policy that underlines the fact of how GMAT/GRE is not as anticipatory as expected. University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management studied the MBA applicants and their employability records from 2008 – 2013 and they concluded that there has been a humongous contrast in what GMAT predicted and it is in fact, futile.

Before Darden, it was Harvard

Harvard Business School made the GMAT exam optional for 11 long years. The reason was pretty much the same, they were concerned about the lower-income groups who couldn’t afford tuitions and therefore, Harvard made the tests optional.