Is that a sigh of relief we heard from MBA aspirants? Several top-ranked schools in the US have waived the hitherto mandatory GMAT/GRE scores for admission into graduate programs. 

At least sixty-four schools among the top one hundred have made the tests optional while pushing for the test waiver. Admission officials have assured aspirants that the call to waive admission tests does not reduce the standard of admission. Admission procedures now include gauging the candidates’ confidence levels and academic acumen to take the program. 

Soojin Kwon, managing director of full time MBA admissions and program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business says that rather than ignore the aspirant’s analytical and quantitative skills, they would look for prospective students who not just survive the degree’s rigors but prosper in their programs.

What parameters do the schools measure in a candidate?

Waiving the GMAT and GRE tests is just one step off the admission process in MBA admissions. 

There is no free lunch. 

A test waiver means the schools have raised the bar in other parameters to reach the admission goalpost: 

 The other criteria that schools consider:

  • The required GPA in the undergraduate degree
  • Past academic performance
  • Previous coursework
  • Work experience
  • Professional certification

Kwon says that scrutinizing the rigor of the student grades in the individual courses will involve time to review applications sans a test score.

Aspirants seeking a waiver at Michigan Ross must have significant points in their:

  • Undergraduate or Graduate coursework
  • Full-time work experience 
  • Professional certifications 
  • Academic proficiency 
  • Quantitative ability

Some schools have chosen to waive test scores solely for COVID -19 impacted students, reserving waivers only for people directly impacted by the novel coronavirus. 

The University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business applications mandate either of these criteria to qualify for the waiver: 

  1. They were unable to take the test in person at a test center due to unavailability of a center in their region, technology, or other test-taking requirements like device availability or compatibility, slow internet connection, testing environment
  2. They or someone in their household was immunocompromised. 

Emory’s Goizueta School of Business would grant waivers to candidates who could not access the test or had extenuating circumstances.

Are standardized tests hurdles to admission?

Admission officials at some schools have opined that the tests are not the cornerstone to gauge whether a candidate can handle the quantitative demands of an MBA program. Many schools question the use of standardized tests for admissions.

Scott Beardsley, Dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, finds the tests inherently unfair. 

Aspirants from economically affected families can ill afford to enroll in prep classes, hire tutors who charge over $500 per hour or get time off work to prepare for the test.

Candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds or born to illiterate parents score lower than others regardless of their tutoring for the test.

Data of ethnic groups’ performances in SAT and ACT is shocking. Underrepresented minorities score between 1 to 2 standard deviations below the average. 

Beardsley questions the intent behind commemorating the rich or those who have time and resources to prepare for standardized tests. Graduates in Engineering from Carnegie Mellon do not need GMAT scores to show their prowess in quant. That they can handle Math in the MBA program is a given. 

Over 75% of 50-100 ranked schools have chosen to waive test scores

Many B-schools have voiced their concerns about the precondition of a test during the pandemic. The current COVID-19 crisis has taken thousands of lives in the USA, and about two million on the planet. Kwon from Ross says that listening to stories from students across the world tweaked the decision to waive the test. 

Although test centers have reopened, ensuring safety traveling to a center and feeling safe at the place is not easy. Even though students can take the online test, taking a standardized test at home is challenging, given the internet connectivity issues at home. 

One of the students took the online-at-home GMAT under stressful conditions barely managed a 620 score. She improved her score the following week when she took the GMAT at a test center and got a 730.

Kwon empathizes students’ struggles to take the test during these trying times. He feels the test centers may close again as the pandemic seems to get worse. 

Poets & Quants had analyzed the current year admission policies. Just nine of the top twenty-five ranked B-Schools have granted waivers this year. 

Renowned names like MIT Sloan and UVA Darden to Michigan Ross, Carnegie Mellon, UNC at Chapel Hill, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business are some of the schools that have waived test scores for the current year’s admission. 

Although only a third of the top twenty-five ranked schools have granted waivers this year. 37 of the 50-100 ranked schools look more promising on waivers have taken their cues from MIT Sloan and UVA Darden of following test-optional admissions. 

Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, Case Western Reserve’s Weather head School, and Boston University’s Questrom School are fully test-optional this year.

For complete list of full time MBA programs and schools that grant test waivers, refer to:

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