No GMAT? No Problem! Busting a Common MBA Admissions Myth

Flickr user Andrew Hitchcock

Have you stopped short of applying to business school because you were uncertain about taking the GMAT? That’s understandable; preparing for and taking the GMAT is a time-consuming and expensive process, especially considering that many prospective applicants end up taking this entrance exam more than once. But what if you could get into business school without taking the GMAT? Surely, that’s not possible—right?

Actually, these days, many top business schools accept applications without GMAT scores. Some schools, like Stanford Graduate School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, now accept GRE scores as an alternative to the GMAT. Many other schools simply don’t require GMAT scores; or they allow students to waive the GMAT requirement with sufficient work experience; or they accept GMAT scores, but prioritize other measures of applicant fitness rather than hanging admissions decisions on test scores alone.

Of course, if you’re thinking of earning an MBA, you want to make sure that your MBA no GMAT program is just as good as an MBA program that requires the GMAT. That’s why it’s vital to understand why schools may waive the GMAT requirement, what other measures of fitness they may instead examine, and what to look for in a no-GMAT MBA.

Why Business Schools Are Turning Away From the GMAT

There are multiple reasons why business schools are turning away from the GMAT as a primary tool of applicant assessment. One big one is that they’re concerned about the diversity of the applicant pool. Many top schools, like Stanford, have made the switch to optionally accepting GRE scores in place of GMAT scores, in the hopes that this will attract a more diverse pool of applicants to their business schools. By accepting GRE scores instead of GMAT scores, business schools hope to attract more applications from applicants who have been on the fence about business school, and reluctant to apply because they didn’t want to take two expensive and difficult entrance examinations.

Another reason business schools are deemphasizing the GMAT is because they hope to attract dual enrollees. Many applicants may want to earn an MBA at the same time as earning another graduate degree from another school at the university. However, that’s hard to do if each application requires a separate entrance exam. Admissions officials are now realizing that it makes more sense to require a single test from applicants hoping to dual enroll in two graduate degree programs.

Finally, some schools are de-prioritizing GMAT scores in admissions because they aren’t often indicative of a student’s potential for future success. Many schools now want to prioritize other markers of applicant fitness that are more predictive of success, including undergraduate or previous graduate education GPA, previous work experience, performance in admissions interviews, and analytical writing ability. Applicants’ performance in these areas are often more predictive of future academic and professional success than GMAT scores. Many schools consider work experience so important that they are willing to waive the test score requirement altogether for students who can demonstrate several years of professional experience in business.

What to Look for in a No-GMAT MBA Program

Just because an MBA program doesn’t require applicants to take the GMAT doesn’t mean it’s a bad program—far from it—but that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carefully examine the program to make sure it will meet your needs. Here are some ways to make sure that no-GMAT MBA you’re applying for will be worth the time and money it’ll take to earn:

  • Verify the school’s reputation. It probably goes without saying that a degree from a prestigious university is more highly-regarded than one from a no-name school. Many prestigious schools now offer online MBA programs with no GMAT requirement.
  • Check the school’s accreditation. You don’t have to go to Stanford or Duke to get a worthwhile education. Make sure the school you choose is regionally accredited.
  • Understand the application requirements. Even though many business schools accept applicants without GMAT or GRE scores, that doesn’t mean they’ll accept just anybody. You should still need to submit transcripts and recommendations, among other requirements.
  • Online degrees should be the same as those earned by on-campus students. If you choose to earn your MBA online from one of the many brick-and-mortar institutions that now offer online degree programs in addition to their traditional ones, there should be no distinction between degrees earned online and those earned on campus. You should be taking the same classes, and receiving the same education, as your on-campus peers.

Some further things you should investigate when considering a no-GMAT MBA include the qualifications of the teaching faculty, the program’s flexibility, and the customizability of the curriculum. Do the faculty members hold Ph.D.’s? Do they have experience teaching adult learners? Is the program entirely online, or does it require students to come to campus for certain classes or labs? Will there be an opportunity for practical experience? Will you be able to specialize in your field of your interest? All of these considerations could make a difference when it’s time to choose your MBA program.

If you’re interested in pursuing an MBA but you have the time or money to take the GMAT, don’t fret. These days, many business schools no longer require applicants to take the GMAT, so you can focus on more important things than passing an entrance exam – like finding the right program for you.

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Jenn French

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