Our GMAT Club: Test Talk with Stacy Blackman Consulting’s AdCom
Across our client pool, we field questions about admissions exams daily. With former MBA admissions officers on our team for every top US and European program, we have a unique opportunity to share insights that reflect the active dialogue of our own “GMAT Club” community.
Here is a sneak peek into the internal conversations we’ve been having.
Do I need to take a test for MBA admissions?
There are two different camps on this subject. The first includes strong proponents of test-taking. Meanwhile, others genuinely feel that standardized testing isn’t predictive or necessary for higher education admissions. Both camps are accurate.
Prospective business school candidates must first identify which caliber and type of MBA program they aspire to. Those criteria influence whether to take a test and how important that score will be in predicting relative admit chances.
Countless graduate programs are “test lighter” in their expectations, especially outside of the top 15 MBA programs. Still, demand for elite full-time MBA programs remains robust. This is because of the sterling value of their reputation, the education provided, and alum networks.
Most of the top executive MBA programs also require a test score. Even during the peak of the pandemic, few waivered on their requirement of an objective test measurement.
“The statistics so far show that students applying to test optional schools who submit scores are accepted far more often than students who don’t,” SBC’s Director of Test Prep, Anthony Ritz, reveals. “Not submitting just really tells the schools, you know, if you saw my score, you wouldn’t like it.”
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What value does a test score have in MBA Admissions?
“The scores provide important information to schools about whether you’re prepared to handle both the intellectual rigor and the significant coursework of business school,” Anthony explains.
MBA admissions officers evaluate the test score to assess academic aptitude in conjunction with the college transcript and work experience. Some admissions officers consider it a moral question and don’t want to admit someone who will struggle in the program.
The MBA essays and recommendation letters help paint the bigger picture of who the applicant is as a person. A strong test score shows the candidate is committed to the academic exercise of test prep through hard work and perseverance. Such attributes are proxies for success within and outside the classroom of a graduate program.
For example, a former admissions officer on our team shared the following about quant performance for most MBA applicants to INSEAD:
“Anyone who scores below the 70th percentile will be a ‘conversation.’ A committee discussion will ensue to review 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, 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 found that 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 with competitive acceptance rates. There are other tests to consider, such as the GRE or 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 SBC 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, a test score to help counteract those grades is essential. A test score is the most reliable measure of academic aptitude. It’s also weighted more heavily than even if a candidate opted to submit any ancillary course transcripts such as HBx Core or MBAmath.
Request a free consultation from an SBC Principal to see if we recommend an ancillary course for your unique scenario.
What has changed in test expectations for top MBA programs?
Top programs have deemphasized 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 Wharton School admissions officer now on the SBC 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 and manage everything else that’s part of the MBA experience.