Separate GMAT Rankings for U.S. and Asian Applicants

Segregation in education sounds like a relic of the distant past, but according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, Asian and Indian applicants to U.S. MBA programs trounce American applicants so badly on the quantitative portion of the GMAT that business schools will now sort candidates based on the country and region of the world they hail from.

Over the last ten years, the score gap between Asia-Pacific and U.S. applicants in the math portion has only widened, with the former group scoring an average of 45—seven points above the worldwide average of 38, and 12 points higher than the American applicant’s average of 33.

The disparity in scores is likely rooted in the problems with math instruction in this country, but the situation isn’t helped by the vast difference in test preparation. According to GMAC, students in Asia spend an average of 151 hours in test prep, while U.S. students average just 64 hours.

Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s chief executive officer, told the WSJ schools have complained that the test’s global rankings were becoming more difficult to interpret, and asked for new ways to assess both U.S. and foreign test-takers separately. In response, GMAC has introduced a tool that allows schools to apply filters to benchmark scores by country of citizenship, gender, and college GPA.

Sara Neher, assistant dean of MBA admissions at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, was among those who reached out to GMAC for help. “I need to be able to show my scholarship committee, which includes faculty, that this person is in the top 5% of test takers in his region,” even though that individual might not rank highly against test takers world-wide, she told the WSJ.

It sounds like in the future, business schools will increasingly need to deny seats to the top scorers if they want to stay true to their mission of creating a dynamic learning environment through a cohort with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.


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