In my fifteen years of working in MBA admissions, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working with the Graduate Management Admissions Test, otherwise known as the GMAT. MBA applicants who perform well on the exam move forward with confidence in the MBA admissions process. Those who don’t perform well on the exam, hire tutors and consultants and redouble their efforts to take the exam again in an attempt to improve their scores.
When I was the Director of MBA Admissions, I heard many reasons why a candidate’s GMAT score was low:
- “I didn’t really think it would be that hard.”
- “I don’t do well on standardized tests.”
- “The person next to me was wearing too much perfume and it made me sneeze a lot.”
- “The testing center lost power in the middle of the test.”
- “I was in a car accident on the way to the testing center. I took the test despite sustaining a concussion in the accident.”
- “I attended my brother’s bachelor party the night before.”
- “I didn’t prepare. I just thought I would do great.”
I could go on and on. (By the way, if you have a low GMAT score, here’s a helpful post on what to say and what NOT to say!)
Here’s what the GMAT does and here’s why it matters:
Valid Predictor of One Thing
The GMAT is a standardized exam that predicts the performance of an MBA student in the first year of a Full-Time MBA Program. That’s it.
As a former Director of MBA Admissions, I had tremendous confidence in the GMAT because the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) constantly evaluates and validates the GMAT as a predictor of MBA academic performance. GMAT’s validation assessments are shared with schools directly (for the schools that participate) so that each Admissions Committee can confirm that the GMAT provides accurate predictive data for their particular program. The GMAC Validation Studies provide hard data in the highly quantitative business school environment.
Another reason MBA Admissions Committees place a high value on GMAT scores is that it is the single metric that is consistent across the applicant pool. Thus, it provides an easy benchmark to compare candidates against one another and against the school’s student profile.
It’s The Gold Standard
Accepted by over 5,800 business and management programs world wide, and over a span of 60 years, the GMAT is the gold standard when it comes to business schools. Furthermore, the GMAT is not a static instrument. The Graduate Management Admissions Council (owner of the GMAT) is always developing new ways to measure and predict abilities that are important to business school performance. For example, most recently, the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section was added. Prior to that the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) was added to enable programs to assess writing abilities.
Furthermore, the average GMAT is utilized in the methodology of all business school rankings such as BloombergBusinessweek, USNews, and The Financial Times. Because of this, the GMAT scores of applicants take on even greater significance as schools vie to improve their positions in the rankings.
What About the GRE?
Just a few years ago, Educational Testing Service (ETS) the owners of the GRE exam made a great effort to gain acceptance by business schools in an attempt to capture some of the market share of the GMAT. While ETS succeeded in gaining acceptance by many business schools, the GRE is not viewed as strong of a predictive indicator as the GMAT. It lacks the test of time and the specific validity that the GMAT heralds.
My personal experience over a 2-3 year period of using the GRE for MBA admissions purposes is that it was not a highly valid predictor of academic success, especially when compared to the GMAT. Candidates themselves tend to give the GRE the reputation as an exam that is being taken by those who didn’t perform well on the GMAT by frequently making statements such as “Well, I didn’t do well on the GMAT, so I’ll just take the GRE and submit that score.” While I certainly understand that logic, it doesn’t portray a candidate in the best light in the eyes of the MBA Admissions Committee.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The GMAT is an effective tool to predict academic outcomes in MBA Programs. It is a known and trusted tool that is fully engrained in the MBA Admissions and MBA rankings of business schools world-wide.
While GMAT scores should not be utilized solely as a sole factor in MBA Admission, they are very commonly utilized as a cut off tool for MBA Admissions Committees to quickly assess large numbers of applications. As an applicant, you should consider it an essential way for you to demonstrate that you can be academically successful in an MBA program. A strong GMAT score is not sufficient to guarantee you admission into a top MBA program – it merely enables you to move on to the next step. Read my post on the Three Pillars of MBA Admissions to gain a better understanding of the key components of every MBA application.