The GMAT™ has long been used to give business schools valuable insight into a candidate’s suitability for an MBA degree, but it isn’t a requirement for all programs. Today, more and more admissions committees are looking at other evaluation tools for measuring their candidates’ potential. So, for those EMBAs that no longer require the GMAT™, what are program directors looking at instead?
What is the GMAT™?
If you are only just getting acquainted with the term GMAT™, it might help to get an understanding of what the acronym stands for. The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT™) is a three and a half hour test (four with optional breaks included) that assesses a business school candidate on four key areas: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative and Verbal skills. Tasks involved include analyzing an argument, multi-source reasoning and graphics interpretation, data sufficiency and problem solving, reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction. As Frank Crooks, Director of the Executive MBA at John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, says: “the GMAT™helps us assess a candidate’s ability to deal with quantitative subjects and their aptitude for writing exams.”
According to Jane Delbene, Director of Marketing for the Graduate Management Admission Council, (GMAC), the organization that owns the GMAT™, the test was specifically designed to help business schools assess and select qualified candidates wishing to attend graduate business and management programs. “Admissions teams meet an astounding number of impressive and accomplished professionals every day, but not all will have what it takes to succeed in the classroom. That’s where the GMAT™ comes into play,” Delbene says. “The GMAT™ measures a candidate’s higher-order reasoning skills, which includes analytical and critical reasoning. These are paramount to success in the business world and the business school environment. So, regardless of your age, background and experience, which are factors that cannot be objectively assessed, the GMAT™ is a reliable and extremely precise indicator to schools that an individual has what it takes to be successful on a program.”
Additionally, Delbene says the GMAT™ is an important tool for business schools to compare students around the world using the same evaluation. “This also assures students their cohort has been consistently and objectively selected using a standardised measurement tool,” she says. For Executive MBA candidates who have been out of the academic world for some time, Delbene adds that taking the GMAT™ is valuable practice and almost a crash course to help students prepare for what lies ahead.
Value for schools
At The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, all applicants must submit a GMAT™ score (no minimum score is required) as part of their application unless granted a waiver. “GMAT™ scores provide the admissions committee with information about an applicant’s ability to succeed in an academically rigorous program,” explains Bernie Zanck Bernie Zanck, Director of Recruitment and Admissions for the Executive MBA Program - Europe, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “We look at all aspects of a candidate’s background, knowledge and experience. Senior level managers, usually with 12 or more years of management experience may be granted an exemption from the GMAT™ requirement. Examples might include CEOs, Managing Directors, CFOs, and Division Heads.
“A waiver may also be considered for a candidate whose work experience and training indicate a high level of quantitative and analytical skill and an ability to apply those skills to a rigorous and analytical MBA program,” Zanck says. “Examples might include: Treasurer or Chief Accounting Officer, or a CFA, or a candidate possessing another advanced degree or diploma in a quantitative field. The criteria above are not meant to be exhaustive and candidates who believe they are able to provide evidence of a similar quality not listed are encouraged to speak to an admissions representative,” he says.
At the University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business, GMAT™ scores are required for some candidates applying to the Executive MBA Worldwide Program, including those with less than 10 years of professional work experience or with an undergraduate degree in an area with little quantitative coursework.
“GMAT™ scores are one of the many different tools we use to evaluate candidates,” explains Assistant Dean, William T. Valenta, Jr. “Compared with other evaluation tools, GMAT™ scores give us a fairly good indication of a candidate’s academic ability. After all, they will be completing a rigorous program based upon master’s level coursework. Additionally, the GMAT™ is another opportunity for the best qualified candidates to separate themselves from the competition.”
A holistic approach
While the GMAT™ provides these three schools with valuable insight into a candidate’s suitability for their Executive MBA programs, many other business schools around the globe no longer use the test as a measure for success. So what do they look for instead? IE Business School is just one of the schools who no longer require a GMAT™ score of their candidates. “The emphasis during the admissions process is on the professional experience of each candidate,” says Natalie Beamer, Admissions Assistant for Premium EMBA Programs. “We focus on building classes of students who have outstanding career development, an interest in entrepreneurship, excellent intrapersonal skills and strong objectives with leadership potential,” she says.
The GMAT™ isn’t usually part of the selection process at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management either. “The Telfer Executive MBA program focuses on creating a cohort of talented individuals who will both actively contribute to and benefit f rom the Telfer learning environment,” says program Director, Sophia Leong. “We do this by judiciously evaluating candidates based on business talent, personal ambition and organizational responsibility. We follow a rigorous selection process that brings together the best possible group of candidates who will foster a high impact, practical and relevant experience. We use case studies as well as other evaluation techniques to ascertain the potential candidate’s candidacy. This has allowed us to open the door to a broader range of Executive MBA candidates who have the experience and capacity to do the program.”
At the W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, EMBA candidates are evaluated on a variety of components including transcripts, work experience, letters of recommendation and the admission interview but the GMAT™ is not a requirement.
“Although the W. P. Carey School of Business recognizes the value of standardized testing in the admissions process, we feel the breadth and depth of experience that our applicants bring to the table can be measured in multiple ways,” says Ruthie Pyles, Director of Admissions and Recruitment for MBA programs.
"Taking a holistic approach, the committee will not only evaluate the academic strengths of the applicant, but will also determine the synergies between the applicant and the strengths and culture of the program. Our executive cohort is extremely diverse, and it would be difficult to predict if adding this one component would significantly affect that diversity,” Pyles says.
The holistic approach is also favoured by the admissions committee at Athabasca University “There really isn’t one key indicator we use to predict whether or not an applicant will be a good fit,” says Deborah Hurst, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Business and Program Director of the Executive MBA. "Significant management experience is what we’re looking for and we also focus on ensuring our students are at a stage in their careers where they can truly apply what they are doing back to their own workplaces. We don’ t just want student s to learn the theory of leadership; we want them to be leading teams and organizations as they learn. The GMAT™ can be a good indicator of a student’s ability to learn at a master’s level, but it ’s not a solid indicator for these other experiences.”
At one of the top business schools in the world, the GMAT™ has been replaced with an in-house test. Candidates applying to INSEAD’s Executive MBA program no longer need to present a GMAT™ score (although scores are still accepted), but rather the results of the INSEAD EMBA test.
Offerend through testprep company Prep-Zone, the test retains key elements from the GMAT's multiple-choice quantitative and verbal sections while introducing a mini-case analysis delivered via a 30-minute presentation. Prep-Zone co-founder and INSEAD alum Mícheál Collins says the test was designed to better align with the skills needed of the business school’s EMBA program. “We realized that to properly gauge the preparedness of a candidate, their sense of business should be tested as well as their cognitive st rengths. Hence we added the case presentation to the test and removed the essay writing part,” he explains. The INSEAD EMBA test is administered regularly on each campus and is combined with a panel interview.