The No GMAT Movement: Why Some Elite Business Schools are Ditching the Exam

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A BSchools investigation in October 2020 found that many more business schools had quietly suspended their GMAT requirements than Poets and Quants and other graduate management education publications had previously reported. In fact, we found two dozen MBA programs that previously had required the GMAT or the GRE which have stopped requiring these tests from any applicants during the 2020-2021 application cycle. And several of these business schools are top-ranked, heavy-hitting all-stars like MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, and Virginia Darden.

Not since 1953—when Educational Testing Service first proposed an admissions test to a handful of elite business schools—have so many MBA programs accepted applicants without requiring any admissions tests from them. The only other period since 1953 when a top-ranked MBA program didn’t require the GMAT was during the eleven years from 1986 to 1997 when the Harvard Business School stopped requiring the GMAT. Studies conducted by HBS in the early 1980s couldn’t validate in statistically significant ways that the test predicted good grades in Harvard’s MBA program or career success after graduation.

As we pointed out in our BSchools guides to GMAT waivers and GMAT alternatives like the GRE and Executive Assessment, internal studies conducted recently by two other top business schools drew similar conclusions. One is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and the other is the University of Toronto’s Rottman School of Management.

Legal Attacks on Admissions Tests

Originally developed in the 1920s to support a eugenics agenda, standardized testing in university admissions currently faces fierce legal attacks.

For example, responding to a lawsuit by disabled, minority, and low-income students, the Regents of the University of California voted in May 2020 to stop requiring either the ACT or the SAT. The plaintiffs had argued that non-native English speakers and applicants unable to afford test prep courses and tutors faced unfair discrimination because of the requirement. However, the Regents stopped short of barring the University from considering ACT and SAT scores voluntarily submitted during 2021 and 2022, prior to an all-out ban on the tests starting in 2023.

So the following August, disabled students won an injunction from a trial court in the San Francisco Bay Area barring the university from considering test scores that applicants had voluntarily submitted. But the university appealed, arguing that diverse student groups would suffer harm from the voluntary submissions ban. Finally, in October a California appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling and reinstated the injunction barring UC from considering any ACT or SAT scores.

Test-Optional MBA Programs List

Here’s our roundup of the two dozen business schools that have stopped requiring the GMAT, GRE or EA during the 2020-2021 academic year. Though not exhaustive, it’s the most complete list that we were able to compile during early 2021.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark
Writer

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.

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