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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, November 8, 2014

WSJ: Asian Students Outperform Americans on GMAT, So B-Schools Demand Separate Ranking of U.S. Students

Wall Street Journal, On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up; High GMAT Scores From China, India Spur Separate Rankings for U.S. Students:

GMAT 2New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.

Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.

Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better. ...

Percentile rankings are calculated using a raw score—for the quantitative section, typically between 0 and 51. In 2004, a raw score of 48 in the quantitative section yielded a ranking in the 86th percentile, according to GMAC; today, that same score would land the test-taker in the 74th percentile.

U.S. students’ raw scores on the quantitative section have remained roughly flat over the last decade at around 33, but their percentile ranking has fallen as more of their higher-scoring international counterparts take the exam. ...

The shifting data give an impression that U.S. student aptitude is declining, said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s chief executive officer. He said schools have complained to him 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.

To address those concerns, GMAC in September introduced a benchmarking tool that allows admissions officers to compare applicants against their own cohort, filtering scores and percentile rankings by world region, country, gender and college grade-point average. ...

Rather than effectively creating a different standard for U.S. students, one admissions officer at a top-ranked business school said American students need better math instruction, starting in elementary school. Students in South and East Asia tend to have a strong grounding in math fundamentals during school, and spend longer hours studying for the test. According to GMAC, Asia students spend an average of 151 hours in test preparation; U.S. students average 64 hours.

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Comments

Here's the key to the solution:
"Rather than effectively creating a different standard for U.S. students, one admissions officer at a top-ranked business school said American students need better math instruction, starting in elementary school. Students in South and East Asia tend to have a strong grounding in math fundamentals during school, and spend longer hours studying for the test. According to GMAC, Asia students spend an average of 151 hours in test preparation; U.S. students average 64 hours." Of course the students from Asia do better on the test.

Posted by: James Edward Maule | Nov 8, 2014 11:41:14 AM

This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. The US keeps cutting spending on education. One of our major political parties now opposes the common core, which was supposed to help students understand the why of math, not merely to memorize math facts. The Texas branch of the same party now opposes "critical thinking", on the ground that it leads to less respect for authority. And Texas has an effective veto over what goes into grade school textbooks nationwide.

Business schools are going to have to make a decision: They are ranked on the basis of GMATs, among other things. GMATs seem to measure something real and relevant. Asians seem to be getting better at whatever it is the GMAT tests. So business schools can either (1) accept the fact that the top of their applicant pool is getting less white and less American or (2) accept lower rankings, play games with their reported GMATS (which they're already doing), or drop the GMAT altogether.

Would it really be so bad for the top executives of Chinese and Indian companies to be American-trained?

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Nov 9, 2014 9:56:03 AM

Add "math" to the list of jobs that foreigners will do but Americans won't.

Really, who cares? If you think your admissions criteria yield good incoming students then just admit the best applicants. Foreign students often pay more tuition so they subsidized tuition of domestic students.

Posted by: Beaker Ben | Nov 9, 2014 10:54:54 AM

This is silly. Of course foreign students do better, since the're a self-selected group, and only the top college students abroad contemplate applying to graduate school in the United States. This is not a reflection on American students' level of math preparation, but the fact that a broader cross-section of Americans take the GMAT, for everything from Harvard Business School to small local public universities.

Posted by: Jane the Actuary | Nov 9, 2014 12:27:39 PM

Do Asian students have common core which explains their math prowess? Perhaps spending is not as important as having strick parents.

Posted by: DLN | Nov 10, 2014 10:38:52 AM

This only looks bad because the US is now more diverse. The US would be in second place of the PISI scores for math if everyone but US Asians scored at the average for US non-Hispanic whites.

Posted by: Steve | Nov 10, 2014 10:55:54 AM