Poets & Quants, Should MBA Programs Make The GMAT & GRE Optional?:
The overreliance on standardized test scores in MBA admission decisions– partly a result of their use in U.S. News rankings–not only puts at a disadvantage students from lower-income backgrounds, first-generation college applicants, and some international applicants who have learned English as a second language; is it blatantly unfair. At many schools, moreover, admission officials are literally buying high GMAT candidates, offering them the lion’s share of scholarship funds to bump up a class average for ranking purposes. So more financial support is going to people who may have less a need for it, merely because they have 700-plus scores. ...
[T]his coming admissions cycle, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is making the GMAT and the GRE test-optional. Darden made the announcement in early June. In less than a month, well before the first application deadline of Sept. 2, some 72 candidates submitted applications with requests to waive the tests. “The evidence is so compelling that we can waive the standardized test,” says Darden admissions chief Dawna Clarke, who admitted more than 50 MBA applicants last year without a GMAT or GRE when the school, among several other elite MBA programs, added more flexibility to its admissions procedures when test centers closed due to the pandemic.
Darden’s decision to make the GMAT and GRE test-optional reawakens an age-old debate about both the usefulness and the fairness of standardized testing. This year, in fact, the Wisconsin School of Business, Rutgers Business School, and Northeastern University are among several B-schools that have gone test-optional. And when the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring shut down test centers, a number of schools, including Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and The University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, began offering test waivers for applicants directly affected by the pandemic.
Truth is, many of the top business schools have been inching toward test-optional admission policies mainly in their Executive MBA, evening MBA and online MBA programs. Only this week, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School joined the bandwagon, making GMAT and GRE scores optional for applicants to both its evening MBA and Executive MBA programs, saying they are “unnecessary barriers” for working professionals. ...
[C]ritics have questioned the validity of the GMAT test itself. In earlier years, GMAC has conceded that the GMAT can predict less than 17% of the variation in these grades on average. Some independent researchers have put the percentage much lower, at between 41 points before they indicate a difference in the abilities measured by the test. The upshot: A business school cannot rely on the test to determine the better qualified of two students whose scores are 530 and 570. GMAC believes the exam is predictive of a candidate’s ability to handle the core curriculum.