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Is it worth applying to Top MBA Programs without GMAT?

With no signs of the world and economies recovering from the global pandemic, many top-notch business schools are reconsidering their application process to cushion the candidates against many problems posed by the pandemic and shutdowns. Candidates across the world are facing difficulties in taking GMAT amid shutdowns or at home due to many interruptions and are found to score way less than their potential due to the anxiety induced by such unconventional measures. That is exactly why Ross School of Business joined the list of the schools which waived GMAT/GRE or any standardized test requirement back in 2020.

Today, let’s explore the implications of a GMAT waiver for applicants, whether you should apply to full-time MBA programs without a GMAT, and how you can strengthen your candidacy even without a GMAT.

WHAT IMPACT THE TEST-WAIVERS CAN HAVE ON THE PROCESS?

To comprehend this, it’s crucial to recognize the significance of standardized tests. These tests act as indicators of your academic potential, along with your analytical and quantitative aptitude, all of which are essential attributes for excelling in a challenging academic environment like an MBA program.

With the exclusion of standardized test scores from the process, the immediate consequence is that the responsibility for demonstrating analytical and quantitative skills shifts to other elements of the application. This includes factors such as your undergraduate/graduate coursework, full-time work experience, and professional certifications.

Second, increased competition. Ross has declared that no one will be rejected in R1, significantly intensifying the competition for R2 applicants at Ross. However, even for other schools, a test waiver attracts more applicants. This trend was evident during Darden’s extended round 3 for 2019-20 when GMAT/GRE was made optional, leading to a 300% surge in applications compared to its year-earlier final deadline.

IS IT WORTH APPLYING TO THE SCHOOLS WITHOUT GMAT IN ROUND 2?

For all those applying with or without GMAT, there is a strong possibility for more competition in Round 2 of such schools. But the move puts those who have a lower score or have not yet appeared for the test in a conundrum. 

For individuals falling into the first category, determining an acceptable lower score depends on the candidate’s category and background. In a general scenario, a score of 650 or lower may be considered. Now, for both cases, there are two aspects of applying without a GMAT. First, providing “sufficient” evidence of academic potential and analytical skills, and second, presenting a profile strong enough to compete with more robust applicants holding GMAT scores. In both scenarios, your academic background remains the key solution.

To assess how strong is your academic background, you may look for one or more of the following points in your profile: 

A strong undergraduate and/or graduate record 

CPA or CFA designation, or any other professional certification or discipline that is academically rigorous and demands strong analytical skills.

Master’s or advanced degree in an analytical discipline

Strong professional experience demonstrating the application of analytical and quantitative skills

Strong performance on a U.S. college admissions test (SAT and/or ACT) or on other national exams conducted in other countries that demand higher-order reasoning skills.

But for individuals with an art background, the prospect of applying without GMAT may not instill much confidence. In addition to the previously mentioned suggestions, there are a few other avenues one might explore to showcase their quantitative skills:

1. Did you take any math or quantitatively-oriented classes in college or a graduate program? How did you perform in those courses?

2. Have you taken any classes since college – Coursera, HBX CORe, professional development programs, etc. – that touch upon business school topics (Accounting, Finance, etc.)?

3. Are there elements in your current or past job roles that necessitate the use of quantitative skills?

But remember, if your profile still misses demonstrating such quantitative skills, you should apply with a score. Also, how much impact a test-waiver can have on applications depend on the school’s policy. Top schools like Ross and MIT clearly say they will review applications “without negative inferences”. But there can be some schools which recommends GMAT/GRE to have better chances for scholarships and awards. You may get some insights into the different school’s policy here .

HOW CAN YOU ENHANCE YOUR CANDIDACY EVEN WITHOUT THESE SCORES FOR THE TOP-NOTCH SCHOOLS?

“If you have to study for many months to take a standardized test, that becomes the main barrier for you and your family. I thought, maybe we are missing the point here. Maybe we are missing out on a whole category of people who are truly excellent, who were the stars of their undergraduate class, and clearly have leadership capability. Instead of asking how do we triple down on a narrow group of people who have a certain test score, we want to give people the chance to put their best foot forward.”

This is what Darden has to say about the test-waivers. Therefore, a test waiver can only have a limited impact on your application especially when you have a lot of other alternatives to mitigate this impact. A significant portion, more than three-fourths, of your candidacy relies on your professional story, personality, perspectives, and your potential contribution to a school’s community. If you believe that a school aligns well with your goals and values, applying without a GMAT should not be a cause for hesitation. It presents a golden opportunity where your life experiences carry more weight than scores, which may not necessarily paint the complete picture of your potential.

Here is an article about one of our recent admits into Rotman with a 20,000 CAD scholarship who has a “low GMAT”. It will definitely help you feel more confident about you and your story than a test score.

So, like before, determine your fit for these schools and demonstrate it with a kickass application!

Feel free to contact us for the applications or consultation to any of these schools. View success stories.

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