The GMAT: Why Do Admissions Committees Rely on It?

Posted on May 10, 2013 | Filed in Admissions, GMAT

Why do admissions committees rely heavily on the GMAT?

Why do admissions committees rely heavily on the GMAT?

There are decades of research that confirm the GMAT score is a reliable predictor of an applicant’s academic performance in today’s management programs. The exam, used by learning institutions around the world, is backed by more than 50 years of convincing research including hundreds of validity studies in just the last 10 years.

The exam is computer adaptive, which means it, selects each question for the test taker based on his or her level of ability. This makes the total score an extremely precise measure of one’s ability, more so than a paper test, where everyone answers the same questions.

The GMAT is relevant

It’s designed to test skills that are important to business and management programs. Analytical writing and problem-solving abilities are assessed, along with the data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning that are vital to real-world success. In June of 2012, the Integrated Reasoning section was added which measures a test taker’s ability to evaluate information presented in new formats and from multiple sources — skills necessary for management students to do well in a data-rich world.

The GMAT exam is also consistent

It tests the same skills with the same level of accuracy. When candidates retake the test, there is a very interesting outcome. Their scores do not vary significantly. The security of such an exam is unmatched with questions that cannot be memorized. What’s more, the computer adaptive format guarantees that no two candidates will be asked the same questions.

Is change on the horizon?

Top business schools look for competitive scores in both the quantitative and verbal parts of the exam. But are things changing? Read on.

At Manhattan Review, we work closely with MBA applicants and keep them up to speed on all that’s involved in the test. How many times have we seen talented young professionals whose applications are brought down due to their overall GMAT score or a less than stellar score in the quantitative and verbal sections? Quite a few.

Even applicants with solid quantitative scores sometimes encounter difficult admission practices at top schools. If a candidate has less than respectable quant scores, he or she must show solid grades in undergraduate courses like calculus, algebra, and statistics in order to compensate.

Opinions differ about the GMAT and its validity

At some schools, there is a great deal of conflicting interests between the faculty and the admissions staff who would like to be more flexible in selecting candidates. The reasoning is to attract more diverse students who might perform brilliantly in course work but not show a great GMAT score. In general, schools are unsure about changing GMAT requirements due to the perception of quality that a great score brings. Secondly, there is a fear that changing anything about the admissions process could negatively impact a school’s ranking.

In the 1990s, the Harvard Business School did something radical. It abandoned the GMAT for a number of years. Further, the MBA admissions staff at the University of Toronto (Rotman School of Management) once decided to waive the GMAT for those applicants who had passed all levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) program.

The decision seemed to come from a different mindset involving the talent that the school normally targets and how Rotman could become a favorite among these groups. With low volume of CFA candidates pursuing an MBA, the school realized that the GMAT was actually a barrier because of the great amount of required preparation that was competing with the study demands of the CFA.

Rotman is most probably not alone in wanting to use more creativity in evaluating candidates for admission. Approximately 69 percent of business schools now accept the GRE as a way to attract non-traditional students. Applicants must, of course, provide sufficient work experience, prior coursework or certifications.

So you see, things are changing. However, very slowly. In the meantime, just know that the GMAT is the benchmark for acceptance by more than 5,800 business and management programs worldwide. And it’s been that way for almost 60 years. There is no other exam that showcases the skills that matter most in the business school program and in your career.

So study and prepare for the GMAT, for now!

When it comes to studying for the GMAT exam, there are no magic formulas and no tricks—just good planning and thorough preparation. Become familiar with the test format; know what it measures, and what it doesn’t. Remember, the GMAT assesses your reasoning skills and these are the skills you will need to succeed in the business school, and beyond.

Testing is available around the world in state-of-the-art facilities designed to provide an unparalleled test-taking experience so that you can perform your best. There is a link between test scores and academic performance thus making it difficult to convince the admissions committees about applicants with borderline GMAT scores. In addition, the volume of applicants with competitive GMAT scores means that the rest of your application will need to dazzle to offset your lower test score.

And now we are still faced with the debate about a business school education still overly concerned with numbers that excludes viable candidates whose experience and soft skills would make them an asset in the MBA classroom. But have faith, we see the landscape beginning to change. And unfortunately, change happens slowly in this arena.

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