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GMAT Averages Rebound Big Time at the Top 50 MBA Programs




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Back and forth.

A swinging pendulum.

Average scores on the Graduate Management Admission Test plummeted in 2020 as business schools loosened admissions standards amid the worst global health crisis in century. Schools cracked the gates open just a bit more than usual, making GMAT waivers easier to get and extending application deadlines; some abolished test requirements altogether. Other factors contributed: a clunky rollout of the online version of the GMAT, and the steady, persistent market incursion of the test’s main competitor, the Graduate Record Exam.

Did all this signal the demise of the GMAT, long the primary exam to gain entry to graduate business education? Not quite. As we saw in November, GMAT averages at the leading U.S. B-schools skyrocketed in 2021 — and a new analysis of class profile data at the top 50 U.S. schools shows the huge rebound was enjoyed across the spectrum, with 20 schools reporting double-digit jumps in just one year and most reversing the declines suffered in 2020. At a handful of B-schools in Europe, the trend across the last five years was less pronounced but mostly positive, as well.

The GMAT may be in trouble for a new reason: U.S. News has revised the methodology for its 2021 online MBA ranking omitting the GMAT and GRE as factors in the ranking process. See our story here. (LINK)


Many of the top 100 U.S. B-schools made the GMAT optional in 2020, policies that were still in place through 2021 (and up to today). But if anyone thought that would lead to long-term score declines, they were mistaken.

In 2021, 22 out of the top 25 schools, and 32 of the top 50, saw year-over-year GMAT average increases. Only seven schools saw declines, out of 42 with available data. Compare that to last year at this time, when we reported that 30 schools saw declines out of 37.

Stanford Graduate School of Business led all schools with a 738 average, up from 733 last year and a new school record, eclipsing by 1 point Stanford’s marks of 2016 and 2017. After the GSB, the top five in average GMAT were Penn Wharton at 733, Chicago Booth at 732, and two New York schools, NYU Stern and Columbia Business School, which tied at 729. Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management, two of the four B-schools that report median scores, were at 730 this year; for HBS that was flat from 2020, but for MIT it was a 10-point jump.

The average two-year increase in the top 10 (seven schools) was 5.3 points; in the top 25 (21 schools), 9.2 points; and in the bottom 25 (10 schools), 17.6 points, the latter fueled by double-digit gains at nine schools, including 36 points at Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. Not included in these calculations but notable nonetheless: a 30-point increase at UC-Davis School of Management, which currently sits outside the P&Q top 50 at No. 52.


Digging into the data, we find that after SMU Cox, Indiana Kelley School of Business had the biggest year-over-year GMAT average increase, of 27 points (to 679), followed by Penn State Smeal College of Business (+27 to 666) and Miami Herbert Business School, the No. 50 B-school in P&Q‘s ranking this year, which grew its class GMAT score by 23 points to 656.

Across six years, the average class score increase in the top 10 (7 schools) was 5.1 points, led by Columbia and Berkeley, which both gained 9 points in that span; at the top 25 (18 schools), 9.9 points, led by USC Marshall (+24), NYU Stern (+19), and Duke Fuqua (+18); and at the top 50 (30 schools), 12.5 points, with the biggest reported by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Haslam College of Business, which has improved its GMAT average an amazing 53 points, to 680. Also notable in the bottom half of the top-50: SMU Cox’s 24-point gain, and the University of Utah Eccles School of Business, up by 26 points.

Overall, 20 schools saw double-digit increases over two years, and 15 over 6 years. Ten schools have seen double-digit increases in both 6- and 2-year windows. And 26 — more than half — of all top 50 schools have seen increases in GMAT average in both the short- and the long-term; just last year only three schools could make that claim.

One reason for the jump in GMATs at so many schools: more applications. Most schools saw app boosts in the 2020-2021 cycle, giving admissions offices a deeper talent pool to choose from. “While there are a number of factors that play into our average GMAT, the main factor that allowed us to increase the average GMAT for this fall’s entering class was our 61% increase in applications,” Indiana’s Jim Holmen told P&Q in November. “The increase in applications allowed us to be a bit more selective.”

The lowest average GMAT scores are interesting, too. In the top 10, Dartmouth Tuck takes the honors (724); in the top 25, Indiana Kelley (679), one of only four top-25 schools that are sub-700 (last year it was seven schools); and in the top 50, Notre Dame Mendoza, at 635.


Since 2016, only four B-schools in the Poets&Quants top 25 have seen an overall decline in the average GMAT score of their incoming full-time MBA classes; six more schools in the lower 25 have seen a drop-off in that time. Altogether that’s just one-fifth of all schools. The lesson: Over the years, fluctuations in score averages tend to even themselves out, and most schools gradually improve their class-wide scores.

Only one school in the top 25 reported a GMAT average decline from 2020 to 2021: UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, which reported a statistically insignificant 1-point drop to 726. (Last year, interestingly, Haas was one of only three top-25 schools to avoid a slipping GMAT.) Last year, 18 top-25 schools reported Y-O-Y declines from 2019 averaging 5.5 points.

In the lower 25, six schools saw year-over-year declines averaging 11.5 points in 2021. That’s an improvement from last year, when 12 lower-25 schools reported Y-O-Y declines averaging 14.3 points. Over all the top 50 across six years, 10 schools have declined, with the biggest drop-offs coming at Notre Dame Mendoza (-48), Wisconsin School of Business (-23), and MSU Broad (-20).

Overall, just three B-schools across the top 50 reported double-digit declines from 2020 to 2021, and three reported double-digit declines from 2016 to 2021.

And in Europe, INSEAD and London Business School continue to pace the top B-schools in terms of GMAT average; both are at 708, with INSEAD gaining 2 points in the last cycle and LBS gaining 8. IESE in Spain saw an incredible 20-point swing in one year, to 690, bring the Barcelona-based school back to its 2017 level. Most of the 10 European B-schools examined by P&Q are up since 2020, but still down since 2017. Warwick Business School in the UK is down 11 points in both the two- and five-year windows.

See the next pages for a complete 6-year overview of Graduate Management Admission Test averages at the top 50 business schools in the United States. On page 2 you will also find a table of GMAT averages at 10 of the leading European B-schools.

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Could U.S. News Kill the GMAT Exam?




You had to read the obscure footnotes in U.S. News‘ release of its online MBA and business master’s rankings yesterday to discover news as noteworthy as which business school topped the latest 2022 list. But in the dense language of the methodology for how U.S. News cranks out its ranking was arguably the most important news of all: For the first time, the ranking powerhouse removed GMAT and GRE scores from its ranking process.

For decades, business school deans and admission directors have obsessed about those standardized test scores, more often than not because of U.S. News rankings. Sure, a score can give an admissions official confidence that a candidate can do the quant work in an MBA or graduate business degree program. But no school needs a 700 score to know that. In all likelihood, a score of 600 would be sufficient to know that an applicant can handle the quantitative parts of the core curriculum in a rigorous MBA course.

The change was buried in the 25th paragraph on page four of U.S. News‘ explanation for how it ranks Online MBA and other master’s degrees in business:

A revision to this edition’s methodology is that new entrants’ GMAT and GRE scores were not incorporated in the calculations. In the previous edition, the indicator using these exams comprised 40% of each school’s student excellence score. That weight has been redistributed to the other admissions data as outlined below.


Instead of giving standardized test scores that 40% weight in its “student excellence” category, the website doubled the importance of undergraduate grade point averages in its ranking, hiking the weight to 50% from 25% of the category. It also increased the weight it gives a program’s acceptance rate to 25% form 15% and boosted the importance of “experience” to 25% from 20%.

Could U.S. News follow suit with its forthcoming full-time MBA ranking in March? The ranking organization is mum. “U.S. News does not make announcements about future rankings and methodologies this far in advance,” says a spokesperson. But if it did, the move would likely have a major impact on admissions policies and the administrators of both the GMAT and the GRE.

After all, standardized tests are a significant hurdle for many applicants to business school. They prevent many highly qualified candidates from applying. And the tests are heavily weighed in admission decisions, partly or largely because of the U.S. News ranking which gives those scores more importance than they deserve.

If you want to know how obsessive schools are about their GMAT and GRE scores, you only have to read the recent headlines on the conviction of the former dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He was found guilty in federal court of leading a conspiracy to cheat on these very same online MBA rankings by inflating the numbers of students who had taken the GMAT along with the average score of an incoming cohort to game the rankings. For his sly handiwork, Dean Moshe Porat was able to get Fox’s online MBA program ranked first in the nation by U.S. News for four straight years.

While the vast majority of online MBA programs do not require standardized test scores and those that do often waive them for candidates, the change will have little impact on the ranking itself or the lucrative business of test taking. Even schools that ask for standardized tests for admission to their online degree programs have significantly relaxed that requirement in recent years. Just 2% of the latest cohort of students to join the online MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School submitted a GMAT for entry; another 2% handed over a GRE score. At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, just 19% of the latest Online MBA cohort took a GMAT test, while 9% sat for the GRE.


And as the pandemic hit, the vast majority of full-time MBA programs began dropping their standardized test requirements or began to actively promote waiver policies on the tests. Largely due to COVID-caused closures of tst centers and concerns over the at-home versions of the GMAT and the GRE, the vast majority of the top 100 full-time MBA programs in the U.S. began waiving standardized tests for admission in early 2021. A Poets&Quants survey then found that 67 of the top 100 had gone fully test-optional or were actively promoting test waiver policies.

Two years ago, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business was among the first to go test optional. After receiving more than 1,300 requests for a test waiver from potential applicants last year and enrolling roughly 13% of its entering MBA cohort with an approved test waiver, the school is maintaining its test optional policies. It’s te same story at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business this year. Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at Ross, extended its more liberal waiver policy after being pleased with the quality of candidates in the previous cycle who applied to the school without a GMAT or GRE. “Test waivers were at the top of the team’s annual process review discussion,” she wrote in announcing the move. “We found that many incredible applicants applied using a test waiver. Whether it was prior coursework, work experience, or professional certifications, they demonstrated their ability to handle the rigor of the MBA program without a standardized test.”

The impact of these changes on the Graduate Management Admission Council which administers the GMAT have been dramatic. In testing year 2020, the first year impacted by the pandemic, little more than 59,000 tests were taken in the U.S. Only four years earlier, more than 109,000 GMAT tests were administered in the U.S. Since then, more business schools have dropped the GMAT for admission or now waive the test, only exacerbating the decline (see below).

International test takers could not offset the falloff. In testing year 2020, only 173,176 GMAT tests were taken worldwide, a decline of 40% from 2011. In testing year 2016, test takers sat for more more than 260,000 exams (see below). Some of the decline, of course, reflects the increasing popularity of the GRE as a rival test for business school admission decisions. GRE has been taking marketshare away from the GMAT for several years now.


What would happen to the GMAT if U.S. News no longer weighed standardized test scores its full-time MBA ranking? While it’s hard to say for certain, it would not help the Graduate Management Admission Council reverse the downward trend. If anything, it could make the GMAT exam–the still dominant test For MBA admissions–vulnerable.

Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm, begs to differ. He believes a decision by U.S. News to abandon standardized test scores in its methodology would not have much impact at all. “We would like to believe that the programs are only beholden to sky high GMAT averages for superficial ranking purposes — and that they would free themselves from the rankings trap if they could,” he says. “However, unfortunately, they probably care as much about keeping their averages up to put some polish on their class profiles, creating or maintaining a perception of having the ‘highest’ student quality.

“So, even if there were no implications for rankings, my guess is that HBS would still be quite reluctant to drop its GMAT average ten points below that of the Stanford GSB, even if they felt that they were getting better all around students. I find it ironic that programs that teach leadership just can’t break free from this test.”


The post Could U.S. News Kill The GMAT Exam? appeared first on Poets&Quants.

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泰晤士報》採訪了 Bettina Schael (化名),她是其中一位「具備全球影響力」的銀行家,育有四個在港出生但已離開香港的子女,因無法在聖誕節探望子女而最終選擇離開香港。

香港政府的嚴格檢疫要求和外遊限制,令 Schael 無法前往英國探望在當地留學的三個女子。

Schael 向《泰晤士報》表示:「如果子女較年幼並符合外遊氣泡的要求,那樣就沒有關係。但如果子女年紀較大並在海外留學,或有年邁父母身處外地,就會感到壓力」。

嚴格的外遊限制亦令 Schael 難以有效地完成工作。「如果您要前往全球各地工作,並要與其他能夠自由前往各地的人競爭,便不應留在這裡,令自己競爭下降。我仍有部分團隊從未見過面,而外遊限制看起來亦不會在短期內放寬」,她補充指。

幾個月來大家一直在談論海外有年長親人或子女的外派人員是否應離開香港,而現在大家正式下定決心。Schael 預計,在 3 月底收到年度花紅之後,將會有更多金融業專才離開香港,同時國際學校的學生人數亦會減少,因為子女會隨著父母一起離開。

一位銀行家向 eFinancialCareers 表示,今年夏季將會是一個重要的分水嶺。「曾接受我們採訪、有子女在英國私立學校留學的人都有相同的打算,認為自己無法忍受這些限制度過來年的夏季。如果您屬於正在開展職業生涯的年輕單身才俊,香港應該仍有其吸引力。但如果已有家室並想與他們見面,便不可能會選擇留港發展。」


Schael 向《泰晤士報》表示,她不相信香港當局會尋求辦法,以減少外派人員離港。「香港特首林鄭月娥根本全不在乎;她知道中國銀行家會進來香港巿場並取代我們的位置,全港都會住滿內地人員。她唯一的策略就是打進中國巿場。中國希望香港能夠融入其中,透過淡化不同政見來制止叛亂。」

有人認為,這種人才外流的說法太過誇張。身處香港可能較難以生活和工作,但香港與其他金融中心相比,仍然有其出色之處,尤其是其市場規模。一位資深外派銀行家向 eFC 表示:「任何與股票相關的業務都會繼續以香港為重點。」部分銀行已將固定收益交易櫃檯和人員遷移至新加坡,但銀行家普遍對遷往新加坡抱持冷淡態度。



同時,檢疫法規可能會進一步收緊,因為本港已在星期日發現 Delta Omicron 個案。只要香港繼續執意奉行清零政策,在竹篙灣等政府檢疫設施中嚴格隔離三星期將會成為常態。這位銀行家向 eFC 表示:「當您被困在港 18 個月,便會意識到香港實際上只是一個很細小的地方。」

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