If you are considering going back to school for a graduate degree in business—namely a master’s in business administration (MBA)—you’ve probably heard that you need to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
The GMAT has become a significant part of the modern MBA application process. Some business schools now use minimum GMAT scores to sort through applicants and only consider admission for students who achieve a certain exam threshold. The cost and time commitment of taking the test—or not getting a high enough score—have been enough to hold many potential MBA students back from applying for a graduate program.
Today, there are many MBA programs rethinking whether a standardized test is the best option to measure applicants’ aptitude and likelihood to succeed, and many are offering alternatives or foregoing the test altogether. Find out more about the history of the GMAT, what the test is like today, and how you can get an online MBA without a GMAT score.
What is the GMAT?
The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admissions Test, is the standardized test specifically designed for business school applicants. The Educational Testing Service first introduced it in 1953 after meeting with business school deans who wanted a test that was more specific than the existing SAT (scholastic aptitude test) or GRE (graduate record examinations).1 Existing exams measured a wider variety of subjects but none were specific to business school.
Originally called the Admissions Test for Graduate Business Study (ATGBS) when launched, the test was renamed the GMAT in the 1970s by the newly-formed Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). Today, the GMAC administers and oversees GMAT testing. Some MBA programs will accept GRE test scores, but the GMAT has become the standard for most business schools.
While the test is not the only factor in the admissions process, it does hold a significant amount of weight for many schools. A number of MBA programs report an “average” or “minimum required” GMAT scores prospective students must meet to be considered for admissions. In 2021, though, the use of GMAT scores is shifting at some of the top programs in the U.S.
The GMAT is divided into four sections:
- Analytical Writing Assessment: This tests your ability to think critically and express your ideas.
- Integrated Reasoning: This tests your ability to review and analyze data presented in several different formats.
- Quantitative Reasoning: This tests your mathematical skills and reasoning skills with numbers.
- Verbal Reasoning: This tests your reading and writing skills (including basic proficiency in English for reading and writing. If English is not your primary language you, may also need to submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test score.
You can choose which order to take each of these sections at the start of your test. Both the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections use a “computer adaptive” format.2 This process continually assesses your knowledge to provide a better score by adjusting questions based on your previous answer. If you answer a question correctly the next one will be a little bit harder. If you answer incorrectly the next will be easier.
To prepare for the test, many students take free or paid practice exams online and/or pay for test preparation materials.
Disadvantages of the GMAT
While it provides a “standardized” score—since everyone takes the same test each year—the GMAT can provide an advantage to some students over others because of:
- Cost: The cost to take the test is around $200, which can be prohibitively expensive for some students.³
- Time: It takes just under three and a half hours, which is a lot of time for someone who works a full-time job or has other commitments and responsibilities.
- Logistics: Prior to 2020, the GMAT was entirely administered in specific testing locations on specific days and times. That could have made it taking the test harder for those who did not have transportation to and from testing centers, or had schedules that did not permit them to take the test at the designated times.
For these reasons, some schools started rethinking whether or not they really needed to require the GMAT for all their applicants. Requiring it meant that some students would never apply because they didn’t have a GMAT score, even though they had plenty of business experience and a very high potential to succeed.
Can you get an online MBA without a GMAT Score?
Today, there are many schools, including the University of Kansas School of Business, that allow you to get an online MBA without the GMAT. There are also traditional programs offering admission to in-person MBA programs without the GMAT. This opens the door to many qualified students who otherwise might not be able to take the test or achieve a specific score, but who can do well in an MBA program and want the opportunity to advance their careers.
Why Some Schools are Waiving or Not Requiring the GMAT
Prior to 2020, there were some schools that didn’t require a GMAT score from students with a significant amount of work experience or other academically related qualifying factors. That changed in 2020, when the list of schools waiving the GMAT expanded dramatically, almost overnight. The cause? The COVID-19 pandemic, that disrupted many areas of global life.
Around March 2020, stay-at-home orders, issued by state and local governments in response to COVID-19, barred people from gathering in large groups both indoors and outdoors. Since the GMAT is traditionally administered in large testing centers to large numbers of people, these mandates meant it could not continue to be taken in the early days of the pandemic.
Though the GMAT test was eventually made available to take in an online format uninhibited by COVID-19 restrictions, many schools had already announced they would be waiving GMAT test requirements for MBA applicants (as well as other standardized tests like the GRE, and the SAT or ACT for undergraduate education) in response.
At the time, institutions described this waiving of the GMAT as a “temporary” loosening of the standardized testing requirement. Some schools that originally waived it for 2021 admissions have already reinstated it for future admissions cycles.4 However, many schools are continuing to forego the test requirement for the foreseeable future. That’s great news for students considering business school who might not have a high GMAT score, or who might not have the money, or time, to take the test.
Where to Find an Online MBA Program That Does Not Require the GMAT
With many schools waiving standardized testing requirements as part of the application process, there is a lot of information available to help you find these programs. Some places you can start looking include:
- Poets&Quants—an MBA-focused website has a list of 100 top programs that don’t require either test.5
- U.S. News & World Report—which surveyed more than 250 online MBA programs and discovered that half do not require the GMAT or GRE. Many of those still requiring test scores have options to waive testing requirements if you meet a certain amount of work experience or other criteria.6
- College Consensus—which ranks top online MBA programs waiving GMAT requirements and has information about how to apply.7
You can also go directly to a program’s website to look for application requirements. These admissions requirements detail the entire applications process, and whether a standardized test is required, optional, or waived based on meeting other criteria.
Start your MBA without a GMAT score today.
The University of Kansas offers a top-ranked, no-GMAT online MBA program.8 It’s part of KU’s highly-ranked and well-respected School of Business and prepares students for jobs with the world’s top companies. Plus, the program is entirely online so you can learn from anywhere and complete a master’s degree on your own schedule.
Find out more about the admissions requirements and what you can expect with an online MBA from KU.
1. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from topmba.com/admissions/gmatgre/history-gmat-mba-friday-facts
2. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from mba.com/exams/gmat/about-the-gmat-exam/gmat-exam-structure
3. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from princetonreview.com/business/gmat-test-dates
4. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from wsj.com/articles/m-b-a-programs-debate-dropping-gmat-11594643327
5. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from poetsandquants.com/2021/01/10/top-100-mba-programs-that-are-now-waiving-gmat-gre-tests/?pq-category=admissions
6. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from usnews.com/higher-education/online-education/slideshows/top-online-mba-programs-no-gmat-gre-required
7. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from collegeconsensus.com/rankings/best-no-gmat-online-mba-programs/
8. Retrieved on September 8, 2021, from usnews.com/education/online-education/university-of-kansas-OBUS0696/mba