Do you have to complete the GMAT exam to pursue an MBA degree? Some of the application requirements for graduate school are incredibly daunting. For many prospective students, standardized exams like the GMAT cause the most stress of all, leaving many to wonder if they can find a way to forgo the exams and still get an advanced degree. While many schools still require the GMAT, some schools have started to look at different ways to evaluate incoming students, making it possible to get an MBA without the GMAT.
WHAT IS THE GMAT?
The GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. It is a standardized timed exam that assesses analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. The four sections include Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, and the computer-adaptive sections: Quantitative and Verbal. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the GMAT began to offer a proctored online version of the exam you can complete at home.
GMAT anxiety stems from many different sources. Many students have had trouble with time pressure and standardized tests throughout their education and still have bad memories from those experiences. This challenge can culminate in self-doubt, difficulty studying for exams, physical symptoms of stress, distractions, and inability to comprehend test material. Practice tests and training might help people in this category overcome test anxiety. However, other test takers with diagnosed conditions can often get exemptions from time limits or receive other accommodations before considering a waiver.
Yes, the skills assessed in the GMAT are essential in the world of business, but the test cannot be an end-all in determining the potential success of a prospective MBA student. Due to many reasons, higher education institutions have begun taking a broader view of applicants’ capabilities. Certain administrators lament the use of standardized tests that do not accurately test an applicant’s true abilities and prefer a more well-rounded perspective of a candidacy. Although still in the minority, more and more business schools are providing exemptions, waivers, or removing the GMAT requirement for their MBA programs, altogether. Programs take several things into consideration when deciding to exempt an applicant from the GMAT:
- Professional Experience: Having a significant amount of professional experience opens the most doors in this regard. The number of years required for a waiver will depend on the program. Typically, though, administrators look for somewhere in the range of two to five years of relevant professional experience.
- Undergraduate Achievements: Surprisingly to some, an applicant’s undergraduate GPA, internships, and other achievements often serve as a replacement for the GMAT. These achievements are typically coupled with the professional experience requirement, as well. Of course, this may require a little bit more selling to an institution, as they want to see a picture of a well-rounded, ambitious individual whose past achievements predict success at the graduate level. Instead of a standardized test, a complete portfolio of a student’s relevant achievements, experience, and activities can build confidence among admissions officers regarding that student’s ability to succeed in graduate school.
- Graduate Degree Completion: Prospective MBA students who have already obtained a graduate degree demonstrate the necessary skills to succeed in an MBA program.
- Professional Credentials/Certificates: Those who are Certified Public Accountants (CPA) or Certified Business Analysis Professionals (CBAP), for example, have professionally proven their abilities.
Another successful strategy for avoiding the test involves seeking out specialized MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT. Some schools, for example, require the test in all but one or two highly focused MBA programs. Programs like these could eliminate the need for the test more quickly than other methods. Additionally, applicants who have already taken the LSAT, GRE, or other standardized tests should ask schools whether they can accept those tests instead of the GMAT. Also, note that some programs may require the completion of additional courses in place of completing the exam.
Students often overlook another excellent possibility for GMAT-free graduate school entrance: studying abroad. Schools abroad often have their unique ways of assessing new students. This possibility can open up new and exciting opportunities beyond just waiving the GMAT. Students doing a degree abroad will also benefit from the international and intercultural experience. In fact, students usually don’t have to stray too far from home. Neighboring countries often offer the degrees most compatible in an applicant’s home country.
These themes will keep coming back as applicants look for ways to pursue their MBA without the GMAT. Schools are looking for people who have the drive and persistence to overcome the inevitable hurdles they will encounter in graduate school and a work environment. They also highly value technical experience and highly-trained professionals who have demonstrated their aptitudes during their careers. It is always wise to seek MBA program advisors’ advice on their specific expectations before deciding to opt for a waiver. Requirements for waivers or exemptions definitely play a part, but showing the core traits B-schools desire remains the most powerful tool for prospective students during the application process.