GMAT Test-Taking Trends: GMAC Report and Some Implications

GMAC Report Reveals New TreadsA just-released report (“2011 World Geographic Trend Report for GMAT Examinees”) on GMAT trends by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) identifies some striking new trends in GMAT test-taking.  One major finding: the percentage of test-takers who are non-US citizens surpassed 50% for the first time in 2009, and soared to 55% in 2011.

Here are some additional highlights of the report:  There was a 67% increase in GMAT tests taken by East Asians since 2007.    Moreover, a significantly higher percentage of people under 25 took the test, 37% in 2007 to 44% in 2011.  This percentage rose to a whopping 61% among East and Southeast Asians, and 52% among Western Europeans.

While the percentage of women GMAT takers overall grew only slightly, from 39% to 41%, in two regions the percentage of women exceeded 50%: East and Southeast Asia, which includes China (57% in 2011), and Eastern Europe (53% in 2011).

Overlapping with the above points is another key development: more GMAT takers are sending reports to specialized programs rather than MBA programs, such as masters in finance, management, and accounting.  MBA programs received 78% of test reports in 2007, and 67% in 2011.  The report states that “Masters candidates tend to be younger, have less work experience, and are more likely to be female.”

Finally, while most GMAT takers still plan to study in the US, the percentage doing so is falling: from 83% in 2007 to 77% in 2011.

Based on the above findings, I note various potential implications for future business applicants:

  • Unless more Americans start attending non-US programs, competition among US citizens/residents for US programs will increase as these programs have to work a bit harder to attract top foreign applicants – which conversely is a boost for non-US applicants to US programs.
  • On the other hand, US citizens/residents are more competitive at non-US based programs because they are under-represented in such programs.  (In fact we have heard this point explicitly from top European adcom members who are anxious to see more US applicants.)
  • The percentage of women will probably not hit parity as it has in other professional programs, as the great increase in female GMAT-takers is largely pursuing other related master’s programs.  Hence, women will remain under-represented in MBA programs.
  • The trend of younger women flooding into the more specialized programs raises the question of whether MBA programs will become more welcoming to younger applicants again to increase their programs’ appeal to women (and particularly the greater number of younger women from East/Southeast Asia, who also happen to be relatively high scorers on the GMAT).
  • Given that part of the appeal of many non-US programs is the shorter timeframe and reduced expense, will more US programs offer such options to attract the best global talent?  (Currently most programs that offer a one-year option like Kellogg and Cornell have stringent requirements for applicants that differ from their general requirements.)  Indeed, Kellogg just announced that it intends to increase the size of its one-year program.
  • The overall increase in GMAT testing to a 2009 peak of 265,613 (258,192 in 2011) from its low in 2007 of 219,077 coincides with a trend among Executive MBA programs of not requiring the test, so fewer EMBA applicants take it – underscoring the particularly high interest among younger applicants.
  • Diversifying graduate business education options may impact MBA programs, e.g., possibly requiring clearer definition or redefinition; adapting to future applicants who come with the earlier specialized degrees, etc.
  • The increase in women from East/Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe indicates a possible raised bar for the GMAT generally as well as for these high scoring groups – Asians in particular are willing to retake until they achieve an impressive score.

You can view the full report here.  Wherever you may be among the groups portrayed above, good luck with your GMAT efforts!

Cindy TokumitsuBy Cindy Tokumitsu, author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last thirteen years with Accepted. She can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and develop a winning MBA admissions strategy.