With full time MBA programs, it is fairly obvious why the GMAT is such an important component to one’s application – with less work experience, admissions committees need to find other measurements to gauge potential success in a program. Academic preparedness can clearly be evidenced with a strong undergraduate GPA coupled with a strong GMAT score. With Executive MBA programs, a GMAT score’s relation to the rest of one’s application is less obvious, since other factors seem to be of more importance.
Criteria for admission to an Executive MBA program (often in this order) include work experience and the type of insight an applicant can bring to the classroom, future potential, and academic preparedness. During my time at Cornell, I would often say we were looking for students who could teach just as much to their fellow classmates as the faculty who taught in the program. There is no substitute for real world experience to ingrain concepts presented in the classroom.
Once the box is checked for work experience, it is necessary to ensure an applicant can handle the rigorous work in a program. Admissions committees evaluate this in a variety of ways, primarily through undergraduate performance. Not all Executive MBA programs require the GMAT, but for those that do, the GMAT score also is an indicator of potential academic success while in a program. There is less emphasis placed on it than in full-time MBA admissions, however, since an applicant is typically much further removed from standardized testing than a full-time applicant.
If an applicant has strong work experience and a strong undergraduate record, but a weak GMAT score, the undergraduate record usually “trumps” the GMAT score. If an applicant has strong work experience and a strong GMAT score, but a weak undergraduate record, there will probably be further investigation on the part of an admissions committee to see if there were any mitigating circumstances leading to a low GPA. If not, it’s possible an admissions committee might ask for some additional evidence to indicate academic preparedness – for example, suggesting an additional quant course either online or from a local college. Bottom line, an EMBA admissions committee wants to admit individuals who are fully prepared to hit the ground running when a program starts, and the GMAT is one indication of an applicant’s ability to do just that.
Jen Weld worked as an admissions consultant and Former Asst. Dir. of Admissions at Cornell’s EMBA program (4 years) prior to joining Accepted.com. She has an additional 10 years of experience in higher ed and corporate marketing.