MIT’s Sloan School of Business is not requiring applicants to take the GMAT/GRE as part of their application process this year. Sloan is the first M7 business school (the so-called Magnificent Seven highly selective MBA programs) to drop the standardized test requirement. Sloan joins a growing number of top business schools that have made standardized tests optional, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring.
Sloan’s decision is a direct result of the pandemic. Rod Garcia, Assistant Dean of Admissions, says, “Standardized tests will continue to be a requirement but, for this year only, we are allowing candidates to submit an application without them and evaluate their application ‘as is.’” Garcia goes on to explain that something similar was done in R3 during the last admissions cycle. Candidates were interviewed and admitted without submitting test scores, but were required to take the GMAT or GRE before enrolling. The decision to drop the requirement was made due to the pandemic and fear that if and when a second wave hits, test centers will be closed again.
According to the MIT Sloan website (under Test Scores), “The GMAT and GRE are components of the application process and play an important role in our holistic evaluation process. However, in view of challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, we will allow candidates for the 2020–21 admission cycle to submit their application without the test and review their submitted material as is and without negative inferences. If admitted, candidates will not be required to take a test.
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“Additionally, applicants are welcome to submit other pieces of evidence, such as expired test scores (GMAT, GRE, EA, etc.); MITx, MicroMasters, CORe, edX, MBAMath, or any non-degree coursework completed; or certifications earned such as CPA, ACCA, CFA, etc.; all of which may assist the Admissions Committee in its evaluation process.”
Changes likely to cause large increase in MBA applications
Accepted president and founder Linda Abraham predicts that “MIT Sloan’s waiving the test will result in a significant increase in applicants to Sloan.” When Kellogg made a similar policy change earlier this year, it saw a greater number of applications submitted. Wharton saw a similar effect when they announced that students would be able to apply without standardized tests, but would require them prior to matriculation.
In addition, Abraham believes “MIT Sloan will weigh more heavily other elements in the application because it will have neither the test score as a quick measure of ‘applicant quality,’ nor fear of lower test scores reducing its ranking or its brand value. However, applicants will still need to show through their transcripts, resume, recommendations, essays, and post-college coursework that they are up to the rigor of a demanding and elite graduate management program.”
What about the future?
This is a period of change in the thinking about the necessity for standardized tests in admissions to both undergrad and graduate programs. More than half of all four-year colleges, including Brown, CalTech, Dartmouth, UPenn and Yale, are not requiring ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admissions. The University of California Board of Regents voted 23–0 in May to no longer require students applying to schools such as UC-Berkeley and UCLA to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission.
Business schools are closely watching these trends. They have access to a far greater pool of information than undergrad schools. “If three-and-one-half years of high school is more than sufficient to replace a test score at the undergraduate level, graduate schools need test scores even less,” maintains Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the Boston-based National Center for Fair and Open Testing. “They have the work experience to look at and fewer feeder schools to evaluate. There are 30,000 high schools in the U.S. but only 2,300 undergraduate colleges that could possibly feed a graduate school or business school. That makes it easier for admissions committees to follow and know about the quality of an undergraduate program.”
Many people are in favor of discontinuing the reliance on standardized test scores. They believe that these tests put students from lower-income families, first-generation college applicants, and some international students who learned English as a second language, at a disadvantage—and some call the tests patently unfair.
If they do without test scores, schools will now have to put more emphasis on intangibles like motivation, interpersonal skills, perseverance, and hard work, as well as past academic performance. This is a trend we will continue to watch.
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