For most applicants, taking a standardized test is likely the least appealing part of applying to business school. At the onset of COVID in the spring of 2020, many Full-Time MBA programs created great flexibility with their GMAT or GRE requirement. In some cases, the test was waived altogether; in other cases, either the online exam or a broader set of tests was accepted by some business schools. Fast forward two admissions cycles, and we find that some programs have returned to requiring a standardized test of all applicants, while others have retained some flexibility.
What about you? Can you safely skip taking an admissions exam? Which programs require which test? Do they require it all?
The situation is very fluid.
Several prominent MBA programs in 2020 and 2021 went test-optional or offered test waivers. Many of them are continuing with this policy for the 2022-23 MBA admissions cycle. Admissions offices are increasingly skeptical as to whether all MBA applicants need a GMAT/GRE score to predict that they will be successful in business school. Other programs are allowing applicants to submit the shorter Executive Assessment as an alternative to the GMAT or GRE, and some schools are accepting other tests like the MCAT or LSAT.
A review of US News Top 25 Business Schools indicates that only two of those ranked in the top 10 full-time MBA programs provide a standardized test waiver option this year – MIT Sloan and Michigan Ross. MIT’s waiver appears to be much narrower than it previously was, and Ross appears to have a similar waiver policy. Conversely, 14 of the 16 programs ranked 11-25 continue to have a test waiver option. (Due to various ties in the ranking, there are 16 schools ranked between 11 – 25.)
If you are targeting both schools that require a standardized test and others that do not, make sure you carve out the time to prepare for the test properly. You may decide to self-study, or you may find more success in enrolling in a test prep course. Either way, preparation is key to obtaining your best score.
Applying for a test waiver makes sense when:
- Your academic coursework demonstrates strong academic readiness.
Your performance is strong, and you have also had several quantitative and analytical courses where you earned high marks. These courses could have been taken as part of your undergraduate or graduate program. Or, you may have taken these courses as preparation for your business school application.
- You have developed analytical and quantitative skills through your work experience.
Some of us have learned and applied new skills through our jobs, whether a new skill was developed on the job, or we earned a professional certification. You will have the opportunity to share this information with the admissions committee through your resume, essays, and interview.
In both cases, the test score isn’t needed to demonstrate your ability to perform academically in the MBA program.
Here are the MBA programs that continue to provide a test waiver option.
Full-time MBA programs in US News Top 25 that continue to offer test waivers
US News Rank
|Test Waiver Option?||Tests Accepted|
Candidates who demonstrate academic readiness.
|GMAT, GRE, EA|
Candidates who have demonstrated analytical and/or quantitative abilities through their academics, work experience, etc.
Candidates who can show evidence they are prepared for graduate-level business coursework based on their academic background and work experience.
|GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT|
|Georgetown McDonough||#22 (tie)||Yes|
Candidates who demonstrate an above average level of quantitative aptitude.
|GMAT, GRE, EA|
|Indiana Kelley||#22 (tie)||Yes|
Candidates who submit other evidence of academic potential.
Candidates who can demonstrate academic readiness without a test.
|GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT|
|MIT Sloan||#5 (tie)||Yes|
Only if candidate's circumstances prevent them from safely accessing a GMAT or GRE exam.
|Notre Dame Mendoza||#25 (tie)||Yes|
More weight placed on other factors such as undergraduate GPA and course rigor.
|NYU Stern||#12 (tie)||Yes - Deadline to submit waiver request was Nov 1, 2022.|
Candidates who prove strong academic readiness. Dual-degree applicants may not request waivers.
|GMAT, GRE, EA, LSAT, MCAT, DAT|
Waived for UCLA School of Law and UCLA Geffen School
|UNC Kenan-Flagler||#19 (tie)||Yes|
Available for new applicants who can build a strong case for admission based on coursework, other advanced degree earned, professional experience in analytical or quantitative field, CFA or U.S. CPA, and strong test results from EA, LSAT, PCAT or MCAT
|GMAT, GRE (strong EA, LSAT, MCAT or PCAT) can be used to build a case for a waiver.)|
|USC Marshall||#19 (tie)||Yes|
Candidates who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement, including math preparedness. Waived for USC medical student applying to the MD/MBA.
|University of Texas McCombs||(#18)||Yes|
Minimum of three years of work experience and either an undergraduate or graduate program with a strong academic record, preferably in an analytical or quantitative nature.
|GMAT, GRE, EA|
Particular regard will be given for indicators of academic and professional accomplishment.
|GMAT, GRE, EA, LSAT or MCAT|
|Vanderbilt Owen||#25 (tie)||Yes|
Candidates who demonstrate multiple examples of academic and professional accomplishments are more likely to receive a waiver.
|GMAT, GRE, EA|
|Washington Foster||#22 (tie)||Yes|
Candidates who demonstrate strong quantitative skills through their prior academic work and recent professional experiences
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify.***
Applying to business school with a test waiver may have implications beyond the admissions process. It might surprise you that top investment banks and consulting firms are also interested in the GMAT test score. While this is not what the test was designed for, these industries have long used the test score in their hiring process as a screening tool. Some have moved away from this usage, but not all. Ultimately, the decision to apply with or without a standardized test isn’t as straightforward as it may initially seem.
For the schools where you have the option to apply for a test waiver, consider how your score compares to the middle 80% score range for the most recent incoming class. (You’ll find this data in the Class Profile section of the school’s website.) In the end, submitting your application with a test waiver means that the school will have one less data point to use when selecting. You need to be admissible to the programs you are applying to, and you will also be competing against other talented applicants to get a seat in the MBA class.
If you know of other MBA programs that are accepting tests other than the GMAT or the GRE, let us know! Please email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org with a source that we can confirm.
One implication of reduced reliance on test scores is increased reliance on other elements of your application including your essays, resume, short answer responses, and interview.
With or without test scores, your top-choice MBA is within your reach. Just as we have helped thousands of applicants get into the MBA program of their dreams, Accepted can help you, too, through professional assessment of your profile, expert honing of your application, and confidence-boosting, targeted interview prep. Check out our MBA Services Packages to get the personalized, one-on-one attention you need to GET ACCEPTED!
As the former executive director of admissions at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School and assistant dean of admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School, has 23 years’ experience overseeing admissions committees and has reviewed more than 38,000 applications for the MBA and master’s programs in management of information systems, computational finance, business analytics, and product management. Want Kelly to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!