COVID Impact on Education – Is GMAT Waiver in the USA a New Normal?

A year into the Covid-19 Pandemic, the virus continues to impact global education. In 2020, students around the world traded university classes and campus education for online zoom classes. The significant lapse in traditional ways of learning closed many windows and robbed millions of students of significant milestones.

It has also impacted students who were eager to apply for colleges and universities in 2020 and 2021. As the admission season dawns again, students have many questions regarding their application, seat availability and college requirements.

Significant changes have been implemented to the overall application system for the year 2021. After a year of reflection, many Ivy League schools and top-ranked universities have decided to forego the requirement of standardized tests such as the GMAT.

An investigation found that many colleges have quietly discontinued the GMAT requirement from their official application in 2020. Over two dozen colleges, including heavy hitters stars like MIT and Northwestern, had stopped requiring these test scores to sign a changing trend.

As some universities pursue complete abandonment, some have decided to consider online GMAT scores for admission. The online mode helps keep up with the aspirant’s timeline and makes sure that students who have already given years to the preparation get a fair chance at bearing the fruits of their hard work. Top business schools have moved on to take interviews online as well.

The History of GMAT

Even though Harvard has been offering management degrees since 1908, it wasn’t until 1954 when it considered an entry exam for MBA students. The GMAT was implanted in 1953 when the Educational Testing Service (the company behind the SAT and GRE tests) met with business school authorities to develop a test that filters the applicants best for a business management course. Soon after the adoption, 2900 students took the test, known as the Admissions Test for Graduate Business Study (ATGBS).

The GMAT score intended to assess writing, reading, analytical, verbal, and quantitative skills is used for admission to management programs at a graduate level. The scores of this exam have five years of validity. The redundancy of these scores has been a long-discussed topic in American intellectual circles, with many concluding that it was indeed the pandemic that pushed these people towards this decision.

Why Distance from GMAT?

Major institutions like MIT, the University of Virginia, Carnegie Mellon, among many others, have decided to waive GMAT requirements for the 2021-22 academic year. Instead of going for the usual test scores, universities will now focus on overall applications, past achievements, extracurriculars and essay submissions. Universities in America are joined by colleges in Canada, UK and Australia, where GMAT requirements are only a prerequisite and not a compulsory entry.

COVID Impact on Education
COVID Impact on Education – GMAT Waiver in the USA

Covid-19 pandemic has complicated the matter even further, as student unions have come out against the strenuous means of testing intellectual levels of aspirants. Once instituted, policies are hard to abandon, hence it can be said the trend of distancing from the GMAT and/or any other mandatory requirements of standardized tests is here to stay.

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If not GMAT, then what?

For decades, the GMAT has been instrumental in student selection processes. With its international implications, the decision impacts 114 countries that use the GMAT (or its equivalent) as a mode of admission into American universities.

Over 100 MBA college programs have announced modifications to their admission criteria for 2021-22. The abandonment of standardized testing comes as a necessary step to thwart some of the impacts of the global pandemic on students.

COVID Impact on Education
COVID Impact on Education – If not GMAT then What

While some institutes are looking for proof of previous academic performance, others have decided to substitute this test scores for work experience or a master’s degree.

Here are some of the leading universities and their stances on GMAT waivers:

S.NoBusiness SchoolGMAT Waiver and Requirements
1.Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT-Sloan)MIT has concluded that GMAT scores will no longer be required for admission into its management program. The submitted material which includes other application requirements will be considered.
2.Darden School of Business (University of Virginia)Darden has stated that it may take previous ACT & SAT scores into consideration.
3.Ross School of Business (University of Michigan)Conditional admission or waitlist of Round 1 MBA students.
4.Tepper School of Business – Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA)After waiving GMAT scores, the university will test preparedness through quant classes.
5.McCombs School of BusinessGMAT waiver allowed for candidates who cannot take the test due to pandemic-induced circumstances.
6.Kelley School of Business at Indiana UniversityWaiver after analysing a statement under 500 words that state the reasoning behind skipping the GMAT.
7.Scheller College of BusinessWaiver in lieu of a 2000-character essay that supports the intellectual and academic preparedness of the aspirant.
8.Rice Business (Jones Graduate School Of Business)Waiver in lieu of 7 years of work experience or scores of LSAT, CFA/CPA, MCAT or STEM Masters.
9.Owen Graduate School of ManagementWaiver of GMAT scores in proof of performance in analytical and quant coursework. In addition to this, the aspirant must also submit 5 years of prior work experience, CPA or CFA.
10.Carlson School of ManagementWaiver of GMAT scores in lieu of a Master’s degree or a 3.2 GPA & 5+ years of work experience, a CFA or CPA.
11.University of Pittsburgh (Katz)Waiver of GMAT scores in lieu of exceptional undergraduate/graduate quantitative coursework, in addition to some meaningful prior work experience
12.The University of Texas at Dallas (Jindal)Waive for applicants who face “logistical difficulties of taking the test as a result of Covid-19”
13.Michigan State University (Broad)Waivers for students with 4+ years of prior work experience along with a decent recommendation from online prerequisites and supervisors.
14.University of Maryland (Robert H.Smith)Waiver for applicants with an industry certification, in addition to Six Sigma, CFA, CPA. Applicants must also have a 3.0 GPA. Scores from MCAT or LSAT are also applicable.
Stance of Universities on GMAT Waiver

In the end, it is hard to determine whether the changes instituted due to the Covid-19 pandemic are here to stay. But it is important to remember that the objection to standardized testing, including ACT/SAT, has been a long-debated topic. With academics and activists criticizing these tests during this pandemic, the fate of the GMAT is definitely up for the toss.

Garima Tomar

Senior Software Development Analyst at an IT firm

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