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Half Of Business Schools Say Low GMAT Score 'Kills Applications'

Half of the world’s top business schools say that a low GMAT score is “the biggest application killer”, while the majority do not consider the Integrated Reasoning section as important.

Wed Oct 15 2014

Half of the world’s top business schools say that a low GMAT score is “the biggest application killer”, according to a new survey, highlighting the importance of the business school entrance exam that is required for most leading MBA programs.

A survey of admissions directors at 200 business schools in the United States by Kaplan Test Prep, the educational and career services firm, also found that 60% of respondents do not consider the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning (IR) section of vital importance.

While business schools have been adapting their application processes to focus less on essays and more on “potential” and “fit” within their programs’ culture, it is clear that the GMAT still rules the roost when it comes to MBA admissions.

Fifty percent of schools surveyed said that a poor GMAT score kills applications. Test-takers are under increasing pressure to secure high scores to get into the best programs, and many have sought the services of professional admissions consultants and test experts.

The IR section was introduced in 2012 to assess whether a candidate can evaluate, synthesize and extract information from large volumes of data. GMAC, administrators of the exam, argues that these skills are essential for today’s MBA programs.

Test-takers receive a separate score for the IR section than from the GMAT’s other sections – Quantitative, Verbal and Analytical Writing Assessment.

However, Kaplan’s survey found that the majority of schools say an applicant’s score in the IR section not “an important part of their evaluation” of a candidate’s overall GMAT score.

Brian Carlidge, an executive director at Kaplan Test Prep, said that many schools may be trying to gather additional performance data before fully incorporating the new IR section into their admissions processes.

But he added that doing well on IR section can set candidates apart from other applicants.

“Kaplan strongly advises MBA applicants not to discount the importance of preparing for and doing well on the Integrated Reasoning section,” said Brian.

“As more and more applicants submit scores from the current GMAT over the next couple of years, business schools may decide that Integrated Reasoning performance should play a more critical role.”

GMAC has been revamping the GMAT for the past few years. Candidates have had to adapt to the IR section as well as new rules announced in June that allow students to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them.

Admissions consultants say the preview feature is likely to lead to an increase in cancelled GMAT tests, and could harm prospective MBA applicants’ chances of being admitted to business school.

Some business school applicants have ditched the GMAT altogether and opted for the GRE instead, a similar entrance exam that is being accepted by more business schools.

Admissions consultants report that there is an increase in MBA applicants seeking help with preparation for the GRE, although some argue that the GRE will never replace the GMAT because it is not business-school specific – they say it is designed for academics in general.

For the 2014 Kaplan survey, admissions officers from 204 business schools from across the United States – including 11 of the top 30 MBA programs, as ranked by U.S. News & World  – were polled by telephone between August and September 2014.