The schools are changing the things that they can. You’ve likely heard that a lot of schools are allowing Round 3 apps to be submitted without a GMAT or GRE score, with the caveat that a valid test score must come in later on — for example, by July 1st in the case of Columbia. Other schools have similar policies. This is because a lot of testing centers have been closed to help prevent the spread of covid-19.
We’re getting hints that online options are being developed for standardized testing, but it’s unclear when they will be available, or how they will be administered in a secure fashion that prevents cheating. Some options we’ve heard about are to have a virtual proctor, where you take the test on video camera and someone is literally watching you the whole time. Creepy, and not water-tight in terms of literally guaranteeing the integrity of the exam. Having someone watching you is likely to increase the anxiety levels, too, though doing the test in your own home would also probably result in higher scores for many people because of the familiarity of the surroundings. We’ve long been convinced that that’s a contributing factor to lower performance on the actual test in the test center, compared to practice tests you do on your own.
It’s hard to say how soon any such online option will be made available, if ever, and what other accommodations might be feasible during this acute time of lockdown around coronavirus.
EssaySnark’s advice on testing:
If you haven’t taken the GMAT, GRE, or EA yet, DO NOT TAKE IT RIGHT NOW.
Even if your testing center is not closed, it is too risky to go through with your test.
As a society, we are trying to control the spread. A test center, even if they say that the employees have cleaned it, is way too public of a place. Even if you went in there in a hazmat suit (which obviously you would not) you would still be sitting there, answering test questions, with an underlying worry about the virus in the background of your brain.
Pro Tip: If you’re not currently worrying about the virus, then you should be. (Conversely, if the virus is all you’re thinking about, then that’s also not healthy. What we want is to strike a balance between taking it seriously and letting it control us. The former is critical; the latter is not helpful.)
If you’re thinking about a Round 3 application, then in addition to what we said on Round 3 last week, let’s talk about this option of submitting an app when you have time to take the GMAT or GRE later.
First, if you go that route without ever having taken the GMAT or GRE: The rest of your profile — especially your undergraduate transcripts — will need to be solid to make this feasible. And, it puts a lot of pressure on yourself in the midst of many unknowns. The schools have set this arbitrary date of June or July or whenever that they’re saying you’ll need to have your final test score available. If you’ve never ever tested before, then you’ll likely want to plan to take it not just once, but twice — that is, if you’re trying for the top schools like Wharton or Stanford or Kellogg. And that means that your first attempt would need to happen by like the end of May. And here we are, at the end of March, with everything shut down. Can your test occur on that timeframe? Yes, maybe — but who really knows? You can plan for this, however there’s a lot of variables that simply cannot be forecast.
What if you have a GMAT or GRE score in hand, but you know it’s not competitive? A BSer asked us about this situation just recently. So the plan is, you want to submit an app now, but tell the adcom to please wait on the final verdict and not consider your current score, because you will be retesting within this window they are granting you.
It’s kinda the same situation as above, with the hypothetical BSer who’s never tested before and is considering a Round 3 app with no score. Here, you HAVE tested before… And you know your score is lackluster or not that solid… And you have been planning on retesting at some point, but hadn’t actually been planning to do so right before all of this coronavirus stuff happened. But now suddenly you’re thinking of throwing your hat in the ring for Round 3, maybe because everything is so up in the air right now that it’s caused you to panic a little about all the goals you had intended for yourself. Or you’ve just decided to strike when the metaphorical iron is hot, since you’re hearing some pundits like EssaySnark prognosticate that there will be a loosening of standards in Round 3 at many schools.
We have no problem with opportunists, and we can certainly appreciate how the current events in the world may have caused people to question many things in their lives. These elements may add up to the idea of, yeah, now might be a really good time for trying for the MBA dream.
But the part where we hesitate is this:
Given that you have already tried testing, and came up a little short, and had had intentions for some time to retake the GMAT or GRE in order to buff up your profile and increase your chances… We’re just sort of worried that the idea of having more time to test into the summer is going to be motivation enough for you to do the studying necessary to literally increase the score.
Maybe we’re just being too skeptical, and that’s not fair. It’s possible that you’re feeling now motivated to put all of this anxious energy into a project, and prepping for the GMAT is a viable one for sure, that would keep your brain occupied and prevent it from thinking all these stressful thoughts and going obsessively to social media to read about more people with symptoms who cannot get tested.
And, the same worry as noted above still applies: How will you actually take the test? If the GMAC / Pearson / ETS folks come up with a test-from-home option, then sure. But if you have to go to a test center, then it’s simply not possible to truly disinfect a public place like that. Maybe you’ll wear gloves, but you can’t exactly spray a bleach solution on the keyboard and mouse can you? And would you not touch your face for the entire duration of the test? It’s just like, well, dunno, how would it work?
The virus is still going to be in all of our communities in May, June, and July. It’s highly unlikely that a vaccine will be ready in 2020.
So any application strategy that you’re deciding on right now that includes a requirement for taking the GMAT, GRE, or EA in the next four months is a tricky one.
Does your current test score put you in range for schools that you’d consider going to? Then yes, try for those schools. If you’re an international applicant, then the odds of getting accepted are likely going to be higher right now — though there are real issues with visas. The State Department has put a hold on processing all international applications for now, and it’s not clear when that hold will be lifted. There is likely going to be a big dropoff in applications from international candidates, so your chances are certainly better right now. Or, at least, they’re better of you getting waitlisted. That’s actually the most likely scenario if you apply without a test score: If they like you, they’ll waitlist you, and then when you get your test taken care of, they’ll re-evaluate if they can accept you. Or perhaps some schools might issue a conditional admit: They’ll accept you provided you get the test taken care of within their timeframe for the summer.
If this plan is to try for Round 3 at a school like UCLA or Darden, then go for it. If you’re thinking Columbia or Wharton, we’re not so sure how it’ll turn out.
If you want more concrete advice on your specific profile and plans, the best way to go is the Comprehensive Profile Review, which lets us roll up the sleeves and dig into the details that you personally would be presenting. Or, if we’ve done a Profile Review for you before, you can try the Late Season Targets Review and we’ll give you some ideas on how things might go — understanding that we’re also working with imperfect information in a fast-changing landscape.
The tl;dr is, if you’re feeling inspired to try right now, then go for it! Everything is incredibly fluid, and who knows, it just might work out! Which is never what we get to say during Round 3. But this year is, uh, you might say a little bit different.
Stay safe, BSers!
Coronavirus and the MBA
- Coronavirus and Round 2 decisions
- Coronavirus and scholarship opportunities
- When will business schools reopen for on-campus instruction?
- Coronavirus and You: What if you’re graduating this Spring 2020?