You probably already know this but it’s worth spelling out explicitly — because with all the changes happening in MBA admissions this season, it’s easy to get confused! This is in the category of what type — if any — of standardized test is required to apply to a top MBA program this year.
Some schools have introduced significant flexibility into their policies around standardized tests — even going so far, as MIT has done, as to allow candidates to apply with no GMAT or GRE at all. EssaySnark is using the term “test-optional”
Other schools like Harvard are allowing candidates to submit an application without including a test, and then later on, send in the test after it’s been completed. EssaySnark has informally dubbed this a “test-extensions policy” and we issued cautions to you BSers about it here.
Still others including Duke and probably the majority of them want an unofficial test score typed into the application or the unofficial score report uploaded. Then, if they admit you, you’d need to have official scores sent in by the GMAC or ETS service before you can formally matriculate. This latter policy is how it’s worked for the last year or two and is essentially the baseline or standard practice that almost every school had in place as of 2019 — before the world got upended and everything had to change in order for the realities of test center access and pandemic restrictions had to be accommodated.
These myriad policies can make for confusing times when you’re trying to figure out a) which schools to apply to, and b) what their requirements actually are and when you would need to do what.
For a school like MIT that is inviting applicants to provide practically ANYTHING to help with the adcom’s evaluation, and for a school like Duke that will allow for an unofficial test score to be submitted, you may be thinking, “Well heck, I took a practice test, I guess I can submit that!”
And actually, the answer to that idea is “No.”
A score from a practice GMAT or GRE exam, even a practice exam that you do through ETS or GMAC at mba.com (rather than by a commercial test prep provider) is not going to be useful for the admissions committee. When a school says you can submit an “unofficial score” and they’ll consider your application with that, they do not mean a score from a practice exam or any type of simulation. They mean the score that the computer spits out at you at the end of your actual (non-practice, OMG this is the real thing and I’m stressed legit) exam. The unofficial score is the non-canceled score that you received when you made it through to the end of that beast and sat there exhausted and nervous and grateful it’s done but so scared that you bombed it. The unofficial score simply means the score report that you got after taking the actual test but before it went through its internal review and validation process, which lets the testing agency rubber-stamp it and create a version with the words “official” on it. Traditionally, unofficial score reports did not include a score for the AWA, which came later. In very rare instances (so rare that we don’t actually know of anyone it’s happened to) the unofficial score has been revised in some way when it’s deemed to be “official” — again, not aware of this happening to any BSer we’ve ever worked with before, but it’s an allowance that the test companies have built in with their review policies.
For MIT Sloan, we offered some advice to candidates in light of the test-optional policy in our SnarkStrategies Guide to the 2020 MIT Sloan MBA Application Guide — in case you’re still in the throes of the cover letter and org chart and overall app construction process for Thursday.
You probably already groked that the “unofficial score” for those other schools meant only the score that hadn’t been rubber-stamped as fully legit, and that it didn’t mean “practice test” — but this is the kind of thing that can be non-obvious if you’re not aware of the terminology that the admissions people take for granted, so we figured it was worth mentioning outright.
For all of you in your final week of essay-writing and Round 1 deadlines: You have done amazing work over the past six weeks especially!! You should be proud.
It won’t be long before schools start releasing those interview invites, and then a whole other level of stress and excitement and worry will begin. We’ll be here alongside you for that rollercoaster too! Wishing great good luck for all of your efforts to be successful with these programs this season.