Interested in a public health degree?
If you want to go to Oregon State, you don’t even need a GRE score to apply for admission:
Granted, Oregon State is not the most competitive school to get into, nor is a degree in public health the most coveted type of master’s to pursue. (Though probably this year, it’s seen more demand than ever before!!)
Still, there is a trend occurring in higher ed across America, where these major institutions are re-examining the role of testing in their admissions processes. So what about business schools? Should MBA admissions teams ditch the GMAT and GRE entirely?
You likely heard all about MIT Sloan’s move to waive the requirement for standardized tests in their application this year, and you also probably read about how they put out all sorts of disclaimers and did a lot of back-pedaling, to make it clear that that policy is intended as a one-off, for this year only, made as an accommodation due to the realities of limited test access with coronavirus.
Michigan Ross has also done a mid-cycle switcheroo, when they just recently announced that test scores are not mandatory in their applications . They even went so far as to say that Round 1 applicants will only be accepted or waitlisted; nobody is going to be rejected in Round 1, due to this policy change in the middle of the process. Wowzer! Talk about disruptive! Maybe not in the best way, either. 🙁 That’s an odd decision to make when things are so far along already.
Obviously, at some point, there will be many Round 1 applicants who are rejected. It’s simply delaying that eventual outcome, in what probably seemed like the most just way to do it: If you had applied in Round 1 with a shaky test score, the Ross adcom is letting you essentially petition your waitlist for reconsideration next year, after Round 2 is here. This is a slippery policy indeed. We don’t actually see there being that much that a waitlisted applicant would be able to offer after the fact, in order to switch that into an admit. Wouldn’t the adcom already have most of the information that they would need, in order to decide? It’s kinda squirrely. They’re really just saying, “We would actually be rejecting a lot of you but we’re going to do a delayed rejection oh and also we’re thinking maybe there are Round 2 applicants who we like better so we’ll let you hang out for awhile in limbo while we mull over our options and then cut you loose.”
Both MIT and Ross, in announcing these decisions, went to great lengths to communicate that it’s a temporary accommodation only, and hey you applicant people, don’t get too cozy on this idea of applying to bschool without a GMAT or GRE because we think standardized tests are the cat’s pajamas!
(For any of you non-English-speakers, “the cat’s pajamas” is an admittedly odd idiom that means that they’re the bomb. And if you don’t know that idiom, it means they’re awesome. Which is not what EssaySnark thinks about standardized tests; we’re impersonating the adcom here in paraphrasing the essentials of how they announced their 2020 no-test-needed policy.)
“Test-optional” is the term that higher-ed watchers use for colleges that do not require an SAT or ACT for kids to apply from high school. It remains to be seen if MIT’s policy this year will stick beyond the coronavirus era. Removing obstacles for high school kids to access a college education is a different situation than removing them for (mostly) white-collar professionals who are already making decent money and want to go get an MBA to make even more (we’re unfairly generalizing on the entire pool of candidates for whom the MBA is of interest with that statement, but from a broad-strokes perspective it’s kinda sorta true).
These questions of equity are big ones, and smart people can have very different opinions on them. EssaySnark’s position is that standardized testing reinforces a stratified class-based society that perpetuates inequality. The MBA can be an incredible opportunity for someone coming from a less-advantaged background, but you have to have a certain amount of wealth and success to even be in a position to be considering going to business school.
Does it really matter in this marketplace of potential MBA candidates if another hurdle is part of the process or not?
There are many, many obstacles to getting any education at all — just getting through college requires tremendous resources. Being in a spot where someone can actually consider the MBA means that they’re in a fairly good position in society already. Does adding the GMAT or GRE as a requirement matter that much?
Well yeah. We say it does.
Because the only way we’re going to start changing the world is if we support change in how the world works. Questioning the status quo is a popular slogan but what schools are actually leaning into that? Which ones embrace change?
The statistics for GMAT test-takers prove that women do not score as high as men.
Does that mean men are smart?
NO. It means there’s a built-in bias in the test, and/or that the test embodies all the privilege that is granted to men in society. The same is true for BIPOC test-takers, and Latinx citizens of the U.S. as well: On a population basis, they do not perform as highly on these tests. That means there is something wrong with the tests — not that there is something wrong with the test-takers.
Changes like this generally take a long time to happen, until they happen, and then they happen fast.
MIT was the first one out of the gate to not require a TOEFL, many years ago — and now Columbia, Yale, and Duke also do not have the TOEFL as part of the standard admissions process.
Maybe schools like MIT and Ross have floated a trial balloon, of making tests not standard this cycle, as brave Darden did at the tail end of the coronavirus rounds in the spring.
Who knows where things will go from here, as the MBA ecosystem tends to be an island unto itself (to oddly mix some metaphors there).
We’ll certainly be watching though. Because these are levers within which equality, or its opposite, is literally affected in the society as a whole.
Access to higher ed matters.
It’s not a meritocracy.