The GMAC Researchers people recently published results of some questions that they had included in their surveys of test-takers (which is preserved on the snarky server here in case that link ever goes dead), and not surprisingly, they were selective in what they chose to emphasize. While it’s true that “the majority of test takers agree” on the dimensions that they were asking about, the way they presented the results, and the questions themselves, deserve further scrutiny.
Let’s start with the easy one.
They state that “International candidates are more favorable to admission exams.”
Here’s the charts that they posted (credit to the GMAC Researchers)
A huge number of test-takers from outside the U.S. are coming from countries where test-taking is built into the system of advancement. In places like China and India especially, which both constitute very large percentages of all GMAT test takers, kids have to take really important exams in order to get into university. Admission is based on performance on those tests. This is how things work there, even more so than it is in the U.S. with the SAT and ACT exams. It would be predictable for citizens of those countries to be pre-disposed to testing as part of a process for getting into a graduate program, because that’s how things worked for them in achieving their previous academic success. To put it another way: Someone from India who is taking the GMAT has already gone through similar hurdles in their life in order to get into college, and they probably EXPECT there to be a standardized test as part of the process. It may even seem odd to them if there were an application that did not require it; it would be so part of their normalized experience that a no-test-required policy might seem suspicious.
That’s just one possible flaw in the survey that immediately comes to mind. Remember, this is not a formal controlled research study; this is a company putting out their own interpretation of like a SurveyMonkey-type thing. We’re not talking about peer-reviewed published data here. The conclusions that the company is offering are theirs alone. Critical thinking is required.
What about this idea? What about surveying people who are interested in the MBA and are not in a position to take a standardized test in order to try and get in, for whatever personal reasons that may be stopping them? Those people are not included in the survey population. Their opinions are not accounted for in any way whatsoever. Of COURSE you’re going to get a chunk of people who are ALREADY taking the test to say that they think the test is fair. Those people have probably been studying for the test! They may not feel totally confident that they are going to do well on it, but they have accepted that the test is a hurdle they have to jump over. They are already indoctrinated into the idea of testing.
We also have no baseline. These are new questions that the GMAC researchers have introduced. They never asked these questions before — like, pre-pandemic, or pre-George Floyd’s murder. What if these opinions have shifted significantly just in the past year alone? We’ll never know how the culture has moved or the mindset of test-takers may be different today compared to what it was before more awareness was brought to issues of social equity.
Now let’s look at this sentence, the opening line on that page : “A new GMAC survey snapshot of nearly 1,800 respondents shows that more than half of prospective students believe that admissions exams improve reliability, fairness, and transparency in evaluating graduate business school candidates.” (emphasis added)
EssaySnark sez WHAT??
How on earth are you asking the test takers to evaluate whether the test makes the process more fair?!
IT MAKES IT MORE FAIR BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING THE TEST, AND YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE TEST, AND YOU HAVE NO CHOICE ABOUT TAKING THE TEST, BUT HEY, EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO TAKE THE TEST TOO, SO I GUESS THAT MEANS THE REQUIREMENT OF THE TEST IS FAIR.
One of the most common complaints we have ever heard from anyone applying to business school, going back for well over 20 years now and certainly existing even before then, is that THE APPLICANTS HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENS IN THE SECRECY OF THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE OR HOW DECISIONS ARE ACTUALLY MADE.
So you get this arbitrary exam which spits out a number, and then after the fact, the schools (some of them) publish data (some of it) on what test scores were accepted, so now there is an inkling of this so-called “transparency” — only because before that, there was literally none! Or at least, only a bare-minimum metric of the GPA as reported on the 4.0 scale which basically excludes almost all international applicants completely.
The applicants know next to nothing about what it takes to actually get accepted.
So they’ve got this test score that they hang onto, given them some semblance of insight or false sense of control over their destiny, because if only I can get a score of X then it means maybe I’m good enough…
The whole bloody system is fundamentally flawed. All of you applicants are in jail, and there’s this arbitrary process where here and there, a few of you get released from jail, and nobody really knows how those decisions are made, so the jailer introduces this thing where if you’re a certain height and weight, your chances of getting out might improve. So everyone walks on tip-toes, stretching their necks so they can seem taller, and they become obsessed with losing five pounds, because that would put them in that range that was published for the people who get released.
And then the jailer does a survey, and the prisoners say yes, there’s more transparency, because now I know that if I am a certain height and weight, I have more chance of getting out.
But how much is “height” and “weight” REALLY under our individual control???????
Height certainly not at all, right? And weight, for most of us, a very real struggle! Whether you’re someone who has trouble putting the weight on, or taking it off, either way, it’s tough. Yes there are some who are naturally going to fall within that prescribed range that the jailer says is the ideal. But for the VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE, it is really hard — and it’s especially hard for a huge number of people who grew up without the privilege and advantages that the culture gives to those in the dominant group, of resources that can be applied to actually affecting the outcomes.
Here’s the charts on these factors of “transparency” and all that other nonsense (again, credit to the GMAC Researchers people for all these data and outputs):
And then the final issue:
Yes, the numbers show that “the majority” agree that X and Y, as they are reporting — but hey, what about the very large numbers of respondent who strongly DISAGREE????
That 18% is a non-trivial number, and the 28% who don’t know…. That adds up to 46% who specifically DO NOT agree!! That’s a lot of people!
And what about the phenomenon that people are answering these questions for the jailer — they know that it’s the GMAT people who have asked the question! In the back of your mind, you know that the GMAT people are going to send your score to the schools, and the schools make the decision that determines your fate, basically for the rest of your life. (This may not be top of mind when you’re answering such questions, but it’s in there, swirling around in the depths of everything you are.)
Even though the survey claims to be anonymous, do we really trust any company these days? Do we really trust data that we share on the internet? NO.
So you’re asking people to say “Do you like this test? Because we’re going to use this test to decide whether or not you’re going to get admitted to business school.”
And of course a certain percetnage of people are going to say “YES! I love this torture you’re putting me through! I am willingn to be tortured in any way at all that you care to torture me! Just please please please accept me to a good MBA program. I’ll do whatever it takes!”
Do you really think that everyone is answering this in a way that they really feel deep in their soul?
All of us are operating in the meritocracy. We have been trained since birth — in some countries, this is more pronounced than others — that we need to do better than everyone else in order to get ahead, to succeed, to get that gold star and have security and comfort. To have approval.
OF COURSE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SAY THAT TESTING IS A GOOD IDEA.
Because the SYSTEM is set up to require you to be tested, in order to go where you want to go. Because people don’t know any other way to get ahead.
So many problems.
This article from the GMAT people is pure propaganda. They have the strategically placed term “non profit mission” — like they’re saying, “Oh look, we’re doing this for the benefit of all, look how altruistic we are in producing this standardized test for you to suffer through, it’s best for the system and we’re only interested in fairness.” Crap. That’s crap. All of that is crap.
The GMAT test is biased. All standardized tests are. They are biased against people who do not come from the dominant culture — which basically means, men do better as a group on the GMAT; in the U.S., whites do better on the GMAT than non-dominant groups do. This aspect is a whole separate rant, but it’s in the data. The GMAT people really love to try and spin things and justify and make excuses, but this is a systemic issue that is representative of the real racism that exists in how our society works.
And now they’re trying to bring in the victims of the test taking culture to support their twisted claims for propping up their business model and the system of meritocracy as a whole.
Rant continued again here…