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GMAT/GRE Waivers for B-schools

2020 really has been a strange year. It’s hard to imagine any part of our lives which hasn’t been changed or affected in some way or the other. The same has also been true for business schools around the world, who have been facing unprecedented situations in managing their current cohorts, and planning admissions for future ones.

The changes have been widespread; a switch to a hybrid model with online classes, a dramatic rise in the number of applications for some schools, remote interviews being conducted from across the globe, these are just some of the changes that we’ve already seen this year. But one of the biggest ones is the decision by many business schools (including some of the top ones) to offer a waiver for the GMAT/GRE score, which has always been a critical part of every application.

So how does this work, and is this the best news you could hope for as a candidate? Does it improve your chances or make them worse? We look into these questions in this article.

Who is offering the waiver?

Schools accepting MBA applications without a GMAT/GRE score isn’t a totally new concept, however most schools who did this in the past were not considered to be among the ideal study destinations for prospective candidates. The pandemic has forced many top reputed programs to also offer this option, which is why there is such an increase in the interest for the same.

Most of the schools currently offering this option are based out of the US. As of the time of writing this article, some of the biggest names who are offering waivers for standardized tests include MIT Sloan, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Darden School of Business, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Can anyone receive the waiver?

Unfortunately getting a standardized test waiver isn’t always as simple as clicking on a button. Different schools have put forward a variety of criteria on the basis of which they may or may not grant applicants a waiver. Due to this it is very important that students who are hoping to get a waiver, check the criteria for their specific school and apply well in advance so that they hear back in time.

So, what are these criteria the schools are using? Here are a few examples to give you some perspective,

  • MIT Sloan: Applications can be submitted without the test and submitted material will be reviewed as is and without negative inferences.

  • Darden: Will consider past academic records, CPA/CFA qualification, advanced degree in analytical field, seven or more years of progressive, professional work experience in an analytical field.

  • Kelley: Requires a brief statement under 500 words summarizing why you believe you qualify for a waiver.

  • Carlson: Requires undergrad GPA of 3.2+ & 5+ years of work experience, a CFA or CPA, or graduate degree.

As you can see, while the exact requirements for the waivers vary, the underlying theme is that they all seek alternative proof for a candidate’s academic and analytical ability, which is normally tested on the GRE or GMAT.

Finally, should you opt for the waiver?

With the many, many complex elements of MBA applications, often balanced with the demands of a job, it can be very tempting to grab at the opportunity of a standardized test waiver whenever you can. However, this is not an approach we recommend, as standardized tests have always been a great way to showcase your academic rigor, and not having these scores could negatively impact your chances. A few cases where it may be acceptable to opt for the waiver are,

  • If you have outstanding undergraduate academic performances and come from a top college.

  • If you are an advanced professional degree holder such as a CPA/CFA etc.

  • If you are a very experienced candidate with a professional background in an analytical role which can be demonstrated.

With the introduction of the Online GMAT option, students now have the choice of giving the exam in center or from their homes, and this is certainly an option they should consider if they can. Remember, while it is impossible to change your undergraduate records and years of work experience for your applications, the GMAT is the one element which can add a whole new perspective to your application with just a few months of effort!



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