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Should you take GMAT / GRE Test Waivers?

Updated: Mar 13

The Coronavirus Pandemic has changed a lot for everyone. It’s hard to imagine any part of our lives which hasn’t been 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.

two people writing test

Who is offering GMAT waiver?

Most of the schools currently offering the waiver option are based out of the US. At the time of writing this article, some of the biggest names who are offering waivers for standardized tests include 4 schools among the Top 25 US B-Schools, namely, NYU Stern, Indiana University Kelley School of Business, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and the University of Michigan 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 different criteria on the basis of which they may or may not grant 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 some of these criteria the schools are using?

  • Prior Academic Performance (Undergraduate and Graduate, if applicable)

  • Any Professional Certifications (e.g., CFA, CPA, etc.)

  • Brief explanation and statement for standardized test waiver request

While the exact requirements for the waivers vary from school to school, the underlying theme is that they all seek alternative proof for a candidate’s academic and analytical ability, which is easily tested and standardised through the GRE or GMAT.

The Importance of GMAT / GRE

The standardized tests are a required part of most Full-Time MBA programs and are used as a tool, albeit an important one, to evaluate candidate's academic profile. For most candidates, the GMAT or GRE help them showcase their readiness for the MBA program.

Taking the liberty to generalize how top business schools assess academic profiles, it's safe to say that there are three major areas which business schools commonly look at to assess the Quantitative ability of prospective candidates:

  • Bachelor's School - Brand Value

  • Bachelor's School - Academic Performance

  • Standardised Test Scores such as GMAT / GRE

When someone chooses to waive off their GMAT / GRE score, there is an incredible amount of pressure added on to their academic history, in particular, their grades in college.

Candidates with great academic backgrounds, graduating with high marks from top colleges, or with quantitative professional certifications such as the CFA, CPA, are therefore easily able to handle the extra pressure on their academic history.

However, for candidates with unimpressive academics, the GMAT or GRE become extremely important additional data points to highlight that they will be able to navigate the rigor of MBA programs. We also explored how candidates can overcome their low grades, should you be interested in reading more.

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 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 significantly 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.

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!


Piyush Ranjan is the founder and chief consultant at Management Masters. Over the years he has helped candidates get into top international business schools such as Wharton, Kellogg, London Business School, HEC Paris, Cambridge, ISB and others.

If you would like to get a detailed personalized profile evaluation with him, reach out to us at


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