As MBA admissions consultants, a question we often receive is which top MBA programs offer GMAT waivers (or GRE waivers) and whether taking one of these tests is really necessary to gain admission. We get it! Taking the time to prepare for and take the GMAT or GRE (often multiple times) is a lot of work. It would be great if you could prove your academic prowess another way. So, can you?
Yes, there are MBA programs that grant GMAT waivers, and the policy is more common amongst programs outside of (what are generally considered to be) the top 10 business schools. For top MBA programs, those that offer GMAT waivers generally have specific criteria you must meet and require you to formally request an exception.
Top MBA Programs That Offer GMAT Waivers (or GRE Waivers)
A small number of top full-time MBA programs allow applicants to request GMAT waivers. They are listed below but be sure to check with each school for their latest requirements.
- MIT Sloan says that ‘If your current situation prevents you from being able to submit a test score, you may request a test waiver explaining the situation; the Admissions Committee will take your request under advisement and let you know if the waiver has been approved. If the waiver is approved, and you are admitted, the Admissions Committee reserves the right to offer conditional admission such as, but not limited to, receiving a certain score on the GMAT or GRE or taking a supplemental class.’
- UVA Darden says that ‘waiver applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and our Admissions Committee will consider a number of factors when evaluating these applications. Particular regard will be given for indicators of academic and professional accomplishment.’
- Michigan Ross says that ‘Some candidates may be able to adequately demonstrate their readiness for the rigor of the program without the need to submit a test score. This may include candidates whose ability to demonstrate their readiness via a test continues to be impacted by the pandemic or other circumstance. These candidates may submit a complete application without a test score. Instead, you must submit an essay that supports your case and alternative evidence of your readiness. We will look closely at your academic and professional accomplishments, including but not limited to:
- Master’s degree in an analytical or quantitative discipline
- CPA, CFA, or international equivalent
- Undergraduate or graduate record, especially in analytical or quantitative courses
- Post-undergraduate, full-time work experience in an analytical or quantitative function
- Performance on an expired GMAT or GRE
- Performance on the Executive Assessment’
- NYU Stern says that ‘For most applicants, the standardized test is an essential way to establish academic readiness. If you feel that you are not able to prepare for or take a standardized test and are able to demonstrate academic readiness without a standardized test score, you may request a standardized test waiver for the Full-Time and Fashion & Luxury MBA programs. Those who provide strong examples of academic readiness (eg: strong analytical or quantitative undergraduate or graduate majors, professional work experience, certifications, etc.) may be more likely to receive a standardized test waiver.’
Even If GMAT Waivers Are an Option, Is It Smart to Request One?
Ok, so say you are applying to one or more of the top MBA programs that allow for GMAT waivers. Does it make strategic sense to request one? To be blunt, in the vast majority of cases, we advise against it.
In all honesty, these top MBA programs are only apt to seriously consider your request if your other credentials (GPA, early career, etc.) massively impress them. If you are that competitive an applicant, why limit yourself to the small number of programs that allow for a waiver? You might end up with more or better options (even scholarship dollars) if you cast a wider net by applying to a greater number of schools with a test score.
On the flip side, there is real risk that you appear uncompetitive (even if you aren’t!) by requesting a GMAT waiver. The admissions committee is apt to think (even if unfairly) that you were either uncommitted to the MBA process or unable to score well, both of which don’t look good, right?
What If I Can’t Score Well on the GMAT or GRE?
That said, there are some incredibly intelligent, accomplished candidates who are simply poor test takers and worry that submitting their scores will make them uncompetitive. That’s a fair concern and we sympathize with the frustration.
However, we would still argue that putting in a few solid attempts and submitting those scores is better positioning. You can use the optional essay to share that, while your scores may be below average, you have a multitude of other data points (list them) to prove that you can succeed in a rigorous MBA environment. Yes, you’ve validated their concern that you can’t score well (they would have assumed this anyway!) but you’ve assuaged the concern that you aren’t committed to the MBA process. See the logic?
If you’d like help crafting a compelling MBA application, with or without a test score, reach out to request an initial consultation.
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