Skipping the GMAT

Does standardized test anxiety debilitate you?  Are you worried about your GMAT score?  Do you simply have no time to prepare?  Why not just skip the test altogether?

MBA applicants spend lots of time worrying about the vexing nature of admissions tests, and for good reason.  The GMAT is a bear of a test, one which takes an annoying amount of time to prepare for if you want to do well.  For those who have this time, the benefits are great, since a 700+ GMAT score will garner at least some attention from even the most competitive schools in the world.  But if you fall in the camp of average to below average GMAT performers, you not only get zero attention from the top schools, you may also risk gaining admission to any MBA program at all.  These applicants probably spend nearly as much time trying to figure a way around the GMAT as they do trying to master it. 

In recent years, the GRE has been an alternate option, since for some, the GRE seems more manageable, and schools are not required to include GRE scores when they advertise their average admissions test scores (only GMAT scores are required for that).  When a school doesn’t have to worry about averaging your test score into the mix, they can be more lenient on how well you do.  Still, there are applicants who bomb both tests. 

Coming up short on standardized tests and being denied access to top schools seems a bit unfair. 

GMAC likes to report the correlation between GMAT score and academic performance, but grades in b-school are not all that important, and many schools have even abandoned traditional grades altogether, because grades can create a hyper-competitive environment which works against the collaborative nature of teamwork and group participation common to MBA programs around the world. So what’s all the fuss over a one-time, three-hour brain damage exam like the GMAT? After all, there are plenty of sub-average GMAT scorers out there who have a helluva work ethic and would be solid contributors in any MBA program if given the chance.

 Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just opt-out of the test altogether? 

Believe it or not, this is not as far-fetched as it may sound.  In fact, every b-school out there admits a very small number of students each year who submitted no GMAT or GRE score of any kind.  That’s right—roughly one percent of all MBA students are granted a complete standardized test waiver and are evaluated on their work experience, undergrad performance, and recommendations alone.  How is this possible?  They asked for it. 

Getting out of submitting a GMAT score is tricky, but possible.

There are myriad factors which could potentially come into play.  For example, if you have some kind of unique, personal situation in your life which prohibits you from sitting for the test, it might be a good enough reason to get a school to give you a pass.  Some reasons for this might include a health condition or injury (think traumatic, like a debilitating car accident or cancer) which may prohibit yourself from reasonably taking the exam.  Some have tried to leverage family trauma for test waivers, but if it’s only mental or psychological hurdles, a waiver is not common.  I have heard of military deployments serving as GMAT waivers or some other service-oriented obligation which makes it impossible to take the test. 

Beyond simply not being able to take the test, the best way to position yourself for a GMAT waiver is you. 

That’s right!  If you have an incredibly compelling profile, whether it be through extraordinary career achievements or personal accomplishments, you might be able to argue that the GMAT would only hold you back from an otherwise incredible application.  Generally speaking, the odds are far better if applying to a part-time or evening MBA program, as waivers for full time program participants is rare. A hyperbolic example of this would be if, say, Mark Zuckerberg wanted to get his Stanford MBA, they might consider a GMAT waiver (although now that I think about it, Mark never finished college either, but you get my drift).  The point is, if you are a poor test taker but have a super-naturally impressive story otherwise, it won’t hurt to ask.  In the end, it’s entirely up to the school, since the rankngs boards turn a blind eye to a “reasonable” number of waived GMAT candidates in an MBA program.  Will you be one of the few who doesn’t have to submit a score?

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