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5 Reasons MBA Applicants Should Want to Take the GMAT (Even When It Isn't Required)

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America’s first Master of Business Administration (MBA) program commenced in 1908 and, for the next 45 years, graduate business programs assessed potential MBA students without the aid of standardized test results. However, as the MBA grew more popular, schools sought a uniform measure by which to compare the growing number of applicants. In the early 1950s, a group of business schools met to discuss the need for a uniform measure of prospective MBAs. The resulting exam, the Admissions Test for Graduate Business Study (ATGBS), eventually became the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test).

Standardized testing represented the cutting edge of education science in the early 1950s, an elegant solution to the problem of having to compare MBA applicants with similar undergraduate GPAs from dissimilar universities. Today, we’re not quite as Pollyannaish about their usefulness. Numerous studies have uncovered myriad shortcomings in standardized tests and their results, most distressingly with regard to cultural bias in their construction and administration. That’s why many people bristle at the barriers standardized tests create for some candidates, and also why some business graduate degree programs have pivoted to test-optional policies or even discarded standardized test results entirely and adopted ‘no GMAT’ policies.

Still, many business graduate schools continue to require either the GMAT or GRE for admissions, and not entirely without cause. Some studies have demonstrated the predictive value of standardized test with regard to GPA and program completion: MBA students who score higher on the GMAT are, according to these studies, more likely to earn better grades and finish an MBA program. Larger programs still need to process hundreds, even thousands, of applications. Standardized test scores help them triage these daunting piles of transcripts, resumes, recommendation letters, and essays.

The GMAT is graded on a single 200 to 800 scale, with individual percentile grades awarded for verbal skills, quantitative skills, integrated reasoning (i.e., your ability to deduce answers from multiple data sources), and analytical writing (i.e., an essay question). Schools typically give the greatest weight to the overall score. Some also look closely at the quantitative percentile because many MBA programs demand a minimum level of quantitative proficiency. In recent years, more schools have begun accepting GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores.

What are the GMAT requirements at Howard University School of Business?

Howard School of Business includes GMAT scores among the admissions requirements for its Online MBA. The Online Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) offers applicants a GMAT waiver, although the school “highly recommends” GMAT scores for prospective students with lower undergraduate GPAs.

Many competing schools follow similar policies. Executive MBA programs typically require at least seven years of professional experience, making it easier for admissions offices to appraise candidates based on their resumes and recommendations (thus reducing the need for standardized test scores). Applicants to MBA degree programs may only have a few years of work experience in sub-managerial roles; GMAT scores provide another useful data point in assessing these candidates.

Why should MBA applicants take the GMAT, even if they’re applying to no-GMAT MBA programs?

Many MBA applicants have at least one rock-solid reason to take the GMAT: the programs to which they’re applying require them. Even when it isn’t required, there are some compelling reasons to take the GMAT test. We’ve listed the top 5 below.

Reason 1: Self-assessment

Admissions offices like standardized test scores because they make it easy to compare candidates who otherwise might not be so easy to compare. The GMAT can serve the same purpose for you: taking the exam will let you know how you stack up in relation to your peers. That’s information that can help you narrow your search for the right MBA program.

A good GMAT score should encourage you to apply to a more competitive MBA program, like the online MBA at Howard University (ranked third for most competitive students by The Princeton Review). A lower score might indicate that you need to reevaluate your list of target schools, or perhaps that you need to retake the exam before applying to the best online MBA programs. Pay particular attention to your quantitative percentile rank. A low quantitative GMAT score suggests that you may need to strengthen your math skills before beginning an MBA program.

Remember that you’ll receive your GMAT scores immediately upon completing the exam, and that you can cancel them on the day of the test. You then have up to 30 days to reinstate your GMAT score if you change your mind. You may take the exam up to eight times in a twelve-month period.

Reason 2: Maximizing your MBA options

It’s true that an increasing number of MBA programs accept the GRE. There are even some compelling reasons to choose the GRE over the GMAT. Still, every graduate school of business that accepts the GRE also accepts the GMAT, and some accept only the GMAT. And since you’re not required to report your GMAT scores to schools that don’t request them, you’ll never be penalized for having taken the GMAT. In short, taking the GMAT maximizes the number of MBA programs to which you can apply without any offsetting downside. There’s also the chance to maximize your options for financial aid, as there are numerous merit-based scholarships for MBA students with high GMAT scores.

Reason 3: Signaling commitment to prospective schools

You want your application to send a message to the MBA admissions office. That message is: I am wholly committed to pursuing an MBA at your school. That’s because admissions officers look more favorably on applicants who are most likely to attend their programs and less favorably on those who communicate ambivalence.

You can signal your commitment to a program in several ways. Your essays represent an excellent opportunity to argue that you and the program are a perfect match. Taking the GMAT is another way to indicate your commitment. Submitting GRE exam scores suggests you may be considering other options: a Master of Finance, a Master of Accountancy, even a Master of Fine Arts. Many, many different master’s degree graduate programs accept the GRE. MBA programs are the only ones that accept the GMAT. When you take the GMAT, you send a clear message that you are interested in an MBA and only an MBA.

Reason 4: Customized recommendations

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which manages the GMAT, offers GMAT test-takers “a list of personalized business program recommendations” based on their results, interests, and preferences. The service is provided at no additional cost. It may alert you to a “perfect match” program of which you were previously unaware.

Reason 5: Career advancement

Some employers—notably, some prominent management consulting firms—require applicants to provide GMAT scores (although, thankfully, some firms are abandoning this practice). If you’re considering a future in consulting, you might as well take the GMAT now. You will likely have to take it eventually, so why not get it out of the way? It will be easier to prepare for it now than it will be as you approach the end of your MBA program and start your job search.

What are the benefits of enrolling in Howard’s online MBA program?

The Online Master of Business Administration at Howard University features a curriculum designed and delivered by the School of Business’ award-winning faculty. Students in the program learn to integrate and synthesize information from across the business spectrum to develop cross-cultural global business strategies. Coursework focuses on decision-making, problem-solving, ethical management, and the value of diversity, all leading to a highly developed quantitative, leadership, management, and networking skill set.

With 100 percent online delivery, the part-time MBA program accommodates the needs of busy full-time working professionals without sacrificing the excellent academic experience for which Howard is renowned. The online platform integrates hands-on real-world learning experiences that include group projects and virtual office hours, enabling students to develop lifelong connections with faculty and fellow students. Live online classes promote engaging classroom discussions to build business, finance, and management mastery. A world-class alumni network—spanning the world from Washington, D.C. to New York, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco to international shores—provides lifelong career-promoting opportunities.

Howard’s faculty and teaching staff boast broad experience in various business fields. Their experience, coupled with Howard’s singularly diverse student body, results in substantial, wide-ranging class discussions that engage students and encourage critical thinking. Howard instructors actively work to create inclusive learning environments for all students, echoing Howard’s overarching commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The nation’s preeminent historically black college and university (HBCU), Howard understands the unique circumstances faced by minority students in the classroom and workplace and prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion. In 2019, The Princeton Review ranked Howard number one for Greatest Resources for Minority Students for the 16th year in a row.

The Online MBA at Howard University School of Business is open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and at least two years of professional work experience. Why not begin the application process today by speaking with an enrollment advisor or starting your online application today?


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