Online MBA: Do you really need to take the GMAT to get accepted?

SOURCE: Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women/AFP
Educators are required to build new skills as they use digital platforms to teach students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By U2B Staff 

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The current COVID-19 pandemic has left many wondering if they should be upskilling or advancing their education to prepare themselves for economic crises in the near future.

Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, recently wrote, “Many people assume that student numbers will fall in response to the current problems, but recessions tend to mean that people want more education because the alternatives – underemployment or unemployment – are worse, and having more skills can protect you against the economic chill winds.”

The MBA remains one of the most popular Master’s degree choices for people looking to get climb up corporate ladders or start new ventures. It will also equip graduates with the skills needed to navigate a difficult economic landscape – whether for their own businesses or for the organisations they work for.

Given travel restrictions, lockdown measures, and threats of more waves of the virus to come before a vaccine can be found, online education is currently in the spotlight. 

The GMAT is often the first step needed towards applying for the MBA, particular for programmes based in the US. However, times are changing and many programmes are now doing away with mandatory GMAT scores for applying to business schools – especially online ones. 


Online programmes particularly are less stringent when it comes to GMAT requirements. More and more business schools are offering waivers for either the GMAT or GRE, and some online programmes are not requiring them at all –  but there’s a catch.

Online MBA programmes that don’t require the GMAT will require applications to have the right amount of experience prior to applying.

For example, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, does not require the GMAT for its iMBA programme because the majority of applications are in their mid to late 30s with experience of 12 years or more – rendering the need to prove their aptitude through a written exam rather pointless.

Illinois Gies Dean Jeffrey Brown said, “If you’re on the young side of our application pool, and you don’t have as much work experience as our typical student who has lots of years of experience, taking the GMAT does provide us some information.

“But if you’ve been out for 10 years and you’re a successful mid-level or senior-level executive at a Fortune 500 company, or you’ve been a successful entrepreneur, or you have a law degree in a successful law practice, we’re really not going to learn anything from a GMAT test other than the fact that you took the GMAT.”

Another highly-ranked online MBA programme – the Executive MBA programme at Howard University  – states on their admission requirements page that the GMAT is “recommended, but not required”. 

So if you’re looking to apply for an online MBA but you don’t have much working experience, the GMAT can help you boost your chances. If you’ve got some time on your hands now due to social distancing, there’s no time like the present to start studying and planning for the test. 

Even if a programme doesn’t require you to submit the score, they will still accept it as part of your application and it may help you stand out among the competition. 

However, if you’re a working professional with several years of working experience under your belt and interested in pursuing an online MBA – look around for programmes that will not require you to take the exam so you can get started on advancing your career.