Top business schools in the US are going test-optional in 2021

SOURCE: Tasos Katopodis/AFP
Kellogg School of Management is among the business schools going test-optional next year.

By U2B Staff 

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Many business schools have gone test-optional in response to the pandemic, waiving GMAT and GRE requirements for students applying this year. The trend looks like it’s set to continue next year, with several top business schools in the US announcing that they are going test-optional for 2021.

Among the business schools that have made announcements include MIT Sloan School of Management, which said, “Standardised tests, such as GMAT, GRE, EA, TOEFL, IELTS, are a component of the application process and play an important role in our holistic evaluation process. 


“However, in view of challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, we will allow candidates for the 2020-21 admission cycle to submit their application without the test and review their submitted material as is and without negative inferences. If admitted, candidates will not be required to take a test.”

Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business is also allowing MBA candidates to apply without a standardised test score during the 2020 to 2021 admissions cycle.

The University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business said they are allowing “conditional” GMAT/GRE waivers for the full-time and part-time MBA fall 2021 cohort. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management notes that “Most applicants do not need to submit GMAT scores.” 

Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management is offering GMAT/GRE/EA test waivers to qualified candidates for the 2020-21 MBA application cycle. “Waiver requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” they said.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) previously announced that appointments for the GMAT Online exam are available through February 2021. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, said its GRE General Test at home is “here to stay”.

Welcome news for students eyeing top business schools in the US?

Top business schools going test-optional could pave the way for schools to reassess how they admit students, and potentially bolster efforts for a more diverse MBA cohort.

Katie Lloyd, Associate Dean of the Full-time and Evening MBA programmes at Schellar said, “We can predict a candidate’s potential for success in and beyond the MBA programme without reliance on the GMAT or GRE. Basing decisions on previous academic experience, work history, and interview evaluations has been an effective admissions approach for our Evening MBA programme, which began accepting candidates without a test score in 2018.”

Schellar Dean Maryam Alavi said the move reinforces the school’s strategic goal to foster a diverse, inclusive and innovative community of students. 


According to Alavi, “Beyond the complications COVID-19 has introduced in terms of access to exams, an overreliance on standardised test scores in MBA admissions decisions puts underrepresented minorities, individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and first-generation college applicants at a disadvantage. We move forward confident the change in this year’s admission process will attract our most diverse, qualified and successful MBA cohort yet.”

Pasquale Quintero, senior director of full-time MBA and business master’s programs at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business said, “The GMAT or GRE is an important assessment, but we review candidates holistically. We will take into consideration academic history, work experience, industry certifications, and other factors that will strengthen one’s application.”

If students are in a position to take the GMAT or GRE, there’s no harm in taking the test as it may work in their favour, but if they can’t, the test-optional policy will prove to be welcome news for many.