GMAT Waivers – Which Top MBA Programs Offer Them and Should You Request One?

Considering GMAT waivers for your MBA applications?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.’
  • UNC Kenan-Flagler says that ‘while scores from standardized tests such as the GMAT or GRE are a beneficial way for our Admissions Committee to evaluate the likelihood of academic success in our Full-Time MBA program, we recognize that some candidates can build a strong case for admission based on but not limited to the following criteria:
    • Applicants who graduated with a 3.2 GPA or above and coursework in STEM, business, economics or analytical fields from a U.S. institution
    • Earned an advanced or terminal degree in JD, MD or a PhD or MS degree within a STEM, business or economics academic field
    • 5+ years of professional experience in a quantitative or analytical field
    • Hold a CFA or U.S. CPA professional certificate
    • Strong test results from the Executive Assessment, LSAT, PCAT or MCAT’.
  • UCLA Anderson says that ‘While test scores provide an additional, relevant data point for the admissions committee to consider, a test score is not required. Applicants are given the option to apply for the Full-Time MBA program without submitting a GMAT, GRE, or EA. Please note that for some candidates without a quantitative background, a strong test score can strengthen their candidacy. If you choose not to submit a test score, you will need to adequately demonstrate how your academic and professional experiences have properly prepared you for the rigors of the program. You must submit an essay that provides evidence of your MBA readiness to support your case of applying without a test score.’
  • Cornell Johnson says that it ‘is offering candidates of the Full-Time MBA 2023-2024 application cycle the ability to request a GMAT/GRE test waiver, without negative bias. All applicants for the Full-Time MBA program are eligible to request a GMAT/GRE waiver. Who should? Candidates who have demonstrated analytical and/or quantitative abilities through their academics, work experience, etc. [To request a waiver], please prepare a short statement that describes your personal circumstance and provide a clear and compelling argument for why you will flourish in our rigorous academic environment (100 words).’
  • CMU Tepper requires applicants requesting GMAT waivers to submit a supplemental form prior to applying and says that ‘We believe standardized exams are one way that business programs gauge academic readiness; however, while many Tepper MBA applicants will submit a GMAT/GRE/EA score, we also recognize there are multiple ways to demonstrate academic readiness. This is the reason we offer a test waiver option.’
  • UT McCombs says that ‘to be considered for a test waiver, an applicant must have:
    • A minimum of three years of substantive and progressing post-undergraduate work experience, preferably of an analytical or quantitative nature.
    • AND at least one of the following:
      • Completion of an undergraduate degree, with strong academic record, preferably with analytical or quantitative courses.
      • Completion of a graduate degree, with strong academic record, preferably in an analytical or quantitative discipline.
      • To improve chances of petition approval, we highly advise applicants to have an overall GPA of 3.0 or more.
  • USC Marshall requires a supplemental essay requesting a test waiver and says that ‘Standardized tests provide the Admissions Committee with some evidence of a candidate’s ability to perform academically in the MBA core curriculum. Test scores also serve to provide an indication of English language capability. The basis for your waiver request – and your response to the Test Waiver Request Essay – should be grounded in a record of exceptional academic achievement that includes demonstrated mathematical preparedness. While professional experience can be included as a component of the waiver request, the Admissions Committee will most strongly consider two elements: 1) overall academic achievement and 2) performance in quantitative coursework.’
  • Emory Goizuetaprovides applicants the opportunity to request a waiver from the standardized test requirement…the test waiver is for candidates who can show evidence they are prepared for graduate-level business coursework based on their academic background and work experience. We encourage applicants to be thoughtful about requesting a waiver. A standardized test score can help candidates present their best application.’
  • Georgetown McDonough offers the option to request a test waiver but hints at the following criteria for those whose waiver requests are likely to be granted: ‘Based on our experience, candidates who are most likely to be successful in the quantitative rigor of the classroom have one or more of the following as part of their profile:
    • Academic Grades: Undergraduate or graduate cumulative GPA of 3.1 or greater in one of the following degrees or majors: business administration, science, engineering, technology, or math. Undergraduate or graduate cumulative GPA of 3.3 in degrees or majors other than what is listed above.
    • Coursework: Applicants who have successfully received undergraduate or graduate-level quantitative coursework with a minimum grade of “B” or better in at least two rigorous (not introductory) quantitative classes (e.g. finance, accounting, statistics, calculus, advanced math, engineering, or physics) are preferred.
    • Certifications: CPA or CFA (or international equivalent) or other quantitatively rigorous certificates.
    • Work Experience: Significant post-undergraduate full-time work experience in a quantitative, mathematical, or analytical field where the majority of your job responsibilities require rigorous quantitative analysis. Please note that working in Excel and pivot tables for simple analysis does not qualify.
    • Demonstrated Grit: Professional and academic experiences that demonstrate grit and the ability to be successful in quantitative coursework.’

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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