MBA programs understand that applicants are not solely represented accurately by their test scores. A number of top-ranked programs are waiving testing requirements, allowing you to submit your application without a GMAT or GRE score. Should you consider applying in round one without a GMAT/GRE score? Or should you take a test and see how you do, and apply in round two?
It’s a question we field often, especially in the final countdown to MBA application submission. Our advice, invariably, is that it depends on the student.
Broadly speaking, we advise against seeking a test waiver if you can credibly take the exam. Unless you’re a truly exceptional candidate with an amazing personal story – and have a really good reason for not taking the test – you should plan on submitting with your scores even for MBA programs waiving the GMAT or GRE.
Some schools are offering test waivers to accommodate the lingering effects of the pandemic on applicants’ careers and abilities to access the tests. However, schools generally accept test scores from tests administered remotely, you will need a good explanation for not supplying scores. And schools will require strong evidence of your ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment in lieu of scores.
Caution: Have you already taken the test but want to leave the test score out of your application? This is possible but is completely dependent on the graduate school for which you’re applying. With INSEAD, for example, if you have taken both the GMAT and the GRE, you must report both sets of scores – you can’t decide to just report one test and not the other because you want to pick the test where you got the best result. If you’re on the fence about taking it or not and whether to report, be sure to check the wording on the relevant application forms where the test is optional.
In 2023, we found only two top-10 US schools waiving the GMAT or GRE. More schools in the next tier offer flexible exam policies for the 2023-24 MBA admissions cycle, including full-time MBA programs waiving test requirements altogether. Dartmouth Tuck School of Business announced a test waiver for applicants recently laid off from jobs in any sector — not just tech — but that option expired March 1. Still, it’s a sign that schools are willing to be flexible and accommodate special circumstances.
Below we’ve listed the current policy at some leading schools. Always be sure to check for updates or options at you schools of interest.
Top Business Schools MBA Programs Waiving the GMAT or GRE Exams
MIT Sloan: Sloan will consider waivers of the GMAT or GRE only for applicants who can document that they “cannot safely access a test either in person or virtually. Applicants must request a waiver; responses are provided in one to three business days. If the MIT GMAT wavier is approved, and the candidate is admitted, no test will be required when applying.
Michigan Ross: Candidates who can “adequately demonstrate their readiness for the rigor of the program” may submit an application without a test score. Instead, they must submit an essay that explains circumstances impacting the ability to demonstrate their ability via a test and cites alternative evidence of academic readiness. This may include candidates whose circumstances continue to be impacted by the pandemic. See website for details.
NYU Stern: Those who are not able to prepare for or take a standardized test and can demonstrate academic readiness without a test score may apply for a waiver. The process requires a request form, resume, transcripts and other documentation of academic performance, and an essay.
Virginia Darden: Requests for a test waiver are granted on a case-by-case basis. Requests are considered with a focus on evidence of a strong undergraduate record, including performance in analytical coursework or disciplines; a master’s or advanced degree in analytical discipline; and at least three years of professional work experience.
Cornell Johnson / Cornell Tech: Candidates may request a GMAT/GRE test waiver through the online application without negative bias. Instead, you must submit a short 100-word statement for why you will flourish in our rigorous academic environment.
Carnegie Mellon Tepper: Waiver requests are evaluated on the basis of demonstrated academic readiness. Those applying through the Consortium can also apply for a waiver.
Emory University: Applicants may request a waiver by submitting details of their academic readiness that demonstrates “success in your undergraduate coursework/degree, evidence of work experience requiring analytical and quantitative skills, professional certifications (CPA, CFA) and/or advanced degrees (150 words maximum).
Texas McCombs: Merit-based test waiver petitions are accepted, but applicants must have three years of substantive work experience, preferably of a analytical nature, and completion of an undergraduate and/or graduate degree with evidence of success in analytical or quantitative coursework.
University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler: Those seeking a waiver can access the request form within the online application before the waiver deadline. Candidates can build a strong case for a waiver based on strong undergraduate performance in relevant fields, an advanced degree, five or more years of work experience in an analytical field, CFA or CPA certification, or strong test results from the Executive Assessment, LSAT, PCAT or MCAT.
USC Marshall: Test score waiver requests require an essay that should provide evidence of exceptional academic achievement that includes demonstrated mathematical preparedness. Professional experience can be included as a component of the waiver request, but the Admissions Committee will more strongly consider academic achievement and quantitative competency.
Washington University in St. Louis: Applications may be submitted without a test score for those who have strong undergraduate GPA from a US institution; demonstrated quantitative skills; a JD, MD, PhD or quantitative MS degree; CPA or CFA certification; or an officer’s rank in the military.
Note that these policies are for full-time residential MBA programs. Executive, part-time, or specialty focus MBA programs may have different requirements. Be sure to check schools you are interested in to confirm their current policy.
To learn more about why testing matters to top business schools and how best to prepare, read our related articles:
How to Increase Your GMAT Score: Tips from Test Prep Experts
- How to Increase Your GMAT Score: Tips from Test Prep Experts
- 7 Essential Tips for GMAT Prep
- How to Earn a High GMAT Score Without A Calculator
- GMAT Prep Strategies: How to Study While Working
- What MBA Candidates Need to Know About the Online GMAT
- How You Can Learn to Love the GMAT (and Why it Matters to B-schools)
Fortuna Admissions Co-Founder and Director Caroline Diarte Edwards is a former Director of Admissions, Marketing and Financial Aid for the INSEAD MBA program. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.