Can GMAT predict academic performance?

A study from the GISMA Business School in Hannover, Germany, has found little correlation between GMAT scores and the performance of its full-time MBA class. According to the school, “academic performance by students who had achieved modest GMAT scores in the range of 600 (out of 800 possible points) was found to be on a par with that of fellow students whose GMAT scores came in at a very good 740 points, and vice versa.”

The school did recognise that the GMAT was a reliable indicator when it came to the more quantitative subjects. However, it went on to add “for overall academic success, however, other traits also play a major role, for example leadership ability, strategic thinking, marketing and communication skills, creativity and persuasiveness – none of which are assessed by the GMAT.”

If this research is borne out, then is there a case for saying that schools put too much emphasis on GMAT scores? There have been complaints that the GMAT is culturally biased; multiple-choice questions are said to work against Asian students, in particular (this was one reason why essay questions were introduced). Furthermore the test is available only in American English.

Although many schools claim not to have a minimum GMAT requirement, there is a suspicion that most will have a de facto entry-level, not least because it is such an important component in the major rankings (the EIU, for example, gives GMAT score a 4% weighting in its full time ranking).

If anything, the number of schools requiring GMAT is likely to be extended as MBA programmes continue to sprout in countries such as China and India. But here, perhaps, is the nub. In an environment where schools are competing for students from different countries–and the product of different education systems—is a standardised test the only way of truly comparing candidates’ academic qualities?

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13 Responses to “Can GMAT predict academic performance?”

  1. Alex Says:

    I was at an American Business school. I had one of the lowest GMAT’s in my class, but I always felt that I was carrying some of the ‘cleverer’ students. I think its at best a limited indicator.

  2. RobM Says:

    I think GMAT aren’t claiming this as a catch-all. It is probably most useful when looking at the more calculus-based subjects. After all — anyone without these skills is bound to struggle on an MBA.

    (And, what’s more, it’s all well and good moaning about it being only available in American English — but that is still the international business language — most future execs will need to be able to grasp it)

  3. RobM Says:

    Also the test can be taken more than once can’t it? Don’t you see that leading to problems with inflated scores?

  4. Jennifer Stone Says:

    As with other types of tests, such as IQ tests, exams are inherently biased, both culturally and in the fact that they metrics they use are themselves shaped a priori by the targets they are designed to measure. Taking the argument to the extreme, a test only really measures a person’s aptitude to take that test. In this case, the design of the GMAT is shaped by the American curriculum. Since MBAs are themselves also shaped by American educational priorities, it could be argued that they are an adequate test for this particular qualification. The question then becomes how far do non-US MBAs “stray” from the American model.

  5. Sunny Says:

    GMAT cant be the true indicator, afterall it has some Quant and English. Quant can really determine the persons ability to solve the problems but how can english measure the persons ability. And any business has to do with numbers so the colleges should start looking from the Quant point of view. For english there is already an exam called TOEFL adn then why the hell English again in GMAT. Its just that GMAC is minting money by making people write 2-3 times. The scores are really inflated and doesnt really reflect the analytical skills of the candidate. I dont know the universities are just biased with score. Seems to be stupid measurement.

  6. Sameer Says:

    If we carefully look at the testing pattern, it reveals a lot. Certain Expectations from Managers like analytical skills, good comprehension level of reading stuff, etc. can be predicted based on your written test scores. Some element of surprise can be introduced even in the pattern of test so that tests can really measure these attributes.

  7. Ashley Says:

    They need a benchmark to make sure you’re not a complete idiot. If you can’t add, but you’re somehow brilliant in business, you’ll get in. If you’re Spiffy McQuantmaster, but incapable of original thought, you won’t get in. If you ask how much the GMAT really counts at MBA Fairs, you’re probably an idiot and won’t get in.

    I have yet to discover which camp I’m in… just applied second round. 🙂

  8. Hassan Says:

    I think Gmat does play a pivotal role for getting admission in good schools.
    Because you see in business world, some times you have to make decisions promptly. That’s what Gmat is all about, quickness and sharpness.

  9. Matt Says:

    Perhaps the question should be whether or not the GMAT is at all useful for gauging the abilities of all applicants? While I can see certain merits for a GMAT approach for ‘fresh’ graduates (though the nature of their previous course should determine that), should the same principle be applied to those that have, say, 5, 10 or 20 years of international business experience? The reality of it, is probably not. In Europe there is a move away from the GMAT approach, and I for one welcome it. If someone has been managing P&L, business operations, divisions of staff etc, and needs the MBA to focus on future strategy/direction, many are not going to relish the expense and time it takes to ‘go through the motions’ of an academic admissions test just to prove to an admissions council an ability that you already have. It’s just inefficient. GMAT seems to have its place, just maybe not for everyone.

  10. Sumedh Says:

    I also feel the GMAT is not an indicator of true analytical ability and more so I am frustrated that admission committees continues to consider it integral for admissions .

    In my experience I have observed several persons within early 600’s to be much smarter than a bunch of 700’s when it comes to problem solving and discussions. The 700 young breed is not shy at repeated attempts . Unfortunately as one matures , one loses patience with that test mindset. I myself have felt that I will be off investing my time in reading literature than prepare for GMAT again.

    However today , with a 650 and 5 years of work experience almost all international , I wonder if I am lucky enough to get an interview call even from mid tier schools. More importantly, I find my juniors outperform me at B school admission only with their GMAT score.

    I think the strategy should be to consider only the GMAT range. Otherwise donot post at websites that GMAT is just one criterion. Unfortunately, in India it is becoming the only criteria , which actually isn’t a healthy trend.

  11. Dino Says:

    Pleeeeease, GMAT is a money making business and thats it. I have been successful professional and business consultant for over six years working for a major consultancy company and want MBA purely to upgrade my title and acquire some new experience. I’ve been managing people and projects successfully and making lots of money and now I need to some admission committee at some business school to tell me that I am unable to do MBA because I scored poorly at GMAT. Admission Committee? Who are they? We all know that those who can’t do, teach! Let me see each member of admission committee of whatever BS how well they would perform at GMAT. My boss, a spanish guy, can not grammatically pronounce a single sentence in English and would probably score awful result in GMAT but the guy knows how to run businesses and how to make money which I am sure none of the admission committee members’ is able to do. Test in English proficiency? Is that a joke? Isn’t there IELTS and TOEFLS or whatever for that? Did they fall out on who is going to take more money for English testing so now you have to pass both tests and pay double money?
    GMAT is for nerds who are able to solve “problems” in short time but would be lost cases in real world. It takes more to be a business man then what GMAT can tell you. I am glad to see European schools slowly backing away from the GMAT. Its way to go…

  12. Duo Says:

    couldn’t agree more with Dino.. That really reflects the reality,, well-said

  13. Tom Says:

    Jennifer Stone is on the money. It is culturally biased and a very limited test of an individuals overall business acumen, management skills, real-world analytics or creativity. However – and it is a big however – the top schools have stats that show that it is a useful hygene factor and pretty good statistical predictor of how well an individual copes with their courses.

    It is a real pain in the backside to prepare for – I just wasted months of my time that I am not getting back – but it is doable with work. You wouldn’t expect to jump into Harvard, Yale or Stanford on any other course without absolutely world-class test scores, why should an MBA be any different? These guys get a lot of applications – they need to thin the herd somehow.

    Having said all that (I am English) the grammar section is wrong, wrong, wrong…correct answers starting sentences with conjunctions…please. Also given there isn’t a professional in the world who doesn’t use spreadsheets and other software tools to solve problems, surely this is a better guage of your professional competence rather than mental arithmetic?

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