For years, upwards of 200,000 people have taken the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Their goal: to earn a score high enough to secure admission to a prestigious Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree program.
However, recently many schools have begun to acknowledge that standardized test scores don't always accurately measure an applicant's aptitude or potential for future success. As a result, the GMAT and other standardized tests like the Executive Assessment (EA) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) have lost prominence in the business school admissions process.
Graduate schools—the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, to name just one—have come to the conclusion that standardized test scores often reveal more about an applicant’s financial resources than intelligence or potential to succeed in their program. People who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for test preparation services (unsurprisingly) tend to score higher, not because they are more promising business professionals but because they have learned test-taking strategies.
As well, there are concerns that standardized tests perpetuate economic inequality. Lower-income students often don’t have access to the test prep classes and other resources/advantages that their wealthier peers do; as a result, they aren’t as well-prepared for the test, don’t score as high as their wealthier peers, and thus are less likely to be admitted to top programs. Additionally, the tests arguably incorporate cultural bias that create additional barriers.
While some business programs stopped requiring standardized test scores before the pandemic, COVID-19 accelerated this trend. At first, that was out of necessity, as most GMAT testing centers closed during the public health crisis. However, despite the re-opening of the testing centers, many business programs across the country continue to waive their GMAT requirements. They’ve witnessed a significant increase in applicants, particularly women and people of color—and are using other components of their applications to determine which candidates are a good fit for their program.
All this raises the question of whether the GMAT is at all necessary. That's a subject for another article, however. In this one, we review which executive MBA online programs don't require the GMAT and answer the questions::
Since EMBA programs are geared toward mid- to upper-level business professionals with at least 10 years of work experience, they’ve always placed a much greater emphasis on letters of recommendation from past and current employers than test scores (if they require them) in their admissions process.
As a Howard University explains in a blog post about its EMBA program (which does not require the GMAT), an applicant’s "professional experience provides the admissions committee sufficient information to determine their qualifications for the program."
In instances when another aspect of an application may be lacking (such as a poor undergraduate GPA), submitting GMAT scores can bolster a candidate’s application. A strong quantitative score, for example, may help offset subpar undergraduate grades in math subjects (especially when coupled with a decade or more of professional experience). But as mentioned above, strong letters of recommendation from employers carry the most weight. If a school waives the GMAT, it’s simply not necessary to invest the time, effort, and money in this test.
Generally, if a program waives the GMAT, it doesn’t require applicants to submit any standardized test scores, including the EA or GRE.
Having said that, be sure to check whether your chosen school requires one score over another. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania business school accepts all three and offers no testing waiver.
No GMAT Executive MBA programs include:
Some programs require a GMAT waiver to opt-out of testing. The Darden School of Business at University of Virginia - Main Campus requires waiver applicants to make a case for why they don't need to submit standardized test scores based on previous education and work history.
Executive MBA programs are designed for seasoned mid- to high-level managers who intend to advance to C-suite positions. Since EMBA students have at least 10 years of professional work experience, the coursework skips over foundational business management classes and focuses on advanced business concepts.
These programs for full-time professionals tend to be fast-paced and intensive, with courses year-round and no time off. The commitment required may include multiple weekend- or week-long immersion experiences and campus residencies.
EMBAs usually offer more powerful networking opportunities, as students already have well-established managerial careers before entering the program.
Most EMBA programs take two years to complete—the same as other graduate programs (including MBAs). That said, some accelerated programs can be completed in 18 to 20 months.
Most EMBA admissions departments require applicants to have extensive relevant work experience. (According to the Executive MBA Council, the average EMBA student has more than 14 years of experience with nearly nine in a management position.)
Candidates also typically need to submit transcripts from their bachelor’s degree (with a minimum GPA of 3.0), a resume/CV, personal essay, and letters of recommendation from employers.
Exemplary letters of recommendation are a critical aspect of a successful EMBA application. Many programs ask for at least one letter from a current employer. Since EMBA programs are intended for working professionals and are very rigorous, candidates may be required to prove that their employers endorse their course of study.
Students enrolled in Executive MBA programs take advanced business classes focused on various real-world management challenges. EMBA curricula may consist entirely of required courses (i.e., no elective classes) and include classes such as:
One aspect where EMBA and MBA programs differ is specialization. MBAs typically offer more opportunities for specialization. Top MBA specializations include business communication, economics, finance, healthcare management and marketing. One reason MBA programs provide so many specialization options (including even more niche choices like real estate) is because they often cater to career-changers and early-career deciders. EMBA students are experienced professionals in established career trajectories.
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