No GMAT? No Problem, Harvard Says

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on May 19, 2009

Harvard Business School (Harvard Full-Time MBA Profile) announced today that it will no longer require MBA applicants to submit GMAT scores. Starting with the applications for admission to the Class of 2012, HBS will allow applicants to submit either GMAT scores or GRE scores.

The news makes Harvard the latest in a series of top tier business schools to make the change. In 2006, both Stanford (Stanford Full-Time MBA Profile) and MIT’s Sloan School of Management (Sloan Full-Time MBA Profile) permitted the GRE for applicants to their MBA programs. The policy, while common among Executive MBA programs, is still the exception at top-ranked full-time MBA programs, although it’s unclear just how much longer that will be case now that Harvard has made the change.

Harvard’s acceptance of the GRE is a big win for the Educational Testing Service, which administers that test. About 18 months ago, ETS took aim at the lucrative business school market dominated by the GMAT, launching a marketing campaign suggesting that switching to the GRE would result in more applications. The GMAT, which generates about $80 million a year for the Graduate Management Admission Council, is used by more than 4,000 graduate management programs worldwide.

Deirdre Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid at HBS, said the GRE was allowed to make the application process easier for applicants considering graduate programs other than the MBA.

Since many HBS applicants are also considering graduate programs besides the MBA, there is now no need for them to take the GMAT if they have already taken the GRE. We believe that both the GMAT and the GRE meet our expectations of what a standardized test can tell us about a candidate's ability to thrive in our MBA program.

From the test-takers perspective, one big advantage the GRE has over the GMAT is price: the GRE costs just $150, versus $250 for the GMAT. But applicants haven't exactly been clamoring for a lower-cost alternative to the GMAT. From the schools perspective, the GMAT has a lot of research backing up its claim that it's a good predictor of success in a graduate management program, whereas the GRE is in uncharted territory.

So will more schools opt for a GMAT-optional approach? ETS is predicting the floodgates will open now that Harvard has taken the plunge. David Payne, an ETS vice president, says the Harvard news, along with a new "noncognitive evaluation" section of the GRE that will be available in July (it measures teamwork, ethics, persistence, and creativity) will convince many other business schools to accept the GRE.

Payne notes that over 220 business schools accept the GRE for MBA applications already, including 5 of the 10 top internationally ranked programs. About 25 new programs signed on in the last month alone, he said. Here's his take on the impact of the Harvard news:

I think that number [220] will go through the roof over the summer and into the fall. Harvard is going to help us reach that tipping point. Other schools will say, 'If it's good enough for Harvard then it's good enough for our institution.'


Reader Comments

Max Vahobov

May 24, 2009 2:55 PM

It is all good, but remember that HBS have started requiring GMAT in 1990s, when other top schools were doing it for years. How come from all the prestigious universities, HBS was not considering GMAT as a requirement for the MBA admission before 1990s? And why they started doing it again?


May 27, 2009 8:13 PM

The victims are the students once again. Most of them will take both the GMAT and the GRE so they can submit the high score. Instead of taking and paying for only one test, they will now have to do two.


May 27, 2009 9:59 PM

Amazing... I write my GMAT on Saturday :(


May 28, 2009 9:39 AM

I find it hard to believe when article states that the GMAT is a good predictor of success in a graduate management program.

I took the the GMAT 3x and never got above 500; the only way I got into UT's McCombs SOB were my "above average" essays, work experience, and interviews. With 1 year to go upon graduating with a dual degree in Finance and Info Systems, my overall GPA is 3.8.

More power to ETS for piercing that GMAT veil over graduate school admissions.


May 28, 2009 11:17 AM

It's important to recognize that these tests are merely a good predictor, and are not absolute. More often than not the GRE or GMAT may only be representative of the person's ability on that test, and really does little more than illustrate a level of preparedness for that subject matter. So unless business school's are basing their curriculum on these tests either exam should be a sufficient gauge of a student's ability to study and regurgitate.

AnMBA Student

June 9, 2009 7:02 AM

The GMAT is not the predictor of anything and neither is the school GPA. These are irrelevant in the real world. Anyone can score high on the GMAT if they put enough time into it and anyone can get a high GPA if they study enough.
To succeed takes far more than being books smart.


January 29, 2010 7:53 AM

Why GMAT/GRE is more important than the MBA/respective education itself. If colleges and their faculties of this repute cannot judge their applicant without GMAT/GRE than how can anyone be assured that one fine day this GMAT/GRE format will be not used for the sake of recruitment in an organisation. After all one should also check a person who scores 600+ or 700+ are same in his/her aptitude after passing out from these colleges.


February 8, 2010 11:13 AM

With 570 in the GMAT I got rejected from Kellogg, Ross, Cornell and Tuck..

The only way of entering a top program is to score above 650


Just a Thought

February 10, 2010 5:46 PM

Harvard coudl almost get away with making tests "optional." It has enough applicants to where the ones who know they can perform well will take the test and get in. A near perfect score on the GMAT or GRE would show that a student can succeed. Harvard just lets most people believe that scores don't matter that much. This allows Harvard to get more application fees to help run their program.

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May 12, 2010 1:05 PM

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May 12, 2010 2:20 PM


for the nice post.

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May 21, 2010 3:32 PM

my vote goes to ETS/GRE over GMAT for 2 reasons: GMAT has dominated the field for too long and is quite expensive as compared to GRE, also with GRE entering into competition, applicants will have a choice to decide which of the two tests format they have greater ease with and sit for that its a good thing which is happening

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May 23, 2010 7:13 PM

This is an interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

vev vi

November 10, 2010 4:41 AM

ahh, some people do not understand. Any good teacher or admission official will tell you this: to get a good score on gmat or GRE says to the school: "I am interested in getting into your school, therefore, I studied a lot to get a good score, and besides, I have enough intellectual capabilities for studying a subject and understand it"


August 13, 2011 2:05 PM

Since when are people gonna start understanding that these scores are just numbers and intelligence is beyond those numbers. All the successful businessmen in life never took GMAT/GRE

Emmanuel Darkwa

August 16, 2011 9:05 AM

Like myself i guess most prospective applicants are not afraid of writing neither the GMAT or the GRE. Its just the time, money to be spent, availability of study material , tuition and or guide. I work in a remote village. Time to even go to a registration center to register and write the exams. I have a strong desire to acquire an enhanced management knowledge and skills but limited by the fact that i am unable to write the GMAT.

Emmanuel Darkwa

August 16, 2011 9:11 AM

I work for a tomato factory in Ghana that has quite number of challenges including management. The factory belongs to government.An MBA training will greatly enhance my contributions to overall performance of the factory.

chin liem

February 13, 2012 6:23 AM

whether with gmat or not, i believe it is fate that one do well in business.... i have 3.9 gpa from a 1 ucla class of 93, and i know i am not stupid, because i am a currenty director of a company listed in a stock exchange after in management for 20 years....but i just cannot score gmat....the reason is i am just a bit different...when i read the questions.... i start to fall asleep... and because of this i think it is only right i don't qualify to study in a mba...because i really think i will fall asleep in class. yes i think gmat and gre is a predictor of how one performs in school...but no...not necessarily in life....i am still trying the test....i mean it is really boring...if you are from harvard admission department please contact are losing a great candidate...god bless us....

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