GMAC Takes a Stand on B-Schools and the GRE

Posted by: Alison Damast on September 11, 2009

It looks like the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is no longer content to sit on the sidelines as more and more business schools announce plans to accept the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). They’re waging war and the first sign that they’re going into battle came with an article in their newsletter yesterday titled “Don’t Let the GRE Tool Mislead You.”

The leading newsletter item focused on a tool that the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, is promoting to business school admissions officers as a way in which they can easily compute how an applicant’s GRE score will translate to a comparable Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) score.

The article warns business schools to be wary of using the GRE Comparison tool:

“The tool is not as precise as it may appear and using it is not as straightforward as presented. The comparison tool is about averages. Admissions decisions are about individuals,” the article states.

The piece goes on to explain GMAC’s rationale for avoiding the GRE Comparison tool. The instrument is based on the scores of 525 people who took both the GRE and the GMAT. ETS used a statistical tool to develop their GMAT prediction grid based on the average scores, the article notes. However, the tool has a 67.4 standard error of prediction, which is concerning, according to GMAC. It means there’s just a 17.6% chance that the predicted GMAT score will be exactly the same or 10 points higher or lower than the score the test taker would get on the GMAT exam, the article says. For example, a GRE verbal score of 660 and quantitative score of 670 would translate to a GMAT total score of 650. But only one in four people with that predicted score would end up earning 600 or below if they were to take the GMAT exam, the article says.

That’s of concern to Dave Wilson, president and CEO of GMAC, with whom I spoke this afternoon. He says the tool is misleading and penalizes test takers of both the GRE and the GMAT.

“You don’t want your dentist buying drill bits at Home Depot. You want an instrument that is precise for the job,” says Wilson. “This conversion table gives you such a degree of standard error and such a range in your conversion that I would worry.”

For now at least, admissions officers accepting the GRE don’t seem to be too concerned about the potential inaccuracy of the comparison tool, and many say they are using it merely as a guide.

I spoke with Kathryn Bezella, Wharton’s associate director of MBA admissions, back in July, about the school’s decision to allow applicants to submit the GRE for next fall’s application cycle. Here’s what she had to say about using the GRE comparison tool:

“It gives us some direct results to rely on. We use it to get a sense of how the tests mesh, but that’s just one aspect” she said. “At the end of the day, when we sit around in committee and have a conversation about an applicant, it’s not just about a test score. The tool has been helpful, but in general it is still only one factor when we’re considering an applicant.”

In recent months, a number of top schools, including Harvard Business School and NYU Stern, have announced that they plan to accept the GRE for admissions. The most recent school to announce plans to accept the GRE is the Yale School of Management, which is allowing applicants to submit the exam this current application cycle. The school used to accept the GRE exam for admissions and decided that the time was right to start doing it again, says Bruce Delmonico, the school’s admissions director.

“We decided to accept the GRE this season because we value diversity here at the School of Management and want to ensure we are reaching the broadest, most diverse talent pool possible,” he says.

However, it’s still unclear just how many business schools will continue to adapt the GRE exam, according to a recent Kaplan survey I wrote about last week. Perhaps GMAC’s arguments against the GRE Comparison tool will hold some weight with schools teetering on the edge. It will be interesting to see how this story develops.

Readers, what do you make of GMAC’s argument against schools using the GRE comparison tool? Do you think it is an accurate indicator?

Reader Comments


September 15, 2009 2:38 AM

Thankgod there is some competition to the GMAT. I always thought the English was way too tough - for no reason. Test logic but don't make Shakespeares GMAC!

Competition is always good.. :)


September 16, 2009 10:30 AM

i think the GRE would be able predict a candidates success in b-school. All this students have first degrees and are capable of thinking and succeeding in graduate school.


September 17, 2009 3:03 PM

Anyone who HONESTLY believes that a standardized (or should I say 'monetized') test such as the GMAT or GRE is an accurate predictor of business and/or academic success has no idea what he/she is talking about. A 750 GMAT score tells you one thing, and one thing only: your ability to do well on the GMAT.

Business schools, GMAC, ETS and the media need to stop hyping these money-wasting entrance exams.

Chad Tepper

September 19, 2009 8:45 AM

The primary determinant of good grades in B schools is whether you have had the classes and previously gone through the recruiting seasonn for business internships and full time jobs. The typical B school class will have about 3/4 people who have learned the whole first year and about 1/3 of the second year - this before they ever attend B school. Someone with a 500 GMAT who has sits in class and has 'see it all before' has an easy time. Add to this the fact that the whole job hunt process is also 'old hat' for her/him. The career changers who have high GMATs might do well, in contrast, but they have to work at it.


September 23, 2009 2:20 PM

GMAC lower your price if you want to compete with GRE!!

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