GMAT Testing Volume Holds Steady in 2009

Posted by: Alison Damast on December 17, 2009

The dreary economy and weak job market doesn’t seem to be dampening people’s desire to go to business school, according to the latest figures from the Graduate Management Admission Council, administrator of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The number of GMAT exams administered in 2009 hit 267,000, just slightly eclipsing the 264,700 given in 2008. That’s an all-time high and the largest number of tests GMAT ever administered in one testing year, even though it’s just an uptick of 2,300 exams over last year. The news comes at a time when other testing administrators such as the Educational Testing Service (ETS) are trying to make inroads into the GMAT testing market by promoting the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

GMAC President and CEO Dave Wilson says he is encouraged by this year’s findings for the testing year, which ran from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009.

“Going into the year, I wasn’t forecasting a record year, but we have just remained incredibly strong in the face of competition and in the face of the headwinds of a recession,” says Wilson, in a telephone interview this afternoon. “I was pretty pleased to see in a recession that has gone on this long that we have been able to maintain the growth.”

Much of the testing boom has been driven by students outside of the U.S. For the first time in the exam’s history, the number of people taking the test who were non-U.S. citizens outnumbered American test takers. According to GMAC, approximately 51% of applicants who took the GMAT during the last testing year were non-U.S. citizens.

Many of these foreign students are sending their test scores to schools outside of the U.S., as the number of quality programs abroad continues to proliferate, Wilson says. Just a few years ago, 75% of international students sent their scores to U.S. schools; today, that number has dropped to 65%, Wilson says. The shift comes as more and more programs around the world are requiring the GMAT exam, especially in Europe, where an increasing number of students are heading to specialized one-year business master’s degree programs straight from undergraduate.

“There’s a lot of very, very good management education outside the U.S., so for many students it is very attractive now for them to stay nearby or to try a country they hadn’t thought of before,” Wilson says.

Meanwhile, GMAT volume in power-house countries like India and China remains strong, GMAC says. In China, the number of GMAT exams taken by Chinese citizens in 2009 was 23,550, a 35% increase over last year. Meanwhile, Indian citizens took 30,633 GMAT exams, a 7 % increase over 2008.

One of the sharpest increases in GMAT volume came from women, who took a record 104,880 exams in testing year 2009. It was the first time that the number of female test takers exceeded 100,000 in a testing year, and came on the heels of a 36% increase in women taking the test over the past five years, GMAC says.

For more details on the GMAC projections and the official press release, click here.

Readers, are you surprised that GMAT testing volume continued to remain strong in 2009? What do you make of the report’s findings?

Reader Comments


December 18, 2009 9:13 AM

I don't agree with this. It's not logical to say that rise in the number of gmat takers is a true indicator that despite the back drop of recession, most of the test takers are hopeful and would want to purse an MBA in near future. What I believe is that, since a gmat score has the validity for 5 years, most of the test takers thought that this is the write time to give Gmat and apply at a later point of time in span of their score's validity. What you guys think?


December 19, 2009 4:17 PM

Well, I'd say it more 50-50. There obviously is a correlation between the number of people taking the GMAT and those applying to an MBA program soon. However, in light of the recession and the adverse effects it had on job security, I think its reasonable to say that a small proportion of those GMAT takers are looking at the MBA as a fallback option. Either way, competition is up!


December 20, 2009 1:10 AM

I partly agree and partly disagree with the article.

Yes, I do agree that the GMAT test volume is way up. That is why I did search to see why I can't get a seat to take the GMAT test.

However, I partly disagree that the GMAT test volume is up because of the bad economy. The bad economy may contribute, but the bad economy is not the main driver for the increase in test volume.

First, I think there is an increase in the GMAT test volume because people are taking the test more than once and probably more than twice. The test is harder than the test prep material and harder than the Official GMAT prep material. Yes, I am planning to re-take the test.

Second, Graduate Management Admission Council has decided to report the number of times the test is taken rather than the number of test takers. For example, if someone takes the test three times in one year, that person would be counted three times when the test volume is released rather than just one time. Graduate Management Admission Council very rarely reports the current level of repeat testing. GMAC always uses its old historic repeat testing number from 2002 or so.

Third, unfortunately, I think people are becoming smarter about NOT getting a master's degree in dead end fields and fluff fields such Gender Studies, French Literature, Art History, or the long list of other fluff degrees. Unfortunately, all these new people will probably congest the MBA application pool and get accepted because they received a high GPA in easy classes.

Fourth, more depressing than point three, then you have all the misfits that are locked out of the other graduate programs who will use Graduate Business School as a default graduate degree. You have all the people who don't like blood so they can't go Medical School, Dental School, or Veterinary School. You have all the people who don't like science so they can't go to any Graduate Science School. You have all the people who don't like hard core math so they can't go to Graduate Engineering School, Graduate Math School, or Graduate Science School.

Fifth, I think some of the other graduate schools ["LAW School"] are oversaturated and are using MBA programs as a release value so that LAW School and some other graduate schools don't have to report that a majority of their graduates are unemployed after graduation. In the GMAT material, there is a noticeable push for Law/MBA and a few other joint degree and MBA combinations.


December 30, 2009 11:49 AM

I don't agree that the GMAT was harder than any of the test prep materials. I studied both the official GMAC and Kaplan and can tell you Kaplan was much more difficult. The testing condition itself was difficult; I hated those damn dry erase markers that would smudge and smear and obscure your calculations. If I just had a simple pencil and paper, I'm confident I could have scored at least 20 points higher.


January 3, 2010 3:24 AM

I have found the GMATPrep CATs significantly harder than the Kaplan CATs. (I had a 200 point discrepancy). Rob, do you think the GMATPrep CATs are more or less than the actual?


January 3, 2010 3:29 AM

I have found the GMATPrep CATs significantly harder than the Kaplan CATs. (I had a 200 point discrepancy). Rob, do you think the GMATPrep CATs are more or less than the actual?


January 6, 2010 10:12 AM

While a hungry, unemployed person (10% unemployment according to the aftificially low Government numbers)will undoubtedly use this "free time" to study for the Gmat and thus lift the testing volume, I believe the overwhelming push (at least for those already in finance) is the need to remain competitive.
Too many low to mid six figure earners (bankers, traders) now find themselves squeezed in this ultra-competitive market with fewer slots.
Its only natural that when 5 qualified candidates (experience wise) apply for the same job, the one who not only achieved an advance degree, but showed initiative and put forth the time and effort is the logical choice.
The GMAT was tough, but since this is the only aspect of your application you can still affect, study hard and break into the 700s.
My biggest complaint as I am about to start my EMBA - Stafford Loans are up to 6.9%. Total BS!


February 1, 2010 7:15 PM

Rod, let me guess. You probably work for Kaplan or GMAC!


March 14, 2010 9:31 PM

GMAT is a monopoly and taking the student community for a ride, its high time that someone must change the tide.


April 2, 2010 3:02 AM

I don't know why people think that the GMAT is hard. I have taken both the LSAT and the GRE, and I have to say that the GMAT is much easier. It's also true that B-schools do not demand high GPAs from applicants. In most case, a 3.6 is considered very good even by top business schools. I have been admitted to a few T10 law schools, and I can you that my 3.75 GPA from a top undergrad is the barely the minimum.

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