B-School Applicants Getting Younger, Pickier

Posted by: Alison Damast on February 14, 2012

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Business school applicants taking the Graduate Management Admission Test today are younger than their counterparts five years ago, and are increasingly turning their sights to graduate masters programs in management and finance, over the traditional MBA, according to a report released today by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the Reston, Va.-based group that administers the GMAT exam.

“The GMAT pipeline as it relates to prospective MBA students is almost entirely different today than it used to be,” said Alex Chisholm, GMAT’s senior manager of statistical analysis.” While it might be one exam, I think it is increasingly reflecting two distinct pipelines in management education today, both the MBA programs and specialized masters programs.”

As the global management education landscape has shifted over the last five years, so has the profile of those taking the GMAT exam, the standardized test used by graduate business programs. Over the last five years, the number of GMAT exams taken has grown by 18 percent, with 263,979 examinees taking the test in 2011. The vast majority of growth occurred outside of the U.S., according to GMAC’s 2011 World Geographic Trend Report for GMAT Examinees.

The primary study destination for the majority of examinees remains the U.S. but the overall proportion of people sending GMAT reports to U.S. schools is declining. Only 77 percent of score reports sent last year were directed towards U.S. schools, down from 83 percent four years ago, GMAC said. That shift has been more pronounced in some regions of the world, like Central and South Asia, where last year only 55 percent of those who took the GMAT sent their scores to U.S. schools, down from 67 percent five years ago.

“We’ve seen a lot of schools around the world start to use the GMAT in the admissions process, so they now have more options closer to home and are exercising that ability to send scores locally,” Chisholm said.

All of the regions surveyed in the report had more test takers in 2011 than in 2007, with the exception of the U.S., where the number of people taking the GMAT "now sits near the pre-recessionary levels" of five years ago, GMAC said. In the last five years, Europe has edged ahead of Canada as the second leading destination for GMAT scores after the U.S., while Hong Kong jumped from ninth to seventh place over the same period.

Last year, non-U.S. citizens took the majority, or 55 percent, of GMAT exams, which GMAC said is the "highest proportion on record". The first year this group made up the majority of examinees was in 2009, and that number has continued its climb upwards since then. Said Chisholm: "It is a pretty big shift."

Much of the growth in GMAT test volume is being driven by examinees from East and Southeast Asia, especially China, which represents 70 percent of testing volume in the region, Chisholm said. In East and Southeast Asia, just 40 percent of test takers sent their scores to an MBA program in 2011, down from 64 percent five years ago, the "lowest level of any world region" in the report, GMAC said. At the same time, the proportion of examinees younger than 25 soared during that same period, jumping from 32 percent to 61 percent.

Many of these test takers are young women under the age of 25 flocking overseas to accounting and finance programs, hoping to get an edge in Asia's burgeoning job market, Chisholm said.

This demographic age shift may not be quite as pronounced in other parts of the world, but it is evident across the board. The proportion of exams worldwide taken by men and women younger than 25 has increased from 37 percent to 44 percent over the last five years, according to the report.

Another important but subtle change is the number of women taking the exam, which was 41.4 percent in 2011, the highest number ever, the report said. Chisholm said he expects this number will continue to inch upwards, especially as more women seek out specialized masters degree programs in the coming years.

"As that pipeline gets larger and larger relative to the MBA, we expect to see a continued upwards trend in this area," he said.

Photograph by: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times via Redux

Reader Comments

David

February 14, 2012 5:32 PM

Multiple times in this article the organization is referred to as "GMAT," but that's the name of the test. The organization is the Graduate Management Admission Council, or "GMAC."

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