Do consulting firms look at GMAT scores? Historically, yes. But it appears that those days may be nearing an end. As a collective, the MBB is placing less importance on the GMAT, saying that the test results have never told the whole story about a person. Firms believe it’s too easy to overlook great candidates if outsized importance is placed on just one factor – especially one that isn’t “real-world experience”.
Does this mean you can break into MBB with a low GMAT? Not necessarily. But it does mean your chances are higher now than they would have been five years ago. In addition, it should encourage those of you who haven’t taken the GMAT to think twice about taking it solely for an MBB application.
There are some important implications here – let’s unpack a few of them.
McKinsey, Bain, and BCG Placing Less Value on GMAT Scores for Applications
When the pandemic shut down testing centers in the beginning of 2021, many MBA programs waived the GMAT or GRE requirement during the 2021 application cycle. Some have extended the waiver into this next year’s application cycle. Many MBA programs believe that standardized tests hampered their diversity efforts.
Now, the MBB consulting firms are following suit. Bain’s recruitment chief stated that he has no problem recruiting from schools that don’t require students to take the GMAT. In fact, MBB firms and some major investment banks have been deprioritizing GMAT and GRE scores for several years. The idea is that standardized tests aren’t predictive of the type of work ethic, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills needed to succeed in business school or at a consulting firm.
Implications of Not Requiring a GMAT Score
De-emphasizing GMAT scores is likely to open the door to increased diversity inside consulting. While the GMAT and GRE won’t completely go away, schools and consulting firms will continue to look to other means for evaluating talent.
But this may not be all good news. Standardized tests were a useful sorting mechanism. With the right preparation, it was possible for people to do quite well and then stand out from the pack. In some sense, when less emphasis is placed on tests like these, it can make admissions processes at top MBA programs and the hiring process at elite employers more subjective.
Another possibility as a result of changing hiring processes is the admissions process becoming more competitive. Those that struggled with testing are now “back in the mix.” Students and young professionals may need to build more well-rounded resumes, demonstrating relevant skills and traits (advanced analytics, critical thinking, teamwork, leadership). These can be attained through online coursework or mini-projects and internships. And don’t think that tests of your critical thinking or quant skills are a thing of the past. BCG and McKinsey have introduced their own skills tests that have GMAT-like elements that many applicants are required to take.
We expect more firms in consulting, tech, and finance to follow suit in the coming months and years because a test score has never given the full picture of a candidate’s competencies or character. While GMAT scores will remain as one of many factors a firm looks at when evaluating talent, it is clear that it is being deemphasized. Applicants to top MBA programs, MBB firms, and elite investment banks alike need to find other ways to demonstrate their skills and abilities.
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