Test-Optional Admission Policies and The Impact on Graduate Management Education (2022)

Business School Students Exhibit Improved Qualifications of Leadership, Social Influence, Creativity, Originality, And Initiative as a Result of Test-Optional Admission Policies

Most Business Schools Provide Pre-Program Learning Opportunities to Admitted Students,
Often in Quantitative Subjects

The MBA Roundtable, a global association of business schools whose mission is to advance graduate management education through curricular and co-curricular innovation, and Wiley, a global leader in research and education, released a new report: Test-Optional Admission Policies and The Impact on Graduate Management Education. One hundred sixteen deans, directors, faculty, and staff at 107 graduate business schools shared their thoughts and opinions of test-optional admission policies within their institution in an MBA Roundtable and Wiley research study conducted in September and October 2022. The following are some top insights.

“As many business schools move to test optional admissions, it is important to see how they are innovating their curriculum to meet the needs of changing learners attending their programs.  The development of appropriate pre-program learning opportunities as well as adaptions to courses and overall curriculum will be increasingly important to guarantee student success.  It is important to see how schools are driving those innovations.”  Jeff Bieganek, Executive Director, MBA Roundtable 

Most business schools administer a test-optional policy for admission to their degree-granting programs. These test-optional policies have been implemented for three years, on average, with 21 percent reporting 5 or more annual cycles.
Most business schools evaluate the test-optional policy using student academic success as a metric. On average, incoming student body to a graduate business degree program has shown academic improvement because of the test-optional policy in many of the skills most important for ‘jobs of tomorrow’ according to the World Economic Forum[1].  
Improved qualifications of leadership, social influence, creativity, originality, and initiative. While most survey respondents report no change in most skills when considering how test-optional policies impact the student body, a significant number—close to two in ten—saw positive impact in the areas of Leadership and Social Influence and Creativity, Originality, and Initiative. In contrast, skills often measured on standardized exams, such as Complex Problem-Solving, are seen as being more negatively impacted by the test-optional policy.
Application volume and the diversity of students at many business schools have increased as a result of the test-optional policy. More than half of respondents (60%) report an increase in the racial/ethnic make-up of the student body. Nearly half (49%) say the career background of the student body is more diverse. In addition, 44 percent report improved gender diversity, and 43 percent report increased diversity of academic background. The majority of respondents report that application volumes to each of the business programs have grown as a result of the test-optional policy.
Most business schools offer pre-program learning opportunities to prepare admitted students for the classroom. Two in three respondents (66%) say the business school offers admitted students pre-program learning opportunities, typically in quantitative areas, such as math, statistics, accounting, and finance. These programs tend to be asynchronous (73%) and offered completely online (65%).
In lieu of a standardized exam, business schools often create a rubric emphasizing quantitative information gleaned from an application, including undergraduate GPA, an advanced degree, and a combination of employment tenure, Quantitative-GPA, undergraduate curriculum, and employment responsibilities. It is often here that candidates are screened for participation in a pre-program learning opportunity. About one in five (22%) report an increase in identified opportunities for pre-program learning among admitted students since implementation of the test-optional policy. Most have seen no change, however.
“Wiley is committed to supporting learners as they journey through a transitional landscape of higher education,” said Smita Bakshi, Wiley SVP of Academic Learning. “Through skill-integrated courses and standalone preparatory courses, we continue making a difference for the schools and candidates we serve.”
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[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/top-10-work-skills-of-tomorrow-how-long-it-takes-to-learn-them/  (Note: Item, Professional Communication, added by the researchers and not part of the Forum’s list)