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Taking the GMAT During COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Aug 13, 2020
Everything you need to know about taking the business school exam during the coronavirus pandemic, including applying for a waiver and taking the test online

By Kara Sherrer

While a GMAT or GRE score has long been a non-negotiable part of the b-school application, both students and admission officers found themselves navigating an unprecedented situation earlier this year as testing centers shut down around the world. Many business schools, Vanderbilt included, automatically waived test score requirements for the last round of applications in the spring.

The situation has continued to evolve, and now many testing centers are re-opening. In addition, the GMAT and the GRE can be taken online in the safety of candidates’ homes. Finally, some schools (including Vanderbilt) are offering test score waivers, either automatically or by application. To help prospective students navigate their test options in the age of coronavirus, we talked with the MBA Admissions and Recruiting team to get answers to common FAQs.

Are in person and online exam scores weighed equally?

Bailey McChesney

Bailey McChesney

Applicants worried that their online scores will count against them in some way can put those concerns to rest: at Vanderbilt Business School, exams taken in person and online are given equal consideration. If students want to showcase their recent quantitative and academic skills but aren’t comfortable taking the exam in person at a testing center, they should absolutely consider completing it online instead.

“We definitely do not penalize a candidate for taking the GMAT online versus taking it in person,” said Bailey McChesney, Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions. “We are trying to be as flexible as possible with candidates and recognizing that candidates are really facing challenges that maybe we’ve never faced before.”

I’m interested in getting a test score waiver. What’s the process for that?

The process for getting a test score waiver varies from school to school, so check with your admissions representatives to see if they offer a test score waiver and how you can go about getting one. At Vanderbilt Business, waiver requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. Applicants who are interested in a GMAT/GRE waiver must start an application, then complete the test waiver request form and upload supporting documentation.

Rob Schickler

Applicants who demonstrate multiple examples of academic and professional accomplishment are more likely to receive a waiver. Applicants should also keep in mind that Vanderbilt Business can’t retroactively offer a GMAT/GRE test waiver if you have already submitted GMAT or GRE test scores to the school.

“Once candidates submit their scores to a school, the school can’t not consider that information,” said Rob Schickler, Associate Director of Recruiting and Admissions. “Candidates should look at the class profile and the average standardized test scores of schools that they’re hoping to apply to, both in terms of trying to learn what targeted score to aim for and also how their standardized test score compares relative to the average applicant.”

Why are test scores so important?

Mckenzie Mulligan

The business school curriculum is rigorous, and candidates need a lot of academic skill, especially quantitative, to succeed. Performance on the GMAT is highly correlated with performance during the first year of business school. In addition, many business school applications have been in the workforce for at least a few years, so their college transcript may no longer be a good measure of their current skill level.

“When you start out on the program in Mod I and Mod II (the Mod system runs very similar to the quarter system), especially Mod I, it’s really heavy with quantitative courses like accounting and finance and statistics. We want to have students who are coming into the program that we feel can really handle the coursework. At the end of the day, we want to set you up for success,” said Mckenzie Mulligan, Assistant Director of Recruiting & Admissions.

What do you all consider in place of a GMAT or GRE score?

The Vanderbilt Business admissions team is carefully considering each candidate’s whole application to get a sense of their academic and quantitative potential. Examples of relevant quantitative success include, but are not limited to:

  • strong performance in previous quantitative and analytical coursework at the undergraduate or graduate level,
  • five or more years of professional work experience with proven analytical experience, and
  • earning a CPA or CFA certification or additional professional certification.

“Our goal is always to evaluate the full potential of the candidate through their overall application. Even though candidates may not have the chance to take the GMAT/GRE, we are very thoughtful about evaluating their academic potential in other ways,” McChesney said.

I’ve taken tests that aren’t the GMAT or GRE. Can I submit those scores?

Vanderbilt Business School is allowing candidates to submit supplemental scores from other tests the applicant may have taken; for example, the CPA or CFA exam, a Six Sigma certification test, or the LSAT. Generally speaking, the more recent and the more quantitative the test, the better. So while applicants can submit their ACT or SAT scores from their college applications, if those tests are a decade old, that won’t tell the admissions counsel much about the applicant’s current skill level.

“Like with the undergrad transcript, it’s usually been a while since you’ve (taken those tests),” Mulligan said. “(We want) test scores to give a recent and accurate portrayal of whether or not we feel like you can come into the program and be successful.”

If you still have questions about taking the GMAT or GRE or getting a test score waiver, contact your admissions representative at the school(s) you want to apply to. The Vanderbilt MBA Recruiting & Admissions office can be reached by email at

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