On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up

On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.

Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.

Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better.

Domestic candidates are “banging their heads against the wall,” said Jeremy Shinewald, founder and president of mbaMission, a New York-based M.B.A. admissions-consulting company. While U.S. scores have remained consistent over the past several years, the falling percentiles are “causing a ton of student anxiety,” he said.

Since people with near-perfect scores on the test’s math section now make up a significant percentage of all GMAT takers, “the higher you go, the harder it is to get to the next percentile or score,” said 22-year-old Natalie Miller, who eventually plans to apply to the University of Indianapolis School of Business.

The GMAT, administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council, is typically required to apply to M.B.A. programs, along with undergraduate transcripts, essay responses and letters of recommendation. Students at top programs like Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business have mean GMAT rankings around the 96th percentile.

Of the test’s four sections—writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative and verbal—admissions officers view results from the quantitative section as a key predictor of business school success.

Percentile rankings are calculated using a raw score—for the quantitative section, typically between 0 and 51. In 2004, a raw score of 48 in the quantitative section yielded a ranking in the 86th percentile, according to GMAC; today, that same score would land the test-taker in the 74th percentile.

U.S. students’ raw scores on the quantitative section have remained roughly flat over the last decade at around 33, but their percentile ranking has fallen as more of their higher-scoring international counterparts take the exam.

Hires with Western training are in demand overseas, and students from Asia are flocking to U.S. business schools. Asia-Pacific students comprise 44% of current GMAT test-takers, up from a decade ago, when they represented 22%, according to GMAC. U.S. students, once the majority of test-takers, now comprise 36% of the whole

Read full story: Wall Street Journal

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