One of the most popular lines of inquiry for Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA candidates is standardized tests. Applicants ask our team “Should I submit a test score or should I submit a test waiver request?”
What’s an applicant to do? If this line of questioning sounds like you, have no fear! We caught up with Managing Director of Admissions Brett Twitty to talk through a few standardized test (and test waiver!) related questions.
Q: When it comes to standardized tests, what are the options for an applicant applying to Darden’s Executive MBA or Part-Time MBA programs?
A: There are two pathways for Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA applicants when it comes to standardized tests: 1) submit a test score or 2) submit a test waiver request with application materials.
Q: Sticking with the first option of submitting a test score: Which standardized tests does the Admissions Committee accept? Does the Admissions Committee prefer certain tests?
A: In these application processes, we accept a number of standardized tests – Executive Assessment (EA), GMAT, GRE, MCAT and LSAT – and we view all of these tests equivalently for both admissions and scholarship evaluation purposes.
All applicants are required to report all valid test scores (i.e. not canceled or expired) for the above tests, and applicants can even apply with an older or expired test score, provided they still have documentation reflecting their score breakdown (as the testing service will no longer be able to produce a report reflecting your performance).
Interestingly, the Executive Assessment has historically been the most popular standardized test with our Executive MBA applicants, largely because of the comparative preparation time (the EA requires on average 20-30 hours of study vs. 60-65+ for the average U.S.-based GMAT or GRE taker).
It’s still early days with the Part-Time MBA applicant pool, but the GMAT and GRE have proven to be the most popular tests with Part-Time MBA applicants. However, we do see Executive Assessment scores as well, and, as noted, the EA is a great option for applicants who are interested in submitting a test score with their application but are not sure they have the time to prepare for the GMAT or GRE.
Q: How does the test waiver process work in the Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA application processes?
A: We also offer a test waiver request option for Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA applicants, and the test waiver request form is actually located in the application.
In the Test Scores section of the application, click “Yes” in response to the test waiver evaluation question. This will display a 500-word text box in which applicants detail the reason(s) they believe they should receive a test waiver. The explanation should be more than a sentence or two, but 500 words are also not required. (Editor’s Note: Read on for more details about what applicants typically highlight in their test waiver request).
The Admissions Committee will evaluate the test waiver request along with the full application and provide an update regarding the test waiver request at the time of decision.
Q: How do applicants decide between taking a standardized test and submitting a test waiver request?
A: It’s not always a straightforward decision, so let’s begin by discussing what a standardized test can do for an applicant in the review process. At a high-level, a test score provides an objective (and typically recent) data point regarding an applicant’s readiness for the curriculum at Darden. I want to highlight that the curriculum has quantitative and qualitative courses, so it’s not JUST about quantitative skills when we are evaluating academic readiness.
As an Admissions Committee, we want to be confident we are putting each and every admitted student in a position to be academically successful at Darden, so we think about the academic readiness case an applicant is building through all of their materials. Test scores are one way to demonstrate your academic readiness. Other ways include:
- Degree-related coursework
- Non-degree-related coursework (Coursera, MBA Math, etc.)
- Professional Certifications
- Work-related roles and responsibilities
What does all this have to do with the test waiver request process? Well, the above bulleted list largely reflects the data points an applicant would cite as support for a test waiver request. And this is where it is advantageous to put yourself in the position of an Admissions Committee member: If you were an Admissions Committee member, would you find the case you are building convincing? Would you want to see an additional data point regarding the applicant’s readiness? If you find the case convincing, then a test waiver may make sense. If the answer is “not sure” or “no”, this is where a test score can be helpful.
One additional note: While we know our Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA applicants have a LOT on their plates in work, life and applying to an MBA program, not having time to study or sit for a test is not the focus or intention of our test waiver process. If you find yourself in this position, what other evidence can you cite regarding your academic readiness? How can you credibly build this case using some of the broader categories we’ve shared?
Q: What if an Executive MBA or Part-Time MBA applicant has a valid test score they don’t like? What are their options?
A: Applicants are required to report all valid test scores (i.e. not canceled or expired) for the standardized tests we accept in our application process. In other words, if you have a valid test score, you must report it, even if you do not feel the test score is representative of your abilities.
The good news is, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re reporting a less-than satisfactory score (in your opinion!), you can use the Test Waiver section of the application to highlight aspects of your background you believe more accurately reflect your readiness for the Darden curriculum.
To take advantage of this option, report your test score, but also indicate you would like to be considered for a test waiver. This will display the test waiver request text box, which you can use to spotlight additional evidence of your academic readiness.
Q: What additional considerations should applicants be aware of as they consider their standardized test options?
A: It’s also worth talking about our scholarship process when discussing test scores vs. test waiver requests. Firstly, let me begin by saying it’s entirely possible to be granted a test waiver and to be awarded a scholarship. However, our scholarship review is narrower than our admissions evaluation (which is very holistic in nature) and largely focuses on indicators of merit, including GPA, test scores, professional certifications, and exceptional work experience (relative to the overall applicant pool).
Having a test score gives the scholarship committee an additional data point to consider when making these awards, and it‘s worth thinking about how important a scholarship will be in your MBA decision when evaluating test vs. test waiver.
Q: What additional resources are available?
A: We are here to help! You have several options:
- Schedule a conversation with a member of our Admissions team (Executive MBA | Part-Time MBA). While we can’t evaluate an applicant’s likelihood of receiving a test waiver on these calls, we can help you think through your options and strategize for the application process.
- Join us for a workshop: These interactive sessions hosted by members of our Admissions team are designed to help applicants put forward their strongest Darden application. We host sessions on a range of topics – Telling Your Story Through the Application, Building Your Academic Readiness Case, as well as a workshop in which applicants are put in the position of the Admissions Committee, evaluating sample candidates.
- Attend a webinar: We regularly host application-focused webinars including Application FAQs, in which Admissions teams tackle frequent application-related questions, as well as just in time Application Hotline sessions, in which applicants are encouraged to bring their last minute questions as they prepare for an upcoming Executive MBA or Part-Time MBA deadline.