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GSB paves way for GRE

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Admission trends show that more than 300 business schools, including the top M.B.A. program schools, are following Stanford’s lead in giving applicants the option of taking the GRE in place of the GMAT, according to a recent piece in U.S. News & World Report.

“I think other schools have similar admissions practices, similar admission goals and similar admission pressures to the ones facing Stanford,” said Derrick Bolton, dean of admission at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB). “So it’s logical that different schools would reach the same conclusion, especially if they’ve seen a school take action in an area and been able to watch the results of that.”

The GSB, which ties for the coveted top spot in U.S. News’ rankings for business schools across the country, made the decision to alter its testing policies in 2005 because “it just made sense,” Bolton said. Most of the school’s Ph.D. programs have always offered that option and it seemed logical that the M.B.A. program do the same — not to mention that the GRE provided an ever-favored boost in the M.B.A. program’s accessibility.

On average, Stanford’s GSB has a higher number of joint-degree students than any other institution, and admission officials believed that providing that leeway in test-taking would make the application process easier and more appealing to a wider range of students.

“You’ve got to ask yourself if you have a student who’s looking at a program in design and a program in business or a program in bioengineering and a program in business, does it make more sense for a design school to take the GMAT or for the business school to take the GRE?” Bolton said.

But accessibility, a concern for admission officials at the GSB, also means appealing to affordability as well as applicant interest. The GRE, which costs approximately $140, is less expensive than the $250 GMAT — a factor that increases in value especially because many students take these exams multiple times.

“We have one of the largest and the strongest applicant pools in the world for a business school but we are always looking for competitive candidates,” Bolton said. “If we have a sense that we’ve put an unnecessary barrier in front of some that we can have an effect by removing barriers then we will do that.”

This change has proven to be successful beyond the three-year pilot period it was allowed, Bolton said. Although he declined to comment further on the diversity of the M.B.A. program’s applicant pool, Bolton said officials have made assessments every year since 2005 and been pleased with the results.

“That increase follows our acceptance of the GRE but I can’t say that it’s driven by our acceptance of the GRE,” he added. “I think it’s really driven by our new curriculum and I think the general view of the marketplace of how successful that curriculum is and how engaging it is for students.”

The shift in curriculum objectives made in 2007 focused on recognizing the different experiences and ambitions that current GSB students and applicants brought with them, and allowing more options in this aspect of the admission process maintained this standard.

That said, there are many other institutions that did not pursue this path. Business schools around the area such as Haas at UC-Berkeley and Leavey at Santa Clara — both of whom declined an interview with The Daily — still accept only GMAT scores.

“Each institution is operating on its own best interests,” said Bolton, who is hesitant to make any assumptions on behalf of other institutions. “The school that decides not to accept the GRE certainly has a rationale for that. Part of it may be just fear of how the students will perform in the classroom or it may be lack of understanding how to interpret the test. There are fifty reasons you could list [and] I’m not sure for any particular school what the factors would be.”