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GMAT Online Exam: What Do Stanford, Imperial, ESMT & Other Top B-Schools Really Think?

How do business schools view the GMAT Online Exam versus the test center GMAT? We spoke to MBA admissions directors from Stanford, Imperial, ESMT and other top schools to find out

By  Thomas Nugent

Mon Aug 17 2020


When coronavirus closed GMAT test centers worldwide, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) launched the GMAT Online Exam in mid-April 2020 as a solution to the problem.

Online GMAT appointments have been extended into 2021, and will be the preferred method of taking the test for many business school candidates who can't get to a test center for the exam or don't feel comfortable taking the GMAT in a test center under the current circumstances.

But how do business schools view the GMAT Online Exam versus the test center GMAT?

BusinessBecause caught up with MBA admissions directors from six of the world's leading business schools to find out.

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Though Kirsten Moss, the assistant dean of MBA admissions and financial aid at Stanford, explains that potential MBA candidates are far more than their GPA or standardized test scores, the GMAT still plays a helpful role in evaluating someone’s readiness for Stanford’s MBA.

The school is accepting both the online and in-person GMAT in equal measure, and notes that the school’s three rounds of admission offer flexibility to students who need to book an in-person test because they are without availability of the online exam.

If applicants have any concerns with their testing experience, Stanford recommends that they note this in the additional information section of their application. 

ESMT Berlin

Head of admissions at ESMT Berlin, Stephanie Kluth, says that both the online and test center version of the GMAT are equally treated in the admissions process despite the GMAT Online Exam missing the analytical writing assessment section.

She says that ESMT Berlin don’t prefer the test center GMAT, and that both test scores are viewed equally.  

She does admit that the weaknesses of the online GMAT include the lack of scratch paper; no preview of scores after candidates complete the test; candidates cannot cancel scores; candidates will only know their score seven days after the test day; and if your internet connection is not stable, you will be kicked out, so strong internet connection is key.

Being able to do the test at home, at any time, as well as the added flexibility it gives candidates are strong strengths, Stephanie adds.

ESMT Berlin also accept GMAC Essential Skills Assessment, GRE, GRE at home, and see these all as equal.


Imperial College Business School


“We view both test taking options as entirely valid for admissions process purposes, and are working closely with GMAC to understand the evolving trends related to test taking,” explains Joel McConnell, executive director of marketing, recruitment & admissions at Imperial College Business School

Imperial accept GMAT test scores regardless of whether the test is taken in a physical setting or online.

“Standardized testing is tough, but GMAT test scores continue to be a helpful indicator of how candidates will perform as students once they join a postgraduate degree programme,” Joel says. 

“And while we recognize it must be a bit unnerving for candidates to have to change to an online assessment, by and large, the added flexibility an online option provides is helpful—particularly in a context where the broader environment is still characterized by required social distancing.” 

Imperial College Business School is currently accepting both test center and online versions of the GMAT and GRE.

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Trinity Business School too are happy to accept both test center and online test results for the GMAT, and don’t view scores differently.

At this time, Eoghan O’Sullivan, MBA admissions manager at Trinity Business school, says they don’t prefer candidates to take the test center GMAT. “However, from speaking to some MBA candidates over the past few months, most would prefer to take the test live instead of the online version,” he adds. 

The strengths of the online test are availability and convenience, as candidates do not have to book a date in a test center that may be affected by COVID-19. Regarding a weakness, Eoghan says some MBA candidates mentioned difficulties using the digital whiteboard and have not received their unofficial GMAT scores upon test completion.

Trinity Business School accept the GRE alongside the GMAT as part of their entry requirements. The school accepts GRE test scores regardless of whether a candidate has taken the test live or online.

Copenhagen Business School


When coronavirus closed GMAT test centers worldwide Copenhagen Business School (CBS) started allowing candidates to take the admissions test CBS uses for its Executive MBA. This was before GMAC launched the online version of the GMAT.

Fatima Dhaif, MBA admissions manager at Copenhagen Business School, says that if a candidate is able to take the test center in person then that is preferred. Or they can still take the CBS admissions test. 

Fatima admits that students having to wait at least a week for their online GMAT test results can be an issue for schools who are under pressure to recruit to a tight deadline. However, the added flexibility of the online exam does mean students in countries where the online exam isn’t available don’t have their business school admission plans disrupted. 

CBS also accepts the GRE, but Fatima says they prefer students to take the GMAT test center or online exam.

Melbourne Business School

For Anastasia Georgiou (pictured below), the director of admissions at Melbourne Business School, it’s all about applicants getting the best possible outcome they can. Some candidates she’s heard from have been anxious about the shift to an online GMAT, and other have been apprehensive about going into a face-to-face environment at the moment.

That’s why Melbourne Business School treat both test scores equally. It’s at the candidate’s discretion which test they take. 

“I don’t believe it’s fair to view them differently because the circumstances in which applicants are making a decision varies greatly. In Australia it changes from city to city and we have to make decisions which are the best for us. We don’t have choice at the moment.”


Melbourne Business School waived the GMAT test score as a requirement for submitting an application—candidates could submit their score later. Due to coronavirus, Melbourne Business School have cancelled their full-time MBA for 2020/2021, with the next intake scheduled for August 2021.

The school also accepts the GRE, but conversations Anastasia has had with colleagues in the industry lean towards GMAT preference. 

“What I could tell from other universities is they weren’t seeing the same quality of students coming through,” she says. 

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