American M.B.A. applicants suffering from weak math skills

by Grace

Weaker math skills are creating problems for America’s M.B.A. applicants.

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.


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.

One solution is to create lower standards for American students.

To address those concerns, GMAC in September introduced a benchmarking tool that allows admissions officers to compare applicants against their own cohort, filtering scores and percentile rankings by world region, country, gender and college grade-point average.


Lindsay Gellman, “On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up”, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 5, 2014.


2 Comments to “American M.B.A. applicants suffering from weak math skills”

  1. This is largely driven by Indian and Chinese students. People tend to think that it is because their educational systems are much better, but they really aren’t for the most part. It is simply that there are a lot MORE Chinese and Indian people in the world: 2 billion, in fact, compared to our more or less 300 million. So our programs can accept a lot of really smart Chinese and Indian students, who largely are from wealthy families who send their kids to elite universities, simply because there is a large pool. There are actually lots of underprepared and struggling Chinese and Indian students out there. You will even find them in our colleges – in non-elite undergrad programs, and in low quality masters programs. I have had to teach many myself.


  2. Carving out set-asides for domestic students is not unreasonable, at least in some cases. But then the US students have to compete with these Asian students in the classroom, of course.


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