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Data & Trends

How GMAT Trends Shape the North American B-School Pipeline

GMAT volume is one marker for the demand of graduate management education around the world. With a record 265,613 GMAT exams taken in Testing Year 2009, it was not surprising that there was keen interest in the data shared during GMAC’s October 22 webinar, “GMAT Trends—The North American B-School Pipeline.”

Although focused on the United States and Canada, the webinar explored select global trends in the changing GMAT pipeline—especially in terms of diversity and comparisons with other global regions, where several developments are worth noting:

  • Nearly 40 percent of GMAT exams today are taken by women. The number of women test takers is growing at a slightly faster rate than men (36 percent to 34 percent). That trend is particularly evident in Asia (where 51 percent of test takers are women) and Eastern Europe (with 49 percent female examinees). Gender is not evenly balanced around the globe, however—in Central Asia (including India and Pakistan), for example, just 24 percent of the student pipeline is female.
  • There is also more diversity in terms of age. Historically, the traditional business school student has been between 25 and 30 years old. The average age in the US and other countries around the world is 27. Many schools, however, are beginning to see younger applicants. The US saw a 40 percent increase in the younger-than-25 age group, the largest increase of any demographic. That trend was even more striking in the rest of the world, which saw a 161 percent increase in the younger-than-25 category. Between 2005 and 2009, both Canada and the US saw decreases in the 31-to-39 and 40-and-above categories.
  • Among citizens of the United States, the number of minorities taking the GMAT exam increased overall in the last five years. In testing year 2009, for example, US minorities accounted for more than 40,000 of the more than 130,000 US citizens that sat for the GMAT exam. Asian Americans show the largest growth, with a 36 percent increase between 2005 and 2009, followed by an increase of 26 percent in African American test takers during the same period.

Looking at other trends in GMAT exam volume between 2005 and 2009, the growth seen in demand for business education in Asia observed in GMAT exam increases has outpaced that of all other regions combined. Where North America saw a 30 percent increase in GMAT exams taken in this period, for example, Asia saw 75 percent growth. Growth in Europe, by contrast, was 25 percent. In the Middle East and Africa, it was 43 percent.

GMAT testing volume can be driven by a variety of factors, the GMAC analysts said. They suggested that dramatic increases in test volume in Asia could be due to shifts in student age populations, more focused or improved marketing by domestic and international business schools, greater internationalization of domestic programs using the GMAT in their selection process, or repeat testing among students. 

Increased GMAT volume corresponds to increase application volume in MBA programs around the world, as reported in the 2009 GMAC Application Trends Survey. The majority of programs in the Asia Pacific region (75 percent) reported increases in application volume. In Europe, 72 percent of programs reported increases, while in the US 64 percent of programs experienced growth.

Broken down by program types, full-time one-year and flexible MBA programs reported the most growth in application volume (with 70 and 66 percent of such programs, respectively, seeing increases). The most recent application cycle may have been harder for EMBA and part-time MBA programs, which experienced less growth and declines in the actual number of applications per program.

GMAC’s next webinar, Understanding the Graduate Management Education Market in China and Asia-Pacific trends, will examine the economic and social forces that have shaped the dynamic education landscape across the region, with a particular look at trends in China’s graduate management student pipelines and those of leading GMAT markets. The webinar is scheduled for November 18.

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