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Demystifying GMAC™ Data: Recruiting

By Lawrence M. Rudner and the GMAC Research Department

The Demystifying the GMAT series has proven to be very popular among admissions personnel, test takers, and test prep companies interested in learning more about educational measurement and the GMAT exam. This article is the first installment of a new series devoted to exploring GMAC data, with an emphasis on data available to survey participants, GMAC members, and GMAT accepting programs. You will notice that in this article we use China for the example scenarios.

Your Recruiting Strategy

Let’s imagine you are thinking of recruiting students from another country or region. To determine whether the effort is justified, you want to know various demographics for students who study or plan to study in a foreign country and what your competitors are doing in these countries. To help develop a successful campaign, you need insights into that segment, such as employability of graduates, motivations, and sources of information prospective students are using. 

You are with a US program and have been asked to prioritize targeted recruiting efforts in Asia-Pacific. You need to identify what opportunities exist for the portfolio of MBA and specialized master’s programs you manage.


A quick look at data in our interactive data tool, GMAT Trends Tracker, or the Asian Geographic Trend Report reveals that 58,000 GMAT exams were taken by Chinese citizens in 2012, up more than 200 percent since 2008. It’s also clear that today these candidates are young (81% are < 25), mostly interested in specialized master’s programs (64%), more likely to be women (65%), and have good GMAT scores (mean of 588).

Also notice that the data for 2012 is vastly different from 2008. During that period the percentage of women, younger candidates, business majors, and those interested in non-MBA master’s has grown dramatically. Chinese examinees are one of the few large testing groups who sent about the same percentage of scores to the US in 2012 (78%) as they did in 2008 (77%), while other large groups sent fewer scores. Therefore, China may be an excellent place to recruit for your non-MBA master’s programs.

The GMAT Trends Tracker also reveals that, based on demographics, India may be an excellent place to recruit for your EMBA program: 64 percent of test takers are 25 or older and twice as many Indian test takers send scores to EMBA programs than do Chinese test takers.

GMAC Geographic Trend Report Series TY 2012From another data source, the Global Management Education Graduate Survey, we find that Chinese students at US business schools take their educational experience very seriously. The survey shows that these students participate in co-curricular activities more frequently and rate program components (such as admissions, career services, and curriculum) of their graduate management education higher than other students at US schools. In addition, 74 percent of Chinese citizens studying in the US report no debt upon graduation, compared with 62 percent of other 2012 graduates.

Inference: China is a sizeable and attractive market that will be involved on campus, especially non-MBA master’s programs. India may be a better focus for outreach and marketing efforts for your EMBA program.


2013 Application Trends Survey Report CoverThe Application Trends Survey of admissions personnel reveals that outreach to foreign candidates is conducted by the majority of full-time MBA and specialized master’s programs. The East/Southeast Asia region is the most commonly targeted area, with China being the most frequently mentioned recruitment destination. These efforts are reflected in incoming application volumes: nearly half (49%) of all MBA and specialized master’s programs in the US reported that their greatest source of foreign applicants in 2013 came from Chinese citizens. Additionally, 35 percent of programs reported that Chinese citizens accounted for the greatest volume increase of foreign candidates. (Programs that participate in the Application Trends Survey are also able to benchmark their efforts and results with aggregated data for peer or stretch programs and see how their movement of key talent sources compares.)

Score-sending data from the Asian Geographic Trend Report shows that 78 percent of score reports from Chinese test takers are going to the US and less than 3 percent to China and Singapore.

Inference: While there is considerable interest among Chinese GMAT test takers to study outside of the Asia-Pacific region, the primary attraction is currently the US, and there appears to be a great deal of competition. This may spell an opportunity for programs located outside the US.


The Prospective Students Survey explores the decision-making process of future business school students, including their motivations, preferences, program choices, needs, and opinions. With responses made by more than 4,200 individuals from China, GMAT accepting schools show that both men and women in China are interested in improving their general business skills, value personal satisfaction/achievement, hope to increase their job opportunities, and consult school microbion feeds.

Drilling down to Chinese residents who are female, under 25, and have GMAT scores between 650 and 690, we see that bright, young Chinese women are primarily interested in non-MBA master’s programs in finance and accounting, and are most influenced by test prep companies, admissions consultants, and social networking sites. In contrast, more Chinese men are interested in MBA programs and report current students, professors, and employers as influencers. You can use the Prospective Students Survey Interactive Tool to fine tune your outreach efforts and craft messages about your program that are more likely to reach and resonate with your target.

Some programs may hesitate to recruit from the East/Southeast Asia region because of concerns about placing students after graduation. However, in the 2013 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey we see that more Chinese companies plan to hire recent MBAs and specialized master’s graduates in 2013 compared to 2012. In addition, 17 percent of companies based in the US are planning to place recent business school graduates in the East/Southeast Asia region, providing a healthy outlook for students looking to return home after graduation.

The GMAC Global Management Education Graduate Survey shows nine out of 10 Chinese citizens who studied in the US say the value they received for their educational investment was outstanding, excellent, or good. This is on par with their American counterparts. An equally high percentage of students endorse their US business schools; 90 percent would recommend the school they attended, compared to a worldwide average of 88 percent. Plus, 81 percent of Chinese citizens from the class of 2012 said they felt prepared to meet the challenges of today’s job market and that their education improved their chances of finding a job that would meet their expectations.

Inference: Chinese graduates feel they are ready to compete for jobs, and employers are hiring. Cultivating word-of-mouth referrals would be prudent. There is a wealth of data available to help tailor messages to appeal to these prospective students who appear to be a good fit with your program.
GMAC's Rich Data Guides Recruitment Efforts

Using China as an example, this article aims to illustrate the wide range and richness of the data that GMAC makes available to help guide recruitment efforts. Similar data and insights are available for all sizeable countries and regions. Certainly, the example is not complete, but the data is there waiting to be tailored to your program.

If you have participated in our surveys, are a GMAT accepting program, or a GMAC member, we encourage you to take advantage of the high quality data available from GMAC. Learn more.

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