Graduate Management News

July 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

New Resource to Help Candidates Make Sense of MBA Rankings Launched on

The interactive User’s Guide breaks down the methodologies of the five most popular MBA rankings to give candidates perspective on how rankings are determined and what they mean.

Rankings Guide

Last week, on—its student-facing website viewed by more than eight million unique visitors yearly—GMAC launched the User’s Guide to Full-Time MBA Rankings, a comprehensive online tool designed to help prospective graduate business students understand the ranking methodologies established by five well-known publications.

Rankings Guide on mba.comRankings are appealing to applicants because they provide some level of clarity and order to a marketplace of business schools that is highly complex. They curate diverse data points from a variety of sources into a simple, easily comparable measure of overall quality. The inherent issue with rankings, however, is that quality is highly subjective and there is no universally agreed upon way to measure it. For that reason, multiple rankings exist for full-time MBA programs, each with its own methodology that draws upon a different mix of data indicators and weights.

Available at, the interactive guide highlights each of the five major rankings—Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report—by breaking down their methodologies across standardized weighting categories, identifying distinctive aspects of each ranking, and presenting a compilation of other useful ranking information and analysis.

Breaking Down the Methodologies

Each ranking publication uses its own unique methodology to assign weights to various data indicators. The greater the weight, the greater influence it has on determining a school’s ranking.

The User’s Guide to Full-Time MBA Rankings breaks down how each of the methodologies assign weight across 14 standardized weighting categories. Interactive tree maps allow the user to explore how much weight the rankings place on each category. In addition, they clearly define each data indicator with dynamic captions and show the breakdown between fact-based and opinion-based indicators with a responsive sliding scale.

Defining Each Rankings’ Distinctive Emphasis

Comparing the five methodologies across standardized weighting categories allows the user to easily compare and contrast the approaches each publication takes to creating its methodology.

This guide also reveals the “distinctive emphasis” for each publication’s ranking—the weighting category or categories that most differentiate a specific publication’s methodology from the others. What makes a weighting category distinctive is that no more than one other ranking publication uses it, and if another publication does use it, they assign it less than half as much weight. Distinguishing among rankings in this way can help the user understand what factors contribute most to making each ranking unique.

Understanding How Rankings Change Year to Year

With each new edition of a ranking publication, a school’s ranking position can change. Some ranking publications see a bigger year-to-year difference in results than others.

The User’s Guide to Full-Time MBA Rankings analyzes the last two years’ editions of ranking publications and provides data on precisely how much the results changed in one year. In addition to detailing the average school’s position change—both overall and among schools ranked in the top 20—the guide shows the full distribution of a school’s position change.

These data provide helpful context to show just how volatile rankings can be over a short period of time, often for reasons having little to do with the quality of education being provided to students in MBA programs.

“Since rankings change year to year, candidates should only consider them as one aspect in their decision-making process,” added Chowfla.

Other Useful Information—All in One Place

Also detailed in the User’s Guide:

  • A description of which schools are included in each publication’s full-time MBA ranking;
  • GMAC data on how many students around the world use each ranking and how influential it is to their decision making;
  • Publication dates and frequency for each ranking;
  • Ranking history;
  • Accessibility of rankings data;
  • Additional business school rankings produced by each publication; and
  • The full-time MBA rankings for each of the five publications.

If your business school is interested in linking to the User’s Guide to Full-Time MBA Rankings on your website, contact Matt Hazenbush, Research Communications Manager, at