Research & Marketing Intelligence in 2021: A strong year where data and insights focuses on wisdom and decision making

Maite Salazar, PhD, GMAC Chief Marketing Officer

Color Headshot of Maite SalazarWe are living in times of forced change and uncertainty. Every day we face the challenge of making decisions, in many cases, very radical and transformational decisions, and sometimes without the slightest sense of what is coming next. Saying that graduate business schools are facing unprecedented pressures is an understatement. 

In this environment, the famous quote from the American biologist Edward O. Wilson, “we are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom”, seems to be a good fit. With these challenges in mind, GMAC continues to be deeply committed to finding wisdom and insights within the data and information, on behalf of our graduate management education (GME) community. Our Research and Market Intelligence teams are dedicated to putting together the right information at the right time, synthesizing it, thinking critically about it and spreading it across our GME community to help you make important choices with market intelligence at your fingertips.

We attempt to structure our research calendar according to the academic journey so you can get the right insights at the right time. In reflecting on 2021:

  • The first few months of the year were all about helping you understand future cohorts of GME candidates so that you could shape your marketing, recruiting and admission activity. During this time the Research and Market Intelligence functions published four major reports (including briefs on diverse populations), a series of blogs, articles and an interactive tool using our annual Prospective Students Survey1. The sample of respondents for the 2021 reports is nearly 8,500 candidates across all major regions. In addition to its core demographical and motivational questions that allow us to build trends that go back five to ten years, in 2021, we added several questions to stay relevant with our times. Those questions revolved around the impact of COVID on the decision to pursue GME, Brexit and how it was being perceived after its implementation in (January 1st 2021) and finally, how candidates perceive the value of standardized testing in the admission process.
  • In the second quarter we shifted from the candidate and looked at the perceptions of the labor market with the annual Corporate Recruiters Survey2. The survey, administered in partnership with AMBA, MBA CSEA and EFMD, captured the reactions of 570 employees worldwide. There were a number of derivative deliverables from the survey including a webinar, blog and industry report. Schools which received enough respondents (>10), not only received the industry report, but got access to a personalized benchmark report with the reviews and responses of those employers recruiting from them. In addition to COVID related questions, this year we introduced a section regarding the perceived value of online programs in comparison with in-person alternatives. The reason behind this research effort is to arm schools and career services teams with strong arguments to showcase the value and the ROI of their programs hearing it directly from the ‘final consumer’ of GME talent. 
  • Quarter three builds upon the value of GME from the perspective of current students and those completing their program before the end of the year (by December 2021). The new Enrolled Students report and benchmarking tool, available to participating business schools have been recently launched (September 1st, 2021).  With over 1,000 respondents across all geographies, the goal is to better understand the B-school experience from the lens of current students and recent alumni, while it is still fresh. It also inquired about the ease and speed to get back into the job market. The feedback of this study is not only relevant to provide more and better arguments to advocate for GME, but it also gives actionable and specific feedback to business schools about their programs and the experiences delivered to candidates.
  • The last quarter is all about YOU, business schools, by diving into the annual Applications Trends Survey3. With the survey just closed and close to 1,000 respondents sharing their application, acceptance, and candidates’ profiles data, the report will help admissions, recruitment and marketing professionals understand key trends in the industry and their own data, via a personalized benchmarking tool. The Application Trends Survey is not just a magnificent way for you to compare your program in the context of the industry, but also, the aggregated numbers provide a good diagnosis of the health of GME, by looking at the weighted absolute change levels in the number of applications. Changes in this figure clearly signal if GME is expanding or contracting across the world and in which regions the sentiments are more acute.

GMAC wants to wrap up 2021 advocating strongly for GME. This will be accomplished through a pioneering white paper that compares data for the same 6400 candidates before and after completing their GME degree. In this report we will explore how GME delivers positive ROI at three levels: professionally, personally and financially. The academic report will be accompanied by a set of candidate--facing articles and multi-channel marketing outreach to advocate for GME on behalf of the industry. GMAC is very excited about this new study and looks forward to hearing your feedback.

Students Looking Thoughtful

In addition to these major research programs, our traditional GMAT volumes (registrations and testing) reports4  continue to be updated on a quarterly basis to provide a frequent snapshot of the trends in the marketplace. Looking at a deeper regional analysis, the Geographic Trends reports for 2020 and 2021 are currently in the midst of seeing the public light, with expected launch dates in early September and December.

We also look forward to releasing one of our most valuable and popular interactive tools for member schools, the Competitive Intelligence report in the last quarter of 2021. This highly interactive tool provides you with the most insightful way to understand your GMAT score sending candidates in relation to up to five other competing programs.

In summary, GMAC is aspiring to offer you the tools, information and hopefully some wisdom through our Research and Market Intelligence services. All of our reports, articles, data tools, blogs and other research deliverables are grounded in the highest quality standards of research methodologies to bring you the best data and a reliable interpretation of what is happening in the GME industry. Please know that we appreciate your participation in the GMAC research studies, ongoing feedback and support. 

To participate in an upcoming study, please email

1Prospective Students Survey is a rolling monthly survey where over 260,000 candidates are randomly selected to be surveyed about their perceptions, motivations, barriers and GME journey.
Corporate Recruiters Survey is an annual survey, in market between February and March, where participating schools provide a list of hiring companies they work with in order to place their GME graduates. The survey report focuses on the demand of GME talent and the trends in hiring, salaries and assessment of GME skills
3Application Trends Survey is an annual research study conducted between July and September targeting Business School admissions officers across the world to report data, on a standardized way, about their GME programs.