Six Predictions for 2011

GMAT Prep Washington DCIt wouldn’t be right to start off the new year without some predictions about what will happen with the GMAT and in graduate school admissions in 2011. While last year’s predictions of 3D GMAT classes and a free solar-powered Kindle for every HBS student never quite materialized (we’ve still got our fingers crossed), we’re feeling bold enough to issues some new predictions for the coming year.

Without further ado, here are six things that we expect will happen in the GMAT and admissions spaces in the year ahead:

More Schools Will Adopt Video and Other Less Traditional “Essay” Questions
We’ve previously written about the Rise of the Multimedia MBA Admissions “Essay” which so far has ranged from a mini PowerPoint presentation to an audio clip to recorded video responses to questions. Admissions officers like these because they give them a short, easily digestible, real glimpse into each applicant’s personality and character. (Watching a series of short videos also can be less mind-numbing than reading dozens of similar-looking essays.) We predict that more schools will at least experiment with these formats in 2011, and some may even start to replace face-to-face admissions interviews with video interviews conducted online, particularly for applicants in remote locations.

Business Schools Will Place Even More Emphasis on Compelling, Plausible Career Visions
Particularly given the contraction of the banking industry over the past two years, business schools simply cannot exist as finance factories that place top-performing graduates in investment banking analyst positions -– nor do they want to. Top schools are much more interested in producing thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs now than ever before, so more emphasis in your applications will need to be placed on having a compelling vision –- and in demonstrating that you’ve already taken strides toward it professionally and academically. Even more than before, it won’t be enough to simply be “qualified” for business school; applicants will need to demonstrate plans to capitalize on their qualifications and potential, using business school as a springboard to success. We predict this will be the case in 2011, even as the economy improves and the job market gets rosier for MBA grads.

At Least One Other Top-Ranked MBA Program Will Follow Wharton’s Lead in Ongoing Alumni Education
Last month The Wharton School made a splash by revamping its curriculum and announcing a new commitment to ongoing executive education for its huge alumni base. In the new program (the details of which are still being finalized), all Wharton alumni will be eligible to attend enrichment classes every seven years. We’ve long advocated that schools’ jobs are never done when it comes to education their students and alumni, and we’re glad to see Wharton take the bold step of committing to keeps its alumni current in their education. We predict that at least one other top business school will follow suit in 2011.

The GMAT Will Continue Its Evolution into a Predominantly Problem-Solving/Critical-Thinking Test
For years the GMAT has been moving towards rewarding true reasoning abilities and minimizing the advantage for those who simply memorize facts and formulas, and it has been successful in doing so particularly with Sentence Correction questions that require a logical meaning of the sentence (e.g., a metaphor that is properly constructed as a metaphor, not one that actually signals truth) and Data Sufficiency questions that require true analysis and don’t lend themselves to grinding-the-algebra solutions. The GMAT has found a winning formula that separates critical thinkers and problem solvers from the masses, and will continue to emphasize these skills in its multiple-choice question pool as well as in its development of the new Integrated Reasoning section (but we’ll save predictions on that section for 2012, when the questions will become live).

The GMAT Will Continue to Be the Dominant Test Among Business School Applicants
We give ETS a great deal of credit for convincing a majority of the top-ranked MBA programs to accept the GRE General Test in addition to the GMAT. However, The GRE’s progress with applicants has been much slower. Despite the test’s lower price and the fact that the GRE is taken more than twice as many times per year as the GMAT, admissions officers at top business schools have so far reported that the percentage of applicants who submit GRE scores has been “insignificant” or “in the single digits.” We don’t expect schools to back away from the GRE — especially with a new version of the test coming later this year — but we predict that pure business school-minded applicants will continue to choose the GMAT in overwhelming numbers in 2011. The GRE simply has too much of a stigma among hardcore business school applicants (“Will I not be viewed as a serious enough applicant? Is the test too easy?”) for them to stray too far from the GMAT.

Graduate School Rankings Transparency Will Improve
This year some pundits exposed a few ways in which law schools were potentially gaming the U.S. News graduate school rankings, including withholding employment statistics and allegedly moving some lower-scoring students into their part-time programs so that those students’ scores would not factor into the U.S. News rankings calculations. While the magazine has so far been noncommittal about making changes to how its rankings are calculated, we expect that the mounting pressure (created by groups like Law School Transparency) will ultimately lead to bigger changes in the rankings for all graduate schools in 2011.

What do you predict for 2011? Comment below, or stop by our Facebook page or find us on Twitter and let us know!