GMAT Volume Flat Overall in 2009

Earlier this week the Graduate Management Admission Council released its official tally for the number of GMAT exams taken in 2009, and it came out to be 267,000, narrowly surpassing last year’s record of 264,700. While it’s good to see the number continuing to rise (and GMAC’s press release goes out of its way to emphasize that the 2009 number is its highest ever), the main headline we see is that the number of tests taken grew less than 1% in 2009.

GMAT Tests Taken by Year(Note that this number represents the number of tests taken, not the the number of people who took the test. When people talk about these numbers they tend to use those two figures interchangeably, but here GMAC did not release any official data about the number of people who took the GMAT in 2009.)

Aside from the headline growth numbers, there are some interesting tidbits in the release regarding the GMAT’s increasingly international flavor:

Beyond growing larger, the GMAT testing pool is becoming more international and increasingly diverse. According to analyses of the most recent GMAT testing year, which ran from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, approximately 51 percent of the people who took the GMAT during the period were non-U.S. citizens—the first time since the exam’s creation in 1954 that test takers who were citizens of nations other than the United States outnumbered Americans.

The figures show that China and India have played a particularly large role in the globalization of management education. The number of GMAT exams taken by Chinese citizens rose 35 percent in testing year 2009 compared with the year before, to 23,550; the number is up 181 percent since 2005, when it was 8,393. Tests taken by citizens of India were up 7 percent in testing year 2009, to 30,633, capping a 128 percent increase during the past five years.

The number of GMAT exams taken by women hit a record 104,880 during testing year 2009, an increase of 36 percent during the past five years and the first time female test takers have exceeded 100,000 in a single testing year. The number of GMAT test takers under 24 grew to 79,577 in 2009, a 132 percent increase from 2005.

That last fact is particularly interesting: In 2005, the number of GMAT test takers under the age of 24 must have been around 34,000. Now, it’s nearly 80,000. With top business schools like Harvard making a public push to attract younger applicants, we wonder: Which is the cause and which is the effect? No matter which factor is the driver of this growth, we expect this trend to continue in the coming years.

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