Factors Determining Success in a Graduate Business Program

By Braunstein, Andrew W. | College Student Journal, September 2002 | Go to article overview
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Factors Determining Success in a Graduate Business Program


Braunstein, Andrew W., College Student Journal


This study uses correlation and regression techniques to determine which variables are most closely related to the academic success of the recent graduates of a college's MBA program. The factors traditionally used by the MBA program as the primary determinants of admissions decisions--undergraduate grade point average and GMAT score--have the strongest positive correlations with graduate grade point average. Other variables of statistical significance include gender, type of undergraduate degree obtained, and years of work experience. The last factor is discussed in light of a recent proposal to waive the GMAT requirement for certain MBA applicants.

Introduction and Literature Review:

In recent years, a number of studies have been conducted which examine the academic performance of students enrolled in Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs. Most of the research has utilized data from single institutions, with the goal being to analyze which factors are most closely related to academic success, as measured by graduate grade point average. The current study makes use of data on recent graduates (1997-2000) of the MBA program at a medium-sized comprehensive private college in the New York metropolitan area. The roles of the traditional admissions decisions factors--undergraduate grade point average and Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) score--in predicting graduate academic success are examined. Other variables included in the analysis are type of undergraduate degree obtained, undergraduate institution, gender, and years of work experience. Special attention is paid to the impact of the last variable.

Ahmadi, Raiszadeh, Farhad, and Helms (1997) examined the relationship between graduate GPA and a number of factors for a sample of 279 students enrolled in an AACSB-accredited MBA program. Using bivariate regression models, they found that undergraduate GPA and GMAT scores were significant variables in predicting academic success. They suggested, however, that the admissions process should also take into account non-quantitative measures or assessments such as writing samples and interviews. Wright and Palmer (1997) applied analysis of variance techniques (using a sample size of 201) to examine whether GMAT scores, undergraduate GPA, and age were statistically significantly different among groups of graduate students they had classified as high risk, questionable, or no risk based on their current graduate grade point averages. The authors concluded that the use of total GMAT scores in the admissions process may be misleading, and that admissions personnel may want to pay more attention to the specific verbal and quantitative components. Carver and King (1994) analyzed data for 467 students in an off-campus MBA program. They found that GMAT scores, undergraduate grade point average, and work experience were the best predictors of academic success. For students admitted as special exceptions, undergraduate institution and undergraduate major were found to be among the best predictors of graduate school grades. Arnold (1996) studied the academic performance of 126 individuals from an executive MBA program. He found that GMAT scores were the best indicator of academic success, but that including certain qualitative factors improved the overall fit of the model.

Whereas the works cited above took a number of independent variables into account, some studies have focused on the relationship between graduate academic performance and a single factor. Palmer and Wright (1996) specifically examined the relationship between age and performance in a graduate business program. They found that age was not statistically significant when the entire sample of students was taken into account. However, it was a significant factor for individuals who scored poorly on the verbal portion of the GMAT and for those in the upper portion of the age distribution.

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