Rethinking Test-Centric Admissions

Learning Ecosystems and Leadership November 18, 2020

In 2020, Asia’s GDP is forecasted to take over the rest of the world, with the emerging markets of China, India, and Southeast Asia driving the majority of the growth.  Yet in much of the emerging world, students don’t have enough access to high-quality education domestically.  Also, talented candidates from emerging market countries don’t have access to the best schools in advanced economies because they lack the access and resources to apply or attend.  

Outdated Approaches to Admissions Evaluation

Test-centric admissions policies create barriers for those from lower socioeconomic and disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, standardized exams required for leading universities are exceptionally expensive.  Beyond the price to take the exam, in the emerging world, lack of testing availability is common. Quality preparation for these high-stakes exams is even more scarce and only available to the highest socioeconomic status groups.

Removing Barriers to Human Capital Development 

A lack of high-end talent that can innovate, manage, create, and apply could lead to a global talent crunch, with Asia and the emerging world particularly exposed to this talent deficit. That is why human capital development is paramount to drive the economic growth and transformation of the emerging world.

In the hope of creating more access to talented students to enter higher education, The Asia School of Business (ASB) in collaboration with MIT Sloan has adopted a test-optional admissions process. For many students, testing would be a significant barrier to attending a school like ASB. But our admission policy has resulted in only about a quarter of our students coming from advanced economies. 

How to Tap into the Global Talent Pool

We suggest a holistic application process. As an MIT Sloan partner school, we have a high bar academically. But academics are only one element of our evaluation process. We look at an applicant’s history of impact in tandem with personal attributes that forecast post-graduation success. We have designed our academic assessment process to look deeper into a candidate’s profile to find evidence of success in their context. Most of the time, our main concern is about the applicant’s quantitative ability. In such cases, we conditionally offer admission to the student and require them to participate in our summer online quantitative analysis course before the start of the program. While the course is self-paced, the students have access to faculty members. The pass rate is more than 95%.  

Spreading Economic Growth 

The results of ASB’s test-optional policy have given us access to incredible students from underserved markets. One student from rural Ghana, Awal Suddeeq, specifically came to ASB to help grow his pre-MBA cosmetics manufacturing business.  Over the summer he took the skills he learned from his first year in the program and launched five new premium product lines under the Avela brand and also implemented a new e-commerce strategy.  Because of this impact, he was also able to hire five permanent employees and ten agents from his community to help manage the growth generated from the new products. He will be exporting products across Africa and Asia.  

We believe leaders like Awal are critical for the economic growth and job creation needed to uplift the emerging world. Over 80% of our graduates work outside of advanced economies, leading the way to help drive economic growth and creating solutions to complex problems in parts of the world that need leadership the most.

Leaders of Tomorrow

A test-optional admissions policy can give students access to world-class education and connects them with opportunities that can help uplift themselves and the world. It eliminates barriers of entry, especially for students from emerging countries and disadvantaged backgrounds. ASB’s approach to admissions evaluation allows us to evaluate potential leaders as a whole person for how they can contribute, lead, and make an impact in their own way.  

Test-centric admission approaches had a place at a different point in time.  But now, with greater access to data and research on student outcomes, higher education institutions are ready for more robust and inclusive admissions evaluation processes.