GMAC launches user’s guide to full-time MBA rankings: Identify the ranking methodologies

GMAC launches users guide to full-time MBA rankings

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has unveiled its users’ guide to full-time MBA rankings, a comprehensive online tool designed to help prospective graduate business students better understand the ranking methodologies established by five well-known publications. Housed on – the council’s student facing website viewed by more than eight million unique visitors yearly – this guide clearly summarises and compares the content included in each of the five ranking methodologies.

Important pointers by Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC

  • Our research shows, that individuals applying to graduate management education programmes consider rankings an influential part of their decision-making process
  • Though rankings exist to provide useful information to judge the quality of MBA programmes, the existence of multiple rankings contributes to confusion among applicants
  • This resource has been created to clarify the differences among the various rankings, as no ranking methodology can speak about the individual needs and aspirations of every candidate considering a business degree.

Why rankings are appealing?

  • Rankings are appealing to applicants because they provide some level of clarity and order to a marketplace of business schools that is highly complex
  • They curate diverse data points from a variety of sources into a simple, easily comparable measure of overall quality
  • The inherent issue with rankings, however, is that quality is highly subjective and there is no universally agreed way to measure it. For that reason, multiple rankings exist for full-time MBA programmes, each with its own methodology that draws upon a different mix of data indicators and weights.

The guide is available at, and highlights each of the five major rankings (Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report) by breaking down their methodologies across standardised weighting categories, identifying distinctive aspects of each ranking, and presenting a compilation of other useful ranking information and analysis.

Breaking down the methodologies:

Each ranking publication uses its own unique methodology to assign weights to various data indicators. The greater the weight, the greater influence it has on determining a school’s ranking.

The guide breaks down how each of the methodologies assign weight across 14 standardised weighting categories. Interactive tree maps allow the user to explore how much weight the rankings place on each category, in addition to clearly defining each data indicator with dynamic captions and showing the breakdown between fact-based and opinion-based indicators with a responsive sliding scale.

Defining each rankings’ distinctive emphasis:

Comparing the five methodologies across standardised weighting categories, allows the user to easily compare and contrast the approaches each publication takes to creating its methodology.

This guide also reveals the “distinctive emphasis” for each publication’s ranking – the weighting category or categories that most differentiate a specific publication’s methodology from the others. What makes a weighting category distinctive is that no more than one other ranking publication uses it, and if another publication does use it, they assign it less than half as much weight.

Distinguishing among rankings in this way can help the user understand what factors contribute most to making each ranking unique.

Understanding how rankings change year-to-year

With each new edition of a ranking publication, a school’s ranking position can change. Some ranking publications see a bigger year-to-year differences in results than others.

The user’s guide analyses the last two years’ editions of ranking publications, providing data on precisely how much the results changed in one year. In addition to detailing the average school’s position change – both overall and among schools ranked in the top 20 – the guide shows the full distribution of a school’s position change.

These data provide helpful context to show just how volatile rankings can be over a short period of time, often for reasons having little to do with the quality of education being provided to students in MBA programmes.

Details mentioned in the user’s guide:

  • A description of schools are included in each publication’s full-time MBA ranking
  • GMAC data on how many students around the world use each ranking and how influential it is to their decision making
  • Publication dates and frequency for each ranking
  • Ranking history
  • Accessibility of rankings data
  • Additional business school rankings produced by each publication
  • Full-time MBA rankings for each of the five publications
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