New Test For MBA Candidates

Researchers at Yale and the University of Michigan have spent two years developing a new test to assess business school candidates. The Successful Intelligence Assessment (SIA) test is not expected to replace the GMAT any time soon, but may be offered as a supplement to the GMAT. The SIA test assesses an applicant's potential for business success.

The SIA is based on the "successful intelligence" theory devised by Robert J. Sternberg, one of the primary researchers on the project. The theory proposes that analytical, creative, and practical abilities are all requirements of success. While the GMAT stresses math skills, the SIA tests a person's "acquisition and utilization of tacit knowledge" - otherwise known as common sense.

Applicants taking the SIA will not find multiple choice questions. Instead, they will write essays in response to issues posed in various business scenarios that they will read during the test. They will also rate possible outcomes to the scenarios from a list in the test. An example described in a Business Week article about the test depicts a human resources manager faced with low employee morale. Test takers are asked to explain what they see as the main problem, what they would do to address the problem, and potential obstacles to their solutions.

Current MBA candidates from the University of Michigan were given the SIA test in two pilot programs. It was found that women tend to outperform men on the SIA test, contrary to standard performance results on the GMAT. In addition, the SIA "greatly reduced differences [in test scores] among ethnic groups," according to Mr. Sternberg.

Before business schools can offer the SIA exam, they will need to be persuaded that the test is a valid predictor of MBA success. An obstacle to using the exam is that the grading cannot be automated due to the subjective nature of essay analysis, and thus the cost of administering the exam will be high.

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