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商业

揭开GMAT考试的暴利之谜

John A. Byrne 2014年02月14日

MBA学位堪称战后最成功的教育产品,应运而生的GMAT考试也随之发展为一桩利润丰厚的全球性大买卖。2012年,GMAT组织方收取了8,770万美元的考试费,但管理考试的成本仅为4,570万美元。也就是说,它的实际毛利率大约为48%,比苹果目前的毛利率高出近11个百分点。

    包括最高层在内的大多数GMAC员工都在弗吉尼亚州雷斯顿城镇中心 (Reston Town Center)两个安静的楼层办公,谷歌(Google)、劳斯莱斯(Rolls-Royce)和美国大学理事会(College Board)也在这栋现代化写字楼中租用了办公空间。办公区灯火通明,除了一间咖啡厅和一个测试中心外,还有一个两层的瀑布结构,它被建筑师称为“纪念碑似的”开放式楼梯。

    一家非营利性组织能够提供如此优厚的薪酬和待遇,主要是因为GMAC在管理学研究生项目入学考试领域占据着近乎垄断的地位。“由于它的支撑行业不断增长,这门生意一直非常健康,”达特茅斯学院(Dartmouth College)塔克商学院(Tuck School of Business)院长保罗•达诺斯解释说。“想申请最好的商学院,就必须参加GMAT考试。但也有几千家学院对这项考试没有要求。问题是:商学院是否认为它有价值,特别是那些位于印度、中国和拉美,规模在未来会不断增长的商学院?”

    事实上,许多成立时间不长、位于发展中经济体的商学院并不要求申请人出示GMAT成绩,而这项考试的高成本就是背后的原因之一。班加罗尔印度管理学院(Indian Institute of Management)院长德文纳特•蒂鲁伯蒂估计,在全球商业教育市场上,多达三分之二的项目对这项考试没有要求。“GMAT考试太贵,缺乏亲和力,”蒂鲁伯蒂说。他指出,在印度更受欢迎的普通入学考试(CAT)的成本约为1,500卢比(约合25美元),而GMAT的考试费用约为1.5万卢比。去年,近17.5万名印度学生参加了CAT考试,2012年的这个数字为19.5万,而当年参加 GMAT考试的印度学生仅有22,803人。

    一些商学院院长也表达了另一个忧虑:GMAT考试偏重于评估定量和口头表达能力,但没有衡量申请人身上其他一些同样很重要的特质。“我认为我们现在需要不同的工具来识别不同的技能,”西班牙IE商学院(IE Business School)院长圣地亚哥•伊涅盖兹•德佐伊诺说。“如果我们想吸引创业者,那么GMAT考试就没有什么用处。它主要衡量的是分析能力,但如果你非常看重领导力、创新精神、创造力和企业家精神,GMAT考试没办法衡量这些特质。”

    这家组织的成功在很大程度上应该归功于大卫•威尔逊,这位身材高瘦的加拿大会计师于1995年被聘为GMAC总裁兼CEO。威尔逊在职业生涯的早期曾是一位商学院教授,先后任教于德克萨斯大学(University of Texas)和哈佛商学院。1995年感恩节假期期间,威尔逊刚刚从安永会计师事务所(Ernst & Young)加拿大分公司专业发展主管任上提前退休,正在考虑重返教师岗位,突然接到了光辉国际咨询顾问公司( Korn/Ferry)一位猎头打来的电话。

    虽然GMAC在商学院圈子之外鲜为人知,但它的根源可以追溯到9家商学院的院长与ETS在1953年召开的一场会议。安排这场聚会是为了讨论,是否可以创建一项考试,用以帮助商学院评估申请人在多大程度上具备成功完成商业和管理课程的潜力。但直到1970年,30家商学院的院长才发起了这家独立于ETS的组织。然而,GMAC当时甚至连一个办公的地方都没有,这种状况一直持续到1982年。就在这一年,GMAC聘请加州大学洛杉矶分校(UCLA)商学院副院长比尔•布勒扎姆勒出任组织的第一任总裁。他与5位员工在加州圣莫尼卡一间小办公室办公,主要工作是监督一家规模非常大的外部承包商,即ETS。布勒扎姆勒说:“许多人当时连GMAC是做什么的都不知道。”。

    拥有加州大学伯克利分校(UC-Berkeley)哈斯商学院(Haas School)MBA学位的威尔逊洞察到了GMAC的发展前景。辗转洛杉矶、纽约和克利夫兰等地、经过委员会成员的面试之后,他最终被聘为该组织第二任总裁兼CEO。现年72岁的威尔逊回忆说,这家组织在1995年的总收入大约为1,400万美元,其中的1,230万美元落入了ETS的口袋。“就连考试指南和预算都是ETS准备的,我们的资金也是由他们来管理,”他说。“我们每月都得向他们要大约20万美元,用来支付工资和租金。”

    威尔逊把这家组织搬到了华盛顿郊区一个隶属于弗吉尼亚州的办公园区,还提出了一个由三方面组成的发展战略:1)走向全球,2)所有业务层面均采用先进的技术,3)稳固GMAC的财务基础。当时,GMAC的账目资金几乎只能满足45天的营运需要。

    The majority of GMAC's staff, including its most senior officers, work on two quiet floors of a modern office park in Reston Town Center, Va., where Google (GOOG), Rolls-Royce, and the College Board also lease space. The brightly lit facility features what its architects call a "monumental" open staircase with a two-story waterfall structure, a cafe, and a testing center.

    Such generous compensation and treatment at a non-profit comes largely because of GMAC's near-monopoly on the entrance test for graduate business programs. "It has been a very healthy business because of the growth in the underlying industry," explains Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business. "People have to take the test to apply to the best business schools. But several thousand schools don't require the test. The question is: Do schools see a value in it, especially schools that will grow in India, China and Latin America?"

    In fact, many of the newer business schools in developing economies do not require the GMAT, in part because of the test's cost. Devanath Tirupati, dean of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, estimates that as much as two-thirds of the global market for business programs doesn't require the exam. "The GMAT is too expensive and not accessible," says Tirupati, who notes that the cost of the more widely popular Common Admission Test (CAT) in India is about 1,500 rupees, or less than $25, compared to about 15,000 rupees for the GMAT. Nearly 175,000 students took the CAT last year in India. And 195,000 people took the CAT exam in 2012, while only 22,803 Indian residents took the GMAT that year.

    Some business deans also express concern that the GMAT fails to measure attributes of candidates that are as important as the quant and verbal skills the test assesses. "I think we need different instruments to identify different skills today," says Santiago Iniguez de Onzono, dean of IE Business School in Spain. "If we want to attract entrepreneurs, then the GMAT is useless. It mostly measures analytical skills, but if you think about the importance of leadership, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship, the GMAT doesn't measure that."

    Much of the success of the organization behind the test can be attributed to David Wilson, a tall, lean Canadian accountant who was recruited to become president and CEO of GMAC in 1995. Wilson, who in his early career had been a B-school professor at the University of Texas and Harvard Business School, had just taken an early retirement from Ernst & Young. He had left his job as national director of professional development and was thinking of returning to teaching when he got a call from a Korn/Ferry headhunter during the Thanksgiving Day holiday in 1995.

    Though GMAC was little known outside the business school world, its early roots could be traced to a meeting between nine business school deans and the Educational Testing Service in 1953. The pow-wow was arranged to discuss the possibility of an exam that would assess applicants on their potential for success in business and management courses. But it wasn't until 1970 that the deans of 30 graduate business schools launched the organization as independent from ETS. GMAC, however, didn't even have an office until 1982, when the council hired its first president, Bill Broesamle, then an associate dean at UCLA's business school. He worked out of a small office in Santa Monica, Calif. with five employees who largely oversaw one very large external contractor, the Educational Testing Service. "Many people didn't know what GMAC was," says Broesamle.

    Wilson, who has an MBA from UC-Berkeley's Haas School, saw the promise of the opportunity, interviewed with board members in Los Angeles, New York, and Cleveland, and was eventually offered the job to become the second president and CEO of the organization. Now 72 years old, Wilson, recalls that the organization's total revenues in 1995 were about $14 million, of which $12.3 million went to ETS. "Even the guidebooks and budget was prepared by ETS and they managed our money, too," he says. "We would ask for a couple of hundred thousand every month to pay for payroll and our lease."

    Wilson moved the organization to an office park in the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Virginia and set out a three-pillar strategy for growth: 1) To go global, 2) To embrace technology in all aspects of the business, and 3) To put GMAC on a solid financial footing. Back then, the organization had little more than 45 days of cash to run its business.

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