Methodology: 2021 Best Business Schools Rankings | Top Business Schools

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Apr 19, 2020

For the U.S. News Best Business Schools rankings, all 477 MBA programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International were surveyed in fall 2019 and early 2020. A total of 364 responded.

Of those, U.S. News ranked 131 schools because they provided enough of the required data on their full-time MBA program and the full-time program’s 2019 graduating class for us to calculate rankings, based on a weighted average of the indicators described below.

Quality Assessment (weighted by 0.40)

Peer assessment score (0.25): In fall 2019, business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs were asked to rate programs on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark “don’t know.” Forty-six percent of those surveyed responded.

A school’s score is the average of all the respondents who rated it. Responses of “don’t know” counted neither for nor against a school.

Recruiter assessment score (0.15): In fall 2019, as in previous years, U.S. News asked corporate recruiters and company contacts, whose names were supplied to U.S. News in summer 2019 by MBA programs previously ranked by U.S. News or that were eligible to be ranked, to rate all full-time programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark “don’t know.”

A school’s score is the average of all the respondents who rated it in the three most recent years of survey results. Responses of “don’t know” counted neither for nor against a school.

This year for the third time, MBA programs that received fewer than 10 recruiter and company contact ratings in the three most recent years of recruiter survey results received the lowest score in this indicator achieved by any ranked MBA program for the purposes of calculating the rankings. These MBA programs display an “N/A” instead of a recruiter assessment score published on usnews.com.

U.S. News collected both the peer assessment and recruiter assessment score data.

Placement Success (weighted by 0.35)

U.S. News uses the MBA CSEA Standards for Reporting Employment Statistics as the basis for defining how MBA programs should report full-time MBA employment statistics and other career information, including starting base salaries, signing bonuses, and what proportion of MBA graduates have jobs at graduation and three months after. Using these industry standards has helped U.S. News ensure prospective students have accurate and comparable employment information for each school.

Mean starting salary and bonus (0.14): This is the average starting salary and bonus of 2019 graduates of a full-time MBA program. Salary figures are based on the number of graduates who reported data. The mean signing bonus is weighted by the proportion of those graduates who reported a bonus because not everyone who reported a base salary figure reported a signing bonus.

Employment rates for full-time MBA program graduates: This is the employment rate for 2019 graduates of a full-time MBA program. Those not seeking jobs or for whom no job-seeking information is available are excluded.

If the proportions of graduates for whom no job-seeking information is available and who are not seeking jobs are high, then the information is not used in calculating the rankings. Employment rates at graduation (0.07) and three months after graduation (0.14) are used in the ranking model.

Student Selectivity (weighted by 0.25)

Mean GMAT and GRE scores (0.1625): This is the average GMAT score and average GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical writing scores of full-time MBA students entering in fall 2019. U.S. News uses both GMAT and GRE scores in the ranking model for MBA programs that reported both scores. Using the GRE scores allows U.S. News to take into account the admissions test scores of the entire entering full-time MBA class. This year for the second year in row, U.S. News included analytical writing scores as part of the methodology.

For the third consecutive year, MBA programs that reported that less than 50% of their full-time fall 2019 entering students submitted average GMAT scores and average GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical scores received less credit for those test scores in the rankings.

Specifically, their weighted percentile distributions were adjusted downward by the proportion of the percentage of the student body that submitted test scores in relation to the 50% threshold. For example, if 25% of the entering class submitted test scores, then the test scores were reduced in value in the ranking model by 50%. For the purposes of determining the proportion of full-time fall 2019 entering students with scores, the percentage submitting GMAT and GRE were totaled.

Scores on the GMAT range from 200 to 800. Only GMAT scores are shown on the ranking table. These GMAT and GRE data are only available via a U.S. News Business School Compass subscription.

Mean undergraduate GPA (0.075): This is the average undergraduate GPA of those students entering the full-time program in fall 2019. This year for the third time, schools that reported that less than 50% of their entering students submitted average undergraduate GPAs received less credit for those undergraduate GPAs in the rankings.

Specifically, their undergraduate GPA was adjusted downward by the proportion of the percentage of the student body that submitted GPAs in relation to the 50% threshold. For example, if 25% of the entering class submitted undergraduate GPAs, then the undergraduate GPAs were reduced in value in the ranking model by 50%.

Acceptance rate (0.0125): This is the percentage of applicants to the full-time program in fall 2019 who were accepted.

Data was standardized so that each school’s value was compared with the mean and standard deviations of all other schools, and standardized scores were weighted, totaled and rescaled so that the top school received 100; others received their percentage of the top score. Graduate business programs were then numerically ranked in descending order based on their scores.

To be included in the full-time MBA rankings, a program had to have 20 or more of its 2019 full-time MBA graduates seeking employment.

For a school to have its employment data considered in the ranking model, at least 50% of its total 2019 full-time MBA graduates needed to be seeking work.

MBA programs that did not meet either of the above employment criteria are listed as unranked (see below for an explanation of unranked).

These rankings, including of executive MBA programs, are based solely on ratings by business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs from the list of schools surveyed. They were asked to nominate up to 15 programs for excellence in each of the areas listed. This year, there were three new specialty rankings added: business analytics, real estate and project management.

Those schools receiving the most votes in each specialty are numerically ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received, as long as the school or program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area. This means that schools ranked at the bottom of each specialty ranking have received at least seven nominations.

Schools Listed With a Ranking Range

U.S. News has numerically ranked the top three-quarters of the MBA programs schools. For schools in the bottom quarter of the rankings, U.S. News made an editorial decision to only display the bottom quartile ranking range. Schools listed with a ranking range are listed alphabetically.

U.S. News will supply schools listed in the ranking range with their numerical ranks if they submit a request following the procedures listed in the Information for School Officials.

If a school is listed as unranked, that means that U.S. News did not calculate a numerical rank because the school did not supply enough key statistical data. Programs marked as unranked are listed alphabetically below those marked with a ranking range.

All 477 schools appear in the online directory. The schools provided the data listed in the rankings tables and on school profile pages. If a data point is listed as “N/A,” the school did not provide it.


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