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Little Change Year Over Year in Poets&Quants’ MBA Rankings

Poets&Quants today released its 2013 composite ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the United States, revealing that very little has changed since last year. In fact, the top eight programs this year are exactly the same, in the same order, as they were last year. The only change among the top 10 schools was that ninth and tenth place last year (Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School) flip-flopped this year.

P&Q arrives at its rankings by weighing five other leading MBA rankings: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Economist, the Financial Times, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report. The composite ranking, P&Q asserts, helps reduce flaws in the other rankings caused by faulty survey technique, biased methodology or other issues. “The composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent,” reads the P&Q report.

In terms of what the “real signal” is, here are some of P&Q’s conclusions: This year and last, Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania held steady in spots one through four, but the underlying index scores in the composite ranking were especially close this year, with just fractions of a point separating the programs.

Despite the very close scores, P&Q pointed out that Chicago Booth outranked Wharton for the fourth consecutive year, “giving slightly more credence to the view that it is no longer Harvard-Stanford-Wharton at the top.” Wharton was the only school among the top 10 to see application volume decline (it dropped 5.8 percent) for the class of 2015. Chicago Booth, in contrast, reported the greatest application volume increase (9.9 percent) rendering it slightly more selective than Wharton for the first time ever.

Overall, the top 10 programs are having a great year, with all but one reporting an increase in MBA applications, allowing most to be even more selective than usual. Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) averages for the class of 2015 likewise rose at nine of the ten schools, breaking records at Stanford (732 average this year, up from 729) and Wharton (725 average this year, up from 718) among others.

“The quality of the pool is just stronger,” Stacey R. Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA program at Chicago Booth, told P&Q. “We hit a 730 median GMAT this year, the 96th percentile. There are very few people under 680 these days. When I got here 10 years ago, the average GMAT was 695. It’s a record this year at 723. And it’s not like we just shimmied under the bar on GMAT.”

Undergraduate grade point averages remained pretty stable at most of the top schools, though at Stanford it rose even higher, to 3.73, the highest of any U.S. business school and up from 3.69 last year. Chicago Booth and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business also reported small increases in average GPA.

You can find a little more movement year over year the farther down the rankings you look, with a few schools moving up or slipping down a spot or two. The University of Michigan’s Ross School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School, like Haas and Fuqua, swapped spots this year, to No. 12 and No. 13 respectively. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management climbed from No. 17 to No. 14, bumping NYU’s Stern School from No. 14 last year down to No. 15. Yale School of Management, for its part, slipped to No. 17, down from 15 last year.

View the complete 2013 P&Q MBA rankings.