The glass-forming ability (GFA) of an alloy in this case is the largest diameter of a rod which can be cast fully glassy. The present work shows that the thermal conductivity of a liquid alloy has a strong effect on GFA by influencing the cooling rate upon mould casting. The initial cooling rates (for the first 70-100 K of temperature decrease), obtained for Cu-, Zr- and Au-based bulk glass-forming alloys in the liquid state, are found to scale linearly with the thermal conductivities of the liquid base elements. However the low cooling rate found for Ni-based alloy suggests that the heat transfer at the melt-mould interface may also influence the cooling rate. The low thermal conductivity of Ni-based alloys and the correspondingly low cooling rate obtained compared to Cu-based counterparts explains their lower GFA. In the literature, many factors influencing the GFA of alloys have been discussed. To these factors, the present study adds the thermal conductivity of the molten alloy and the melt-mould heat-transfer coefficient. Moreover, the cooling rate depends on temperature and, thus, the critical cooling rate itself is not a suitable parameter for indicating GFA. The cooling can be better described by an appropriate fitting of the cooling curve to an exponential temperature decay function.