How to Decide Between the GRE and GMAT for Business School

Grad School Admissions | GRE prep | GMAT


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With the rapid news of changing requirements for admissions testing for law schools, business schools, and grad schools, it can be difficult to keep track of the latest developments or to feel confident when deciding which test to take. Let's revisit the status of the GRE in business school admissions and give an overview of both exams. Specifically, let's address the following questions:

  • What is the current status of the GRE in business school admissions, and how useful is it for MBA program applicants?
  • Should prospective grad school students consider applying for an MBA program as well, if an MBA would align with their professional goals? 
  • What is the structure of both exams? How do they compare to each other?

Near Total Parity

While the status of the GRE for law school admissions is still in a state of expansion and flux, there is a broad consensus about the GRE in business school admissions:

  • All major MBA/post-graduate management programs accept the GRE for admissions.
  • Overall, the GRE is accepted at over ninety percent of business schools
  • All major MBA programs state that neither the GMAT nor the GRE is viewed more favorably for admissions.
  • Many admissions consultants remain somewhat skeptical and advise committed business school applicants to consider preparing for the GMAT first.
  • If an MBA applicant has a marked weakness in quantitative reasoning, we advise considering the GRE as an alternative, since its quant section is less challenging than the analogous GMAT section.
  • If a student wishes to appear "committed" to business school, a GMAT score might be one way to demonstrate this commitment to an admissions committee.
  • If a potential graduate student is weighing different programs, both in management and elsewhere, the GRE makes more sense. With limited time and the expense of preparing for and taking both tests, doing both the GRE and the GMAT could be overkill.

Trends in Business School Admissions with the GRE

Using data provided by US News and World Report, the Poets and Quants blog has compiled and analyzed the use of GRE scores in business school admissions. The two big data points to pay attention to are the 2013 versus the 2016 statistics for percent of students admitted to top fifty business schools based on GRE scores. In 2013, only thirteen of these schools released numbers of students admitted with GRE scores; in 2016, forty-three of the fifty schools released these statistics. However, here's where it gets funny, and based on the limited data set this is speculative, but:

Among programs for which data is available for both 2013 and 2016, if percent admitted with GRE scores exceeded 10% in 2013, GRE penetration was likely relatively unchanged. If percent admitted was below 10%, it frequently grew to exceed 10% but appears to have settled at what might be a normative threshhold/median for percent of students admitted with a GRE score.

Here are some data points to consider:

  2013 % GRE 2016 % GRE
Washington (Olin) 31 28
Yale 18 23
UNC (Kenan Flagler) 9 16
Texas (Austin) 13 15
Michigan (Ross) 5 14
Emory (Goizueta) 3 13
Duke (Fuqua) 4 12
Vanderbilt (Owen) 23 12
Cornell (Johnson) 7 11
Wisconsin 11 10
Notre Dame (Mendoza) 12 9
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 4 4

What does this mean?

First, it is impossible to derive strong conclusions from a limited data set, but it merits noting that among the 2016 numbers, there appears to be an emerging mean of 15% admissions with only GRE scores. Does this number suggest a quota or ceiling on applicants accepted with GRE scores? The likely answer is no. Some of these data more likely reflect the percent of applicants submitting GRE versus GMAT scores rather than programs viewing one test more favorably than the other.

In addition, this emerging stasis in percent admitted with the GRE could be indicative of the manner in which business schools normalize differences between GRE and GMAT scores. However, it is clear that so far, the GRE has not supplanted the GMAT for business school and business school applicants using only the GRE may constitute a minority for the foreseeable future. 


Test Structure Comparison

GMAT

GMAT Test Section # of Questions Question Types Timing
Analytical Writing Assessment 1 Topic Analysis of Argument 30 Minutes
Integrated Reasoning 12 Questions Multi-Source Reasoning
Graphics Interpretation
Two-Part Analysis
Table Analysis
30 Minutes
Quantitative

37 Questions

Problem Solving
Data Sufficiency
75 Minutes
Verbal

41 Questions

Reading Comprehension
Critical Reasoning
Sentence Correction
75 Minutes
Total Exam Time     3 hrs, 30 minutes

GRE

GRE Test Section # of Questions Question Types Timing
Analytical Writing Measure 2 Topics Analyze an Issue
Analyze an Argument
30 Minutes
30 Minutes
Quantitative (x2) 20 Questions in each of the two sections 
(40 total)
Multiple-Choice: Select One
Multiple-Choice: Select One or More
Numeric Entry
Quantitative Comparison
35 Minutes 
per section
(70 mins total)
Verbal (x2) 20 Questions in each of the two sections 
(40 total)
Text Completion
Sentence Equivalence
Reading Comprehension
30 Minutes 
per section
(60 mins total)
Total Exam Time     3 hrs, 10 minutes

We offer a complete breakdown of the two tests and a comparison between question types on our Free GRE Help Area (along with much more useful information!). 

General Recommendations

While the GRE is making inroads into business school, if all else is equal the GMAT should remain your top choice. Consider exploring the GMAT first for business school admissions, but don't neglect or overlook the GRE. How might you proceed?

  1. Take a practice GRE (ETS PowerPrep Official Practice Tests)
  2. Take a practice GMAT (GMAC GMATPrep Software)
  3. Analyze and diagnose your strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Consider your graduate school goals.

If you have a marked aptitude for one test over the other, you should play to your strengths, even if that means going for the GRE alone for business school admissions. A strong performance on either test will outweigh the benefits either test might confer, if marred by a weaker performance. If you're undecided about business school or graduate school, the GRE presents an attractive and compelling alternative to the GMAT or to preparing for both. 

If you have questions about business school admissions, the GRE, or the GMAT, we have expert instructors ready to respond to all your questions on our Free GRE and Grad School Admissions Forums. Registration and participation is completely free!

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