Over 800 business schools in 70 countries across the globe now accept the GRE test as an alternative to the GMAT for MBA admissions. How to decide which test to take for your MBA application?
The GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Test - has traditionally been the exam required by international business schools for admission to MBA programmes. It was created with the purpose of evaluating the skills of prospective applicants to post-graduate programmes in business and management. GMAT is owned by the Graduate Management Admission Council.
However, recently the GRE – Graduate Record Examination revised General Test (GRE also has several subject tests) - has been gaining ground as an alternative for MBA admission. Reputable schools such as LBS, Oxford and Cambridge (UK), ESADE (Spain), INSEAD (France), Harvard, MIT, Columbia (USA), CUHK (Hong Kong) are paving the way. The GRE is also already taken into consideration in MBA ranking methodologies, such as the US News and World Report’s 2016 Best Business Schools Rankings.
The number of business studies applicants selecting the GRE test nearly doubled in the last three years. GRE test takers from India increased by 12%, which is above the average 10% growth of hopeful business school applicants using GRE scores, according to ETS – GRE owner report “Aspiring Business School Applicants Increasingly Using GRE Scores”. There has been a heated debate about how well the GRE predicts success in business school, as well as how to compare the abilities of applicants who took these two different tests – the GRE or the GMAT. But let’s leave the debate to b-school admissions professionals. Most business schools which accept both tests give them equal weight, so applicants are the decision makers.
Let’s look at how an MBA applicant can find solid ground to make a choice about which of the tests to take. Both tests require quite an investment of time and budget in order to prepare adequately and achieve a competitive score.
How to choose between GRE and GMAT?
If you plan to apply to schools which accept both exams – GRE and GMAT – find out whether they have a preference for either of them. If the school clearly states that both are accepted and there is no indication that one will give more weight to your application than the other, then the choice is yours.
If you are not really sure how the school treats the two tests for admission or for scholarship application, contact the admissions office for details.
An excellent illustration about considering GMAT and GRE on equal terms is the EDHEC Business School Global MBA. GRE is accepted not only for admission, but also for merit-based scholarships, such as the EDHEC Excellence Scholarships covering 50% of the tuition fees for candidates with a GMAT or GRE equivalent of 720 or over.
If you use the more pragmatic strategy – tests first and then school selection based on your test scores - then it is best to opt for the GMAT, as it is still more popular for MBA admission. Here are three reasons why:
• First, experts share the view that the GMAT is still the exam that business schools are more familiar with, making it easier for them to evaluate candidates’ abilities. JoAnne Goldberg, a former assistant director of admissions at Stanford University business school and an MBA graduate of the school, says for US News:
It’s also difficult to compare a GMAT score fairly with a GRE score, between applicants.
• Second, business schools still perceive the GMAT as a commitment to MBA studies.
• Finally, a long-term incentive in support of the GMAT is that plenty of employers in the business sector consider GMAT scores in job applications.
The GRE is provided in two formats – a pen-and-paper and a computer-based test - while the GMAT is only delivered on a computer. If you have a preference for either of these two options, you can choose the one in which you expect to perform better depending on the availability in your location.
Applying to MBA and a Master’s
Another good reason to choose the GRE is if you consider applying to MBA and Master’s programmes. Experts of The Economist GMAT Tutor note in the article “Which test should you take? GMAT vs. GRE”:
If you haven’t decided yet between pursuing an MBA and another graduate degree, you’ll have a greater chance of killing two birds with one stone if you take the GRE.
GRE is generally accepted for admission to Master’s degree programmes. Then you can still select b-schools for your MBA amongst those 800+ institutions that accept GRE for MBA admission.
Already taken the GRE
It is possible that you have already scored well on the GRE in order to attend a Master’s degree programme directly after you got your Bachelor’s degree. The score of the GRE is valid for five years, so it is very likely that you can still use it. In this case, you do not need to take the GMAT for your MBA application if you select business schools which accept both the GRE and the GMAT.
Struggling with the GMAT
There are arguments about which test is easier. Of course this is very individual depending on many factors including the particular strengths of your skillset. Travis Morgan, director of admissions consulting for Veritas Prep, advises:
The GRE isn’t easier, but it’s different. If you’re struggling with the way the GMAT asks questions, you might find the GRE to be a more straightforward way of assessing your abilities. This can be an advantage to some applicants based on their unique thought process and learning style, but it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea for all test-takers.
Magoosh test prep experts analyse the difference between the two tests. Some of their highlights are that the “GRE Verbal section is focused on vocabulary, while the GMAT is based on grammar”. They also claim that “maths in the GRE is easier than that in the GMAT”. Moreover, test-takers can use a calculator on the GRE maths, but not on the GMAT quantitative section. The overall duration (with breaks) of the GRE is a bit longer – 3 hrs 45 min, than that of the GMAT – 3 hrs 30 min.
Looking deeper into the content, the GMAT has two subsections - Data Sufficiency in the Quantitative section, and Critical Reasoning in the Verbal, which are usually quite challenging. They test not just knowledge of maths, vocabulary and grammar, but “higher order thinking”, as Veritas Prep instructors phrase it.
Take advantage of your strengths
Test preparation experts of The Economist GMAT Tutor suggest:
Are you better at Quant or Verbal? If you’re naturally inclined to do better in one test over another why not stick with your strengths?
They explain that the GMAT is considered tougher in the maths part primarily due to its data sufficiency questions, while the GRE Verbal section’s emphasis on vocabulary can make it tougher for non-native speakers and those who don’t regularly read complex literature.
The bottom line is that the two tests are just different. GMAT is still considered to be the test focused on assessing skills for b-school studies, while the GRE is better suited for Master’s degree admission. However, a winning strategy is to opt for the test in which you will perform better if your selected schools accept both GRE and GMAT. There are a number of good reasons to prefer the GRE over the GMAT.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA Guide under the title "GRE or GMAT?". The digital guide file will soon be available for download. In the meantime, you may download our 2015-2016 Guide here