Updated: May 6, 2021
Preparing to apply to MBA programs involves many decisions along the way. One that you will face early on is whether to take the GMAT or the GRE, as almost all full-time MBA programs require scores for one of these standardized and globally accepted tests.
While MBA programs have exclusively required applicants to submit GMAT results in the past, most now accept the GRE as an equal alternative, giving applicants more freedom to choose the test that best suits their needs and abilities.
Is The GMAT or GRE Right For You?
While many MBA programs these days have no real preference and accept either score, there are some important considerations before you decide which is right for you.
Applicants who will only apply to business schools, and who perhaps have more traditional post-MBA career aspirations, may find the GMAT is a better option.
Admissions committees tend to still see the GMAT as a demonstration of a commitment to business school since historically it has been the standard entrance exam. It is undoubtedly a highly trusted and proven tool to gauge academic readiness and strength for an MBA program.
In addition to your MBA application, your GMAT score is sometimes also used as an indicative measure during job and internship recruitment while you are in business school.
Many employers across industries, especially management consulting or investment banking, ask potential candidates for GMAT test scores in the recruiting process.
It is wise to research in advance if a dream employer or industry has a strong preference for the GMAT. If candidates will be asked to supply a GMAT score within the first year of business school, it would be prudent to focus on preparing for and taking the GMAT.
Applicants who have applied, or plan to apply for another type of graduate degree, may be able to use a GRE score for their MBA application.
There is no strong reason to prepare for and pay for the GMAT if your existing GRE score will do.
Equally, if applicants are not 100% decided on an MBA program, but know they will pursue a graduate degree of some kind, the GRE may be the best option.
Since top MBA programs report no real preference when it comes to admissions, it is wise to learn about each test and take the one you think you can perform the best on.
Standardized test scores may not make or break your application, but in an extremely competitive environment, you should ensure that each aspect of your application is as strong as possible. Check out the following study tips from education experts.
If a gut feeling or an actual practice test score tells you that you do better on one or other of the exams, choose that test.
What Does The GRE Evaluate?
The GRE, or the Graduate Record Examination, evaluates analytical writing, and both quantitative and verbal reasoning. It is said to have a more challenging verbal section than the GMAT, perhaps making it more difficult for non-native English language speakers.
The analytical writing portion evaluates your ability to establish and logically defend a complex position. You will do this through writing tasks called Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument.
The score scale is 0-6, in half-point increments.
The quantitative reasoning section includes mathematical problems using algebra, geometry, and more. Test takers can use an on-screen calculator to answer 4 types of questions:
Quantitative Comparison, Multiple-choice (One Answer Choice), Multiple-choice (One or More Answer Choices), and Numeric Entry.
The score scale is 130-170, in one-point increments.
The verbal reasoning portion of the exam requires you to evaluate written passages with three types of text completion exercises: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence. The score scale is 130-170, in one-point increments.
The exam will usually take around 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. Questions within a specific section may be skipped and returned later, and test-takers have the option to edit answers within a section.
However, once you have completed the time limit for a section, you cannot return to it. The highest possible GRE score is a 340 for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections combined, and a 6 for the analytical writing section.
Most top MBA programs that accept GRE scores report that accepted applicants average in the 320 range.
The GRE offers test takers the ability to decide which scores are sent to which schools. For example, if applicants retake the test, they can elect to share only their highest scores.
However, beware that some MBA programs will require you to submit all GRE scores you have ever received.
For a complete picture of the GRE and what to expect in each section, visit www.ets.org/gre
What Does The GMAT Evaluate?
The GMAT, or the Graduate Management Admission Test, evaluates test-takers in the areas of analytics, writing, verbal, and reading skills. The GMAT is considered to be more mathematically challenging than the GRE.
The Analytical Writing Assessment evaluates how you think and communicate ideas. This section has one Analysis of Argument question and is scored on a scale of 0-6, in half-point increments.
The Integrated Reasoning section tests how you analyze and evaluate various forms of information and is scored on a scale from 1-8, in one-point increments.
The Quantitative Reasoning section evaluates how you analyze and evaluate data to draw conclusions, thus testing your reasoning skills. The score scale is 6-51 for this section, in one-point increments.
The Verbal Reasoning section tests your ability to comprehend passages, evaluate arguments and formulate a written response. The score scale is 6-51, in one-point increments.
The GMAT will usually take 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete. An algorithm then scores each section and provides a combined score of somewhere between 200-800.
The test is also adaptive, meaning that the more correct answers submitted, the harder the questions become, and the more points test takers earn for those answers.
Test takers can also choose an order in which the test sections are presented to them. Most top MBA programs report average GMAT scores of accepted applicants in the 720 range, while at the top five MBA programs, scores have climbed to the 730 range within the last year.
For a complete picture of the GMAT and what to expect in each section, visit mba.com.
Candidates who are still undecided on which test to take may find that the answer lies in their shortlist of preferred MBA programs.
While top MBA programs all suggest that scores are looked at equally, it will be prudent to research which schools accept the GRE and what the average scores of applicants are for both the GRE and GMAT.
This information allows candidates to prepare accordingly and strengthen other areas of their application if need be. MBA admissions consultants are poised to help applicants compile an application that presents a well-rounded and academically prepared candidacy.
All top programs will require a strong score for a chance at admission to their programs. Taking practice exams, diligent test preparation, and study cannot be underestimated.