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Should you take the GRE or the GMAT for B-school admissions?

If you’re thinking about applying to business school – especially to a top-ranked business school or MBA program – you know that every little advantage matters. That’s why we so often see applicants who are weighing the pros and cons of taking the GRE as their b-school admissions test, versus the GMAT.

It’s important to understand the context and history between the two exams.

For many, many years, the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) was the test most commonly taken by college students and graduates who wanted to progress to graduate school. Candidates who were specifically interested in business school and earning an MBA, on the other hand, took the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test).

The two tests had little real overlap for a long time. However, in recent years, more and more business schools began to allow MBA candidates to applying with a GRE score instead of a GMAT score. And during this same period, the companies behind the two tests began making updates to the exam format and content that brought them both closer together.

GMAT vs. GRE status today

For today’s MBA applicants, there isn’t a ton of difference between the two tests from an academic perspective.

Both tests are accepted by the vast majority of business school programs (although you should always verify with the specific schools and programs you’re interested in before committing to a test!).

Both tests also tend to last about the same amount of time, between 3.25 and 3.75 hours. They cover many of the same topics, are both conducted on the computer (with a paper option available in rare cases), and both cost between $200 and $250.

There is something of a difference between the tests in terms of perceived difficulty.

In general, the GMAT is seen as a more rigorous test for quantitative skills, while the GRE has a bit more depth in terms of verbal skills. Applicants who don’t have a strong quant background can benefit from taking the GMAT if they’re able to show that they’ve developed strong quant skills after college.

How to choose between the GMAT and the GRE

From a test-taking perspective, both the GMAT and the GRE offer similar challenges.

Despite their overall similarities, though, there is still a fairly significant difference in the perception of the two tests by admissions committees.

Among elite MBA programs, there is still a preference for applicants to take the GMAT. That preference comes down to a couple of different reasons:

  • The GMAT is still the most common test for MBA applicants, making it much easier to compare GMAT scores among candidates than if they submit GRE scores.
  • GRE scores can be used for any graduate education program, leading many adcom members to believe that applicants who submit a GRE score are less committed to business school than applicants who submit only a GMAT score.
  • The GMAT emphasizes conceptual and critical thinking skills, making it a better fit for the types of learning that will be emphasized in most MBA programs.

Ultimately, the reality is that admissions committees at most top MBA programs prefer for applicants to submit a GMAT score along with their application.

That doesn’t mean that having a GRE score will disqualify you, or even that it will necessarily lead to your application being seen as less competitive. What it does mean is that, if you plan to take the GRE instead of the GMAT when applying to business school, you need to have a solid reason in mind.

You also need to plan for adjustments to your application that make it clear you’re not taking the GRE in order to hide weak spots – especially if you’re applying to an MBA program that places a lot of emphasis on quantitative skills.

Making Your Decision

If you’re an MBA applicant who’s set aside plenty of time for test prep, you shouldn’t worry too much about which test to take. With enough study time, you should be able to perform equally well on either the GMAT or the GRE.

However, for candidates who are serious about applying to business school – particularly if you’re looking at elite MBA programs – I generally recommend you take the GMAT unless you have a compelling reason to prefer the GRE.

Both tests may be accepted at the vast majority of business schools, but the reality is, the GMAT is still the favorite test of admissions committees throughout the country. I don’t think there are many good reasons to deny yourself that edge.

If you’d like help creating an MBA application package that appeals to the country’s top admissions committees, EXPARTUS can help. Our experienced admissions consultants can help you take your appliction from every-day to exceptional! To learn more about what we can do for you, give us a call at 844.259.4506, or click here for a free MBA application assessment.

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