GMAT or GRE for MBA Admissions?

For decades, the GMAT was the required entrance exam for MBA programs. That has changed as more than 1,200 business schools now accept GRE scores. Most of the top-ranked MBA programs in the United States now accept the GRE, according to the U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times and Bloomberg Businessweek.

The two tests differ in content. Traditionally, the GRE has been used in the admissions process for graduate programs in disciplines including public administration, psychology and English, while the GMAT was used exclusively for business school admissions. For that reason, the GRE emphasizes the English verbal component, and the GMAT has a more challenging quantitative section.

Here is a breakdown of some of the general features of each test:

GMAT GRE
Required by Most business schools/some graduate schools Most graduate schools/some business schools
Structure Analytical Writing: 1 essay — 30 min.
Integrated Reasoning: 30 min.
Quantitative: 75 min.
Verbal: 75 min.
Analytical Writing: 2 Essays — 30 min. each.
Verbal Reasoning: 2 sections — 35 min.
Quantitative Reasoning: 2 sections — 35 min.
Time 3.5 hours. 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Format Computer-adaptive test. Computer-adaptive test.
Scoring Composite score ranges from 200 to 800 in 10-point increments. Sub-scores for each individual section. Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. Essay scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments.
Differentiators More challenging quantitative section. More in-depth English vocabulary section.
Scores valid for 5 years 5 years
Price $250 $195

Why Not Take Both Tests?

It is not advisable to take both tests. Each test is expensive and requires a considerable investment of preparatory time and resources. Dividing your time between the two would likely result in lower scores on both.

To Decide Which Test to Take, Consider these Questions:

What are your strongest aptitudes?

If you believe you have stronger quantitative skills than the average applicant to the schools of your choice, you may want to opt for the GMAT. The mathematics section in this test is more difficult than its counterpart in the GRE. If your aptitudes are more diverse, or if your forte is language and communication, the GRE may be a better way to showcase your strengths. The verbal section is more comprehensive and includes two essay questions instead of one.

Are you considering MBA programs exclusively?

If you are only considering an MBA and don’t need the flexibility to apply to other post-graduate programs, the GMAT may be a better choice. The two tests are generally perceived equally. However, given the history of the GMAT, some admissions personnel may see it as an indication that you are serious about business school. Moreover, the GMAT — which business schools are thoroughly familiar with — happens to be the test of choice for the greater number of MBA applicants.

Are you less sure of how you would perform on the GMAT?

If you have taken sample GRE tests, you may be unsure how your score would correlate to the GMAT. Though it is an apples-to-oranges comparison, the GRE Comparison Tool can help you understand GRE scores in the context of GMAT scores. The tool will predict your GMAT scores based on your GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores.

Have you decided where to apply?

Schools that require one test simplify your choice. If you are close to narrowing your list of programs, use this factor to guide your decision.

Still not sure?

If you think you may perform better on one test than the other, but you are not completely sure, take a practice test online. The Princeton Review offers free practice tests for the GRE and the GMAT.

Ultimately, either test provides validation of your qualifications for an MBA program.

Learn more about the Boise State online MBA program.


Sources:

Princeton Review: GMAT vs GRE — What Are the Differences?

U.S. News & World Report: Decide Between the GMAT, GRE as an MBA Applicant

Kaplan Test Prep: GRE or GMAT?

ETS: GRE Volumes Continue to Trend Up Among Business and Global Students


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