Test Prep

Deciding Between the GRE And the GMAT


If you're preparing to apply to business school, you've probably discovered that many programs are now accepting both the GRE and the GMAT. And it's not just limited to MBA programs – this includes specialized master's and doctoral programs in business, too.

That's good news for B-school applicants, since it's always helpful to have a choice when sending in test scores. Think of it like when you applied for college and had to decide whether the SAT or ACT would be a better reflection of your abilities and skills.

Who Accepts What?

While the GMAT still has a status as the go-to test among business schools, Eric Allen, president of Admit Advantage, says that these days, “the GRE is a very viable option. Nearly all of the schools we help our clients with take both tests."

However, the GMAT has been the “historical gold standard, and for those in the industry for some time, they may have a natural bias for the GMAT, thus creating a slight preference -- even if it's not the stated policy," Allen says. "That sentiment is changing as more schools are collecting data from graduates who have taken the GRE and successfully navigated their MBA program. I think there is still a slight bias toward the GMAT at this point, but it is dwindling."

ETS publishes a list of institutions from all around the world that now accept GRE scores for business school admission, so you should check whether your target schools are listed. If you don't see any of your schools, go the institution's website or call the admissions office to find out the most up-to-date information on required test scores.

Compare Your Practice Scores

Even if the GRE is accepted by many business school programs these days, how do you know that the GRE is your best bet? Start off by considering the main difference between the tests.

“The common narrative is that the GMAT is more for those who are good at quantitative problems, while the GRE is not as quantitative-focused. The GMAT's Integrated Reasoning section and quantitative sections do tend to lend themselves more toward analytically-gifted test takers, but it's not always the case," Allen explains.

The only way to really find out which test is best for you is to take the practice version of each exam. Then you'll need to compare your scores from both exams. To make this conversion, you can use an online test comparison tool, like this one from ETS.

“I recommend students to take both practice tests, see if you feel strongly one way or the other, and go with that," says Allen. “And if you don't have a quantitative background and end up with equally strong GMAT and GRE scores, I suggest submitting the GMAT score, since schools have a significant amount of historical data on strong GMAT scores equating to performance in GMAT programs -- this could have a positive influence on some admissions folks."

Scholarships And Future Jobs

What about taking the GMAT for B-school scholarships? If you want to submit GRE scores for your admission application, will you still need to send in GMAT scores to apply for a business school scholarship? Luckily, this should not be the case. Business schools that have decided to accept the GRE as well as the GMAT have also adjusted their scholarship requirements to follow suit.

But when you start to apply for jobs, you may find that there are certain banks and consulting firms that will still ask for your GMAT scores during the recruiting process. “Firms are starting to make adjustments to GRE scores, however. I heard from a former client that a top three consulting firm asked her for a GRE Quant score since she didn't take the GMAT," Allen says.

Prepare now: Compare and contrast the content and the question types on the GRE and GMAT, work through practice questions and take the practice tests. As you go through this process, you should start to realize which test feels more comfortable to you and will best showcase your skills.