Which test is right for me?

For over 60 years, the GMAT has been the benchmark for standardized tests at most major business schools. However, over the last 10 years, schools have been loosening their restrictions and accepting GRE scores instead. This has led many potential applicants to ask the question, “Which is the right test for me to take?” While the answer to this question will depend on your circumstances, there are some basic advantages and disadvantages of choosing the GRE over the GMAT.

Pros and Cons

One of the biggest advantages of taking the GRE vs. the GMAT is the flexibility that it affords. GRE scores can be used across a broad range of graduate programs, so if you are currently unsure which graduate program or discipline you are planning to apply to OR if you are considering applying to a dual or joint degree program that includes an MBA degree, the GRE might be the right test to get under your belt. Some students find that the GRE is the easier of the two tests, specifically in the quantitative sections. However, it should be noted that while potentially easier, your scores will still be judged against the scores of others that have taken the GRE test – so the strategy of taking the GRE as a way to look stronger than candidates who have taken the GMAT does not generally work. Committees are more interested in how you compare with others taking a similar test. Finally, the GRE is a less expensive test to take so if you are worried about test fees and application fees adding up, this is one way to save a little money. 

The disadvantages to taking the GRE vs. the GMAT include the fact that, while most top business schools now accept the GRE, some still do not (e.g. London Business School and Oxford as of 2015). Always check the admissions requirements at your target schools before making a decision. Another disadvantage is simply the fact that business schools tend to prefer the GMAT test and some even explicitly state this, including Carnegie Mellon & UCLA. The reason the GMAT is preferred is that it was designed to test the aptitude of business school candidates and studies have proven a correlation between GMAT scores and 1st year academic performance in business school curriculum. Schools also have years of experience reviewing candidates based on their GMAT scores and are well calibrated in what to look for. This is more difficult when evaluating GRE scores and trying to make the comparison to GMAT test takers (who still make up a majority of the applicant pools at top business schools).

In the end, the test you decide to take comes down to your personal circumstances. However, my advice to candidates who are firmly committed to attending business school is to buckle down and take the GMAT. This will show your commitment to attend business school, which is positive in the eyes of any committee, and allows you to truly benchmark yourself vs. the class profiles at your top-choice schools.

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