As a business school admissions consultant for nearly 10 years, I am used to this question. However, it’s been asked much more often in the last couple of years.

The debate between the GMAT and the GRE is growing for several reasons, including:

  1. Nearly every MBA program now accepts both tests.
  2. The GMAT can be a daunting exam, and can only be used to apply to MBA programs.
  3. Students today want greater flexibility with their test scores, especially as more specialty or joint graduate degree programs become available.

These trends have definitely impacted the tests, as the GMAT saw a 4% decline in test-takers in 2017 vs. 2016, while the GRE saw a 1% increase during the same time. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that total MBA applications were down slightly in 2017, but the GRE is definitely a test on the rise.

To this end, the GMAT recently made some changes to appeal more broadly to MBA applicants:

  • It shortened the test from 4 hours to 3.5 in 2018 by reducing the total number of questions in both the verbal and quantitative sections.
  • The GMAT also now allows applicants to view their sectional scores before deciding whether to cancel the test scores, which gives the test-taker more control over what is officially reported.

The bottom line is that for nearly 65 years the GMAT has been the standardized test at most major business schools, and a vast majority of applicants to MBA programs today are still applying with the GMAT.

But the real question is: What is the right test for YOU?

While the answer to this question will always depend on your specific circumstances, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing the GRE over the GMAT.

PROS of Taking the GRE
  • In short: flexibility. You can use GRE scores to apply to a broad range of graduate programs, so if you are still choosing between different programs, or if you might apply to a dual or joint degree program, the GRE can be a good choice.
  • Some students find the GRE easier than the GMAT, specifically in the quantitative sections, as you are allowed to use a calculator. However, it should be noted that admissions committees will compare your scores with the scores of others who have taken the GRE, so you will not necessarily look stronger than candidates who have taken the GMAT.
  • You should also consider the GRE if you have already taken the GMAT and your scores did not fall within the range of your target schools. If you take the GRE, score well, and submit those scores through the ETS system, admissions committees will never see your poorer GMAT scores.
  • Finally, the GRE is a less expensive test to take, which may become an important factor to you as test and application fees add up.

CONS of Taking the GRE
  • While most top business schools now accept the GRE, some still prefer the GMAT (e.g. Carnegie Mellon, UCLA, London Business School, etc.), so make sure you check the admissions requirements at your target schools before making a decision. The GMAT is preferred by many because it was designed to test the aptitude of business school candidates; studies have proven a correlation between GMAT scores and 1st year academic performance in business school.
  • Schools also have years of experience reviewing candidates based on their GMAT scores, so they know what to look for. It is a more difficult process to compare GRE scores with GMAT scores.

Again, you should always make decisions like this based on your specific situation. However, my general advice to business school applicants is to buckle down and take the GMAT. This shows your commitment to business school, which counts as a positive in the eyes of any committee, and allows you to see how you compare to the class profiles at your top-choice schools.

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