A Comparison of the GMAT and the GRE

GMAT and GRE Consideration at Business Schools

Most business schools will accept either the GMAT or the GRE as an admissions test, including the most highly ranked programs. However, the GMAT is much more widely taken by aspiring graduate business students. Almost all of the GMAT's 250,000 annual test-takers intend to study business at the graduate level. While the GRE attracts about 655,000 students annually, estimates put the number of business school applicants at just 3%, or less than 20,000. The GMAT thus outnumbers the GRE by almost 13 to 1. Business school class profiles reflect this discrepancy by focusing on GMAT numbers, and most institutions do not list the average GRE scores of accepted students.

GMAT and GRE Waivers

Though standardized testing is required for admission to most business schools, some institutions have programs that do not mandate the GMAT or GRE, and others grant waivers for students who meet certain prerequisites. The Executive MBA program at New York University's Stern School of Business, for example, stopped requiring the GMAT and GRE in 2011, and the Rutgers University School of Business will consider GMAT waivers for applicants with either a terminal degree or eight years of management-level work experience.

Differences between the GMAT and GRE

The GMAT and the GRE assess many of the same skills, but the two tests differ in structure, content emphasis, administration, and scoring. Both tests begin with analytical writing, but the GRE includes two 30-minute tasks and the GMAT has only one. The GMAT and the GRE both assess verbal and quantitative skills, but the GRE has no counterpart to the multi-step problems in the GMAT's integrated reasoning section. Both tests are computer-adaptive by section, but the GRE allows test-takers to mark specific questions and return to them later (on the GMAT, students must answer the given question before being allowed to proceed). The GRE, unlike the GMAT, includes an unscored experimental section (although the GMAT does have experimental questions). At 3 hours and 45 minutes, the GRE is a bit longer than the GMAT, which is 3 hours and 30 minutes. Registration for the GRE is a bit less expensive than the GMAT ($195 versus $250).

Average GRE Scores of Graduate Business Students

The methodology used by U.S. News & World Report to rank business schools is based partially on GMAT scores, but does not account for GRE scores. This is probably a major reason that many business schools refuse to report GRE information, which allows them to accept lower-scoring students without risking a drop in the rankings. U.S. News is currently revising its methodology in response to this situation, but in the meantime, students must rely on the schools that do disclose GRE information as well as secondary sources, which generally infer GRE data from the corresponding percentiles of GMAT scores. The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University reports average GRE scores of 318 (this is presumably a composite verbal and quantitative score). The PhD program at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business lists only its average GRE quantitative score (167). Secondary sources have estimated the average composite verbal and quantitative GRE scores at Harvard (328-332), the University of Virginia (325-329), UC Berkeley (327-331), Wharton (328-332), and Dartmouth (327-331).

Validity Study of the GRE

Very little research has been done on the GRE as a predictor of business school success, but a doctoral dissertation that deals with the subject was written by Charles Blake Bedsole at the University of Georgia in 2013. Bedsole studied data from 749 students at three institutions, and concluded that the GRE was a "significant predictor of final MBA GPA" and "accounted for slightly more variance" than the GMAT.

Choosing the Right Test

Business school applicants can decide between the GRE and GMAT simply by taking practice versions of both tests and opting for the assessment that best matches their academic strengths. Students whose verbal skills outpace their quantitative abilities may wish to consider the GRE due to its greater emphasis on essay writing and its lack of multi-step integrated reasoning problems. Most admissions consultants believe the GMAT is a better option for the majority of business school applicants, but students who struggle with the GMAT may gain an advantage by taking the GRE. As noted above, the average GRE scores of accepted students are not currently linked to business school rankings, but there is no evidence to suggest that institutions are accepting lower-scoring GRE students in large numbers. An aspiring graduate business student should ultimately choose the test that allows him or her to receive the highest possible score.

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