Choosing Between the GRE and GMAT



Graham is a co-founder of Clear Admit. He holds an MBA from Wharton, where he also served as an admissions officer. He has over 18 years of experience in the field of MBA admissions, including having spent several years as an admissions consultant. His admissions advice has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and US News & World Report.

Graham is a co-founder of Clear Admit. He holds an MBA from Wharton, where he also served as an admissions officer. He has over 18 years of experience in the field of MBA admissions.

We consulted Graham Richmond, who worked in admissions for the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, for his insights when it comes to choosing between the tests. Here are some of the points he had to share:

  1. Business schools are most familiar with the GMAT exam. They have decades of data on how an applicant’s results on that test translate to in-class performance. Therefore, taking the GRE means giving the school a data point that they are still getting used to judging.
  2. The GRE is generally regarded as having a less rigorous quantitative section, and given the importance of quantitative skills in an MBA program, this can be problematic.
  3. Business schools that accept the GRE typically expect to see it from less traditional applicants—those who might be looking at other options for graduate education or those who are younger and perhaps took the test as seniors in college to keep their options open. As such, if you are a ‘mainstream’ MBA applicant (a banker, consultant or corporate type), then it may look odd to submit a GRE result. Based on point #2 above, it might even look like the applicant is trying to take an easier quantitative test. For instance, the investment banker who takes the GRE could raise eyebrows in the admissions office, causing some to question whether there might be an issue with the candidate’s quantitative skills.

Richmond now heads Southwark Consulting, which provides strategic advice to business school admissions offices worldwide. In the course of this work, he regularly hears directly from admission officers on all stages of the MBA admissions process, including entrance exams.

Many admissions officers have confided to Richmond that very few applicants submit the GRE (less than 5 percent of the applicant pool, in some cases). Also, even though ETS has provided schools with a conversion chart intended to allow admissions teams to convert GRE scores to approximate GMAT scores, the schools Richmond has spoken with report finding the tool somewhat unreliable, making them hesitant to trust the converted scores completely.

Richmond acknowledges that the GRE does present a reasonable option for the candidate who is considering applying to multiple degree programs (choosing between an MBA, Master of Public Policy [MPP] and Master of International Relations [MIR], for example) and would prefer not to take two exams.

But there is also another reason the exam has made its way into the MBA universe, he points out. “ETS lost the contract it once held with the Graduate Management Admissions Council to administer the GMAT exam, and so it is pushing the GRE as an alternative in order to recoup some of the lost revenue.”

We hope that this breakdown has helped demystify which test makes the most sense for you to take. But don’t waste too much time deciding… As we previously mentioned, accepting both the GRE and GMAT has enabled business schools be even more selective, so you should spend the bulk of your time devoted to studying for whichever test you choose. Good luck!

For more information regarding the GRE and GMAT make sure to check out the following articles:

  1. How Long Should I Study for the GMAT? 
  2. 4 Tips to Reduce GMAT or GRE Test Prep Stress
  3. GMAT Tip: How to Master Critical Reasoning
  4. Your 3-Phase GMAT Study Plan

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About the Author

Ben Smolin

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for L.A., San Francisco, and London.

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