GMAT or GRE, As Easy as 1-2-3

With a growing number of schools accepting the GRE for the MBA, we constantly get questions about which test people should take, so here are a few considerations to help students answer that question of GMAT or GRE:

1. The Advantage of History. The GMAT is the gold standard for the MBA application. Institutions have no questions about what GMAT scores mean and how to compare them retrospectively to students in their programs both current and past. Only recently (the last half-decade) has the number of schools accepting the GRE increased significantly. Advantage: GMAT.

2. The Advantage of Information. When looking at admission statistics for MBA programs it’s easy to find averages, ranges, and median scores of admitted students who submitted GMAT scores. For the GRE it’s much more difficult to find statistics on admitted students. Schools are starting to share this data, but many schools, particularly some tops ones like Harvard and Berkeley, don’t release any info, even the percentage of GRE applicants. Part of the reason for this is that many schools just recently started accepting their first groups of students with GRE scores. In the fall a Cornell admissions officer told us they just took their first group of 10 students with GRE scores. Since the numbers are so small it’s going to be a while before statistically significant numbers accumulate and data are widely released/available. Interestingly, comparing the GMAT and GRE scores from admitted candidates at schools that do release GRE info reveals that many of them accept generally lower GRE scores than GMAT scores. Interpreting this as an advantage or disadvantage is difficult (in part because there’s still so little data), but this Poets and Quants article does a good job of providing some information and context on the matter. The key factor, however, that scoring and admissions data on the GMAT is widely available, sways this consideration one way. Advantage: GMAT.

3. The Advantage to the Test Taker. The GMAT and the GRE test the same math concepts, but the GRE is less complex and requires less mental gymnastics to get to most answers. The GRE has a ton of vocabulary (think SAT verbal on steroids) and more dense reading. They are both computer adaptive, though in different ways (section adaptive vs question adaptive). So depending on your preferences one test might feel better or allow a student to perform better. The GRE generally has harder verbal because its tougher to improve vocabulary in a short span, and the GMAT generally has harder math. Advantage: Push.


From these three criteria, the answer for the overwhelming majority of folks should be pretty clear. Certainly there are other factors that would sway someone one way or another, but if you’re pursuing an MBA, particularly one at top-tier schools or lower tier schools (many of which don’t yet take the GRE), the choice is obvious.

Regardless of which test you choose, know that you can – and should – prepare for it. Scores can be improved with dedicated instruction and practice.

Best of Luck!

  • Marry David

    Good post about GMAT it is very useful for students

    GMAT scoring

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