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GMAT vs. GRE: Which to Choose?

Why is there a choice? (Background)

People often ask why schools began accepting the GRE in the first place, given how embedded the GMAT was in the application process. While reasons between schools differ, and several are doing so to follow others, one of the primary reasons was to broaden their applicant pool and increase diversity.

The GMAT, fair or unfair, was perceived as a test relevant only if one was considering business school, with its test structure favoring business-minded students. The GRE on the other hand, with its use in a variety of graduate specialties, tested different thinking skills. It also meant that people who had already taken the GRE anticipating another path could consider a graduate business degree.

Benefits of the GMAT

While most schools profess to treat each test equally, there are some benefits to the GMAT. Some employers consider GMAT scores in their recruitment process, making it difficult to compare candidates who have not taken the test. This is driven by specific employer preference rather than broad industry practice, but it is worth investigating whether any of your dream employers consider the GMAT when deciding who to interview, and whether this requirement can be overcome in other ways (i.e. networking, other test scores). While there is a GRE/GMAT conversion table, you’ll notice a very wide predicted score range, making it difficult for people to include in their assessment of a candidate.

The other reason is more basic…some schools still prefer the GMAT. It is a reasonable question to ask the admissions staff of any school you are applying to. If a school prefers the GMAT, they will likely tell you. Reasons can vary and may include their desire to ensure applicants are serious about an MBA, or experience with a correlation between the test score and success in business school, or something else entirely! Whatever the reason you hear or think it is, take the schools’ responses at face value and plan your application process accordingly.

Reasons for the GRE

One of the main benefits of the GRE is its flexibility…you can use the test scores for a variety of graduate programs instead of just an MBA application. If you haven’t fully resolved to pursue an MBA, the GRE will maximize your options for other graduate programs. However, it is still best to invest time up-front contemplating which graduate programs are right for you. Both the GRE and GMAT take dozens (if not hundreds) of hours to prepare for, and thus taking either test purely for their option value may not be the best use of your time.

Another benefit of the GRE is that the structure of the test itself is more conducive to people with certain learning disabilities. For example, the GRE allows people to return to previous questions and change their answers. The GMAT does not. That doesn’t mean that the GMAT doesn’t consider special circumstances when structuring their test, but you have to ask early, and there is no guarantee that their accommodations will be enough.

Advice no matter what test you decide to take

  • Create a plan (no matter what test you decide to take). The plan makes a huge difference in candidates’ success.

  • Switching tests will not necessarily increase your scores. The two tests are quite different and require a different approach to studying.

  • Identify what your challenges are early and get help if you’re getting stuck! Some tutors can help with all aspects of the test, while others focus on quant, verbal, even test anxiety.

  • Do you need accommodations for learning disabilities (or other reasons)? Be sure to apply for accommodations EARLY. The process can take a long time and you want to make sure that you have allotted enough time for those to be processed.

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