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GMAT Focus vs. GRE: Which to Choose?

Updated: Mar 26

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 Focus

While most schools profess to treat each test equally, there remain some benefits to the GMAT Focus. 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. NOTE: this has changed slightly since the GMAT Focus rolled out last year because the scoring scale is not as familiar to employers. While there is a GMAT Focus / GMAT conversion table, you’ll notice that any employer discussing scores typically uses the old system. As a result, you may want to help them with the conversion (through at least the end of 2025).

While schools are increasingly indifferent to which test you take, it is still worth asking schools you are interested in which test they prefer. If a school prefers the GMAT Focus, they will likely tell you. Equally important, given the larger pool of candidates using the GMAT to gain admission vs. the GRE, applicants generally feel more confident on what a "good" score is with the GMAT than with the GRE. That confidence can shape which schools applicants ultimately apply to. It will take a little time for the GMAT focus percentiles to settle in after the conversion.

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 Focus 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. That doesn’t mean that the GMAT Focus 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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