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Why The GRE Might Become The New GMAT

More business schools are accepting the GRE admissions test as an alternative to the GMAT – but some MBA programs say GMAT takers have an advantage.

Wed Oct 22 2014

More business schools than ever are now accepting the GRE admissions test as an alternative to the GMAT, according to a survey of admissions officers released this week.

Kaplan Test Prep found that 85% of MBA programs now give students the option to submit a score from the GRE, up from 24% of programs who accepted the alternative test in 2009.

But the data also show that 18% of MBA programs say applicants who submit a GMAT score have an advantage over applicants who submit a GRE score, while 78% view them equally.

The findings will dampen the enhancement of the GRE’s reputation as they suggest some MBA applicants may have a disadvantage because they opted for the alternative admissions test instead of the industry standard GMAT.

While more business schools are accepting the GRE, only one in ten applicants submit scores for the GRE instead of the GMAT, said 50% of the admissions officers surveyed.

Kaplan Test Prep, the educational services company, polled 204 admissions staff at US business schools.

“The trend-line for business schools that accept the GRE as an admissions alternative to the GMAT has been unmistakable over the past five years,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director at Kaplan.

“What was once seen as an almost exotic admissions policy by business schools has become nearly ubiquitous.”

The GRE has been gaining ground since the Educational Testing Service, which runs the exams, dissolved a non-compete agreement with the Graduate Management Admissions Council, administrators of the GMAT.

About 5,400 programs worldwide accept the GMAT. Around 238,000 applicants took the GMAT last year, a 17% drop on the year before.

ETS says that more than 1,100 business schools worldwide are accepting GRE scores for their MBA programs. But the number of candidates taking the GRE is still less than 10% of total market share, according to data released in September.

But there remain concerns about how some business schools evaluate GRE scores. “This factor does make candidates anxious, but I think many are becoming more comfortable with the idea of applying with a GRE,” said Jon Fuller, a senior admissions consultant at Clear Admit.

Admissions consultants say that the GRE has the advantage of being accepted by multiple degree programs, and is also cheaper in cost.

It also had the advantage of the Score Select feature, allowing a candidate who takes the GRE multiple times to choose which set of scores is reported to a business school.

However in June GMAC introduced a similar feature for the GMAT that allows students to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them.

But there are concerns that the GRE lacks a specific focus, whereas the GMAT is tailored to business schools. “It is not designed specifically for anything other than academics in general,” said Mike McGary, a GMAT expert at admissions consultancy Magoosh.

Consultants say the GMAT's Integrated Reasoning section – introduced in 2012 – can highlight a candidate’s ability to analyse data, which is relevant to many traditional MBA career paths.

Some experts also say that the Verbal section of the GMAT is not as difficult as with the GRE.

But a separate Kaplan survey found that 60% of admissions officers do not consider the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section of vital importance.

Brian said: “As more and more applicants submit scores from the current GMAT over the next couple of years, business schools may decide that Integrated Reasoning performance should play a more critical role.”

Admissions consultants advise MBA applicants to contact business schools to find out whether they have a preference for one exam over the other.

“We also advise students to take the GMAT if some of the schools to which they intend on applying [to] do not accept the GRE,” said Brian. “While the GRE is widely accepted, the only exam that is universally accepted is the GMAT.”