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MBA Admissions: Here's Why GMAT Takers May Have An Advantage Over GRE Takers

26% of business schools say GMAT sitters have an edge over GRE takers

Mon Nov 28 2016

GMAT takers may have an edge over GRE takers applying to US business schools.

That's the key finding of Kaplan Test Prep's annual admissions officer survey published on Monday.

Twenty-six percent of admissions officers say those who submit a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over those who submit a GRE score.

Only 2% of GRE takers have the edge; the remaining 73% say neither exam taker has the advantage, essentially unchanged from Kaplan’s 2015 survey.

And that's despite the fact that the vast majority of business schools have started accepting the GRE.

Ninety-two percent of business schools accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. In 2009, only 24% of business schools said they accepted GRE scores.

The data suggest that attitudes towards business school entrance tests remain entrenched. “Some schools are still reluctant to give both tests equal cachet, even though they accept both exams,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director, Kaplan.

“Our advice is to gather intel and ask admissions officers if their program has a preference for one exam over the other.”

Kaplan's survey is the latest tranche of evidence that suggests GMAT takers may have an edge. A number of admissions directors recently told BusinessBecause that they prefer the GMAT, including Cass Business School, and the Tepper School of Business.

Schools say they like the fact that the GMAT was created specifically for business school candidates; the GRE covers a broad range of subjects.

Some scholarships are also tied to GMAT scores only. “If we get sent a GRE score we have to do a conversion online,” Nikki Harle, admissions manager at EDHEC Business School, said.

Some schools maintain that they are neutral. “We weight them both the same,” said Katelyn Rosa Stephenson, assistant dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown McDonough.

Business schools say that accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT widens the pool of applicants beyond students from “traditional” MBA backgrounds like finance, banking or consulting.

That's because people who take the GRE are sometimes also applying to non-business courses.

Sixty-one percent of schools in Kaplan's survey said offering the GRE has resulted in the enrolment of more students from non-traditional backgrounds.

Pilar Vicente, IE Business School director of admissions, says: “Diversity and academic excellence are very important in the admissions process.

“The GRE is a good option for some candidates who feel more comfortable with this type of exam and are considering not only business schools but a variety of postgraduate options.”

Yet the GRE has not significantly contributed to enrolling more female students (25%), students of colour (24%), or low income students (16%).

Admissions consultants argue that the GMAT is more quant-heavy than the GRE. The GMAT's integrated reasoning section, introduced as an addition to the exam in 2012, can also highlight a candidate’s ability to analyse data — a prized skill-set.

Ultimately, the entrance test is only one piece of the admissions puzzle.

Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, says applicants tend to focus too much on the GMAT or GRE.

“It provides a score, a batting average if you will. But when all is said and done, it’s just one of the pieces we’re considering.”