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MBA Applicants: Should You Take The GRE Or The GMAT?

Many people assume the GMAT is the only option for business school entry – but by taking the GRE instead candidates can highlight certain strengths.


Tue Dec 30 2014

Two potential tests, two potential roads to business school and one very important question – should you take the GMAT or the GRE?

The GRE is a general entrance test for graduate school applicants, while the GMAT is specifically for prospective business school students. Sitting for one of these two exams is a requirement for most MBA programs. If you are still deciding which to complete, there are a few steps you should take.

1. Speak With Your Schools

Certain business schools accept both the GMAT and the GRE, though the GMAT is often the test of choice. Speak with the admissions departments at your prospective programs to determine which exams they accept and which exams they prefer.

If your college or career background lacks strong quantitative or analytical skills, sitting for the GMAT – and scoring well on it – may boost those aspects of your application.

You should speak with current students and alumni about their test experiences. They can provide you with insight on the exams, and how important the tests are at their schools.

2. Compare Elements Of The Exams

The GMAT and the GRE may seem relatively equivalent. For instance, take cost: the fee for the GMAT is $250, while the GRE costs $195. Another example is length: the GMAT is three hours and 30 minutes long, plus breaks, and the GRE is three hours and 45 minutes long, also with breaks.

Both the GMAT and the GRE include quantitative and verbal sections, as well as writing components, but they are structured in different ways.

The GMAT utilizes an analytical writing assessment that consists of one 30-minute analysis of argument essay. The Integrated Reasoning portion is also 30 minutes in length. There is a Verbal section that includes reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction questions.

Finally, the Quantitative portion of the GMAT has two question types: data sufficiency and problem solving. An on-screen calculator is provided only during the Integrated Reasoning section.

The GRE features an Analytical Writing section that includes two 30-minute essays: an analyse an issue task and an analyse an argument task. Verbal Reasoning relies on reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence questions.

The Quantitative Reasoning portion tests you in quantitative comparison and numeric entry. Some of its multiple-choice questions have just one answer, while others may have more than one. The Quantitative Reasoning section is calculator-friendly.            

Finally, consider scoring. The GMAT has one essay score (0-6), one Integrated Reasoning score (1-8), Verbal and Quantitative scores (0-60), and one total score (200-800). The GRE has one essay score (0-6), one Verbal Reasoning score (130-170), and one Quantitative Reasoning score (130-170).

Review your chosen business schools’ admissions materials for average GMAT and GRE results.

3. Take A Practice Exam

Completing both a simulated GMAT and a simulated GRE can help you decide which test you excel in.

For instance, the Verbal Reasoning questions in the GRE rely heavily on vocabulary skills. If you wish to display your command of the English language, the GRE may be a great option.

Conversely, if you are excellent at analysing verbal questions, the GMAT may present a more favourable picture of your abilities. 

4. Decide What Is Best For You

After carrying out research, review your options and make a plan. The GMAT or the GRE will only count for one part of your application. You must still factor in your college performance, career history, letters of recommendation, personal essays and interviews. Consider how your GMAT or GRE scores will fit within your overall package.

Mahlena-Rae Johnson is a professional GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She received her MBA from the University of Southern California in 2010 and scored a 740 on the GMAT.