GMAT Vs GRE: What Do INSEAD, LBS, HEC Paris And 7 Other Top B-Schools Really Think?

Admissions staff reveal how important the GMAT and the GRE are in your MBA application

“We have to take GMAT scores with a pinch of salt,” says Michael Shulver, former academic director at a top 50 ranked UK business school.

For Michael, the GMAT is the product of a broken system; schools give it weight due to its effect on rankings. For the majority of MBA admissions staff however, the GMAT remains the most respected standardized admission test; the correlation between GMAT scores and academic performance an accepted truth. 

But how important is the GMAT in an MBA application as a whole? And what about the GRE? The simple answer: it depends on the school. 

Business schools generally take a holistic approach to admissions, and most now accept both the GMAT and the GRE. But some - like INSEAD and Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business – prefer the quant-heavy GMAT.

In truth, proportionately few full-time MBA applicants take the GRE. Only 11% of the incoming MBA class at NYU Stern submitted a GRE score.

We spoke to admissions directors at top b-schools around the world to find out what they really think about the GMAT and the GRE.

UK

Tom Sommerlad, MBA admissions, Cass Business School, UK

Minimum GMAT/GRE: 600/75% for the quantitative and verbal section of the GRE. Average GMAT: 648.

We accept the GRE, but we prefer the GMAT. It’s a more standardized test and a better way of comparing similar applicants. And if you’re over our average GMAT that does put you in a significantly stronger position, especially when we’re awarding scholarships.

We’ve only been accepting the GRE for the past three years, probably only 5% of our applicants take it and it’s really only US candidates who take it.

David Simpson, admissions director, London Business School, UK

Minimum GMAT: 600. Average GMAT: 700.

The GMAT is a good indicator of academic performance, especially on the quantitative side. But the average from different regions does vary, so we’re open-minded.

There’ll be people coming in on a 600 who might end up on the dean’s list. A good GMAT alone does not get you in, nor does a below average GMAT preclude you from joining. We look at the GRE with the equivalent standards.

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Michael Shulver, former academic director at a top 50 ranked UK business school

I’m really not impressed by the GMAT.

GMAT is deemed important by the various bodies who rank MBA programs, so some deans of business schools try to bump up cohort GMAT scores to game the rankings. In turn, applicants play their part in the gaming by training obsessively for the test. In turn, there is a big industry that helps applicants train for GMAT. The whole system is broken and self-referential.

At my previous school, there was great pressure on me to take candidates with ridiculously high GMAT scores, when I wanted to take more rounded individuals. And I was losing richness and diversity in my cohort because of this obsessive focus on GMAT.

I looked into statistics; I looked at a 10-year span of GMAT scores compared with performance on the program, and I found it was basically flat-lined. There was no compelling relationship between GMAT scores and performance in modules. That was from one school, but it showed me that we have to take GMAT scores with a pinch of salt.

Europe (non-UK)

Mathieu Cotton, associate director MBA admissions, HEC Paris, France

No minimum GMAT/GRE. Average GMAT: 690.

There is no specific difference for us; we use both, and we are happy using both. The outcomes of the students that we admitted with the GRE are great. The only thing we see is that the GRE is mostly taken by candidates from the US.

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Virginie Fougea, associate director of admissions, INSEAD, France

No minimum GMAT/GRE. Average GMAT: 703.

The GMAT exam is designed specifically by business schools for business school applicants. Over the years, we have been able to get a good understanding of the test results and how they can help us predict the academic capacity of our applicants.

We accept the GRE primarily for applicants based in countries where the GMAT test is not offered.

Thuli Skosana, admissions manager, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Minimum GMAT/GRE: 550/a combined 320. Average GMAT: 620.

The GMAT is still the standard. We accept the GRE, but there’s not a huge number of students who take it.

We’re looking for people with well-rounded personalities who fit into the environment. We could choose a student with a minimum GMAT score over someone with a 700 for example; it happens every year.

Wim Naudé, dean of Maastricht School of Management, Netherlands

Minimum GMAT/GRE: 600/GRE equivalent.

GMAT really is a non-issue. A good GMAT score is great, but we are not blinded by a single metric. We are more interested in the whole individual and his or her passion that is behind the application.

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USA

Cindy McCauley, MBA admissions director, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon, USA

No Minimum GMAT/GRE. Average GMAT: 690. Average GRE: 159 verbal, 160 quantitative, 4.0 analytical writing (US News).

We prefer the GMAT because it was created specifically to evaluate business-school candidates. However, we will accept the GRE, and those applicants are evaluated in the same way.

When evaluating applications, the graduate exam is just one of several important factors. The GMAT simply provides an additional data point that offers insight into the student's ability to be successful academically in the program.

Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA Admissions, NYU Stern, USA

No minimum GMAT/GRE. Average GMAT: 710.

We evaluate applicants across three dimensions: their academic profile, professional achievements, and personal characteristics.

Within the academic profile, the GMAT or GRE is assessed along with GPA (grade point average). Equally important to our process is that we screen for “fit” with NYU Stern; applicants who bring high emotional intelligence and have a passion for the school.

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Colleen Hynes, senior associate director of graduate admissions, Babson College, USA

No minimum GMAT/GRE. Average GMAT: 628.

Candidates can submit either the GMAT or the GRE, as it’s important to us that students submit the test that most accurately reflects their strengths.

The score is not assigned a specific weight in comparison to other parts of the application, but the most successful candidates will showcase a well-rounded application that includes strong quantitative, critical thinking, and language skills as evidenced by not only the GMAT or GRE but also by essays, recommendation letters, and the interview.

Australia

Michele Roberts, MBA director, UWA Business School, Australia

No minimum GMAT. Average GMAT: 636. UWA do not accept the GRE.

We view the GMAT as an important indicator of how successful applicants will be in an intensive study environment. When assessing applicants, we look equally at their interview score, demonstrating leadership potential and interpersonal skills, and their GMAT score, demonstrating aptitude and academic ability.

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