Applying to an MBA Program: How to Choose Between GMAT and GRE 

September 17th, 2018


If you are at the point of applying to, or considering applying to, a MBA program, then you probably know that good GMAT scores will help you secure admission to a competitive business school. You may also be aware a majority of MBA programs allow applicants to choose between taking the GMAT or the GRE. So, the question for prospective applicants becomes, which test should you choose, the GMAT or the GRE?

Urban Legend: There’s Only Room for Success on One Exam

The two exams are can be polarizing for many prospective MBA’s: oftentimes, people tend to love one, and hate the other. But at the same time, many people find their scores to be proportionate across both exams.

A Little Bit of Background

Although both tests are widely accepted by business schools today, for many decades in the past, the GMAT was the only entrance exam for MBA applicants. Nowadays, the GRE is seen as a fitting alternative to the GMAT. More than 90% of MBA programs accept GRE scores and allow applicants to choose between the two exams. Prospective applicants are encouraged to determine whether your top ten business schools accept GRE scores. Let’s have a look at the two and see whether the GMAT or the GRE is more appropriate for you.

Do you Prefer Language or Math?

It is commonly considered that you can determine which exam to take based upon your proficiency in language and math. There are some differences on what is tested in the Quantitative sections of the two exams. GRE math questions are more straightforward and may therefore seem easier. However, a couple of mistakes can really ruin your score because the scoring is not very forgiving on the GRE. GMAT math questions can be a little more challenging. Fortunately, the section is more forgiving since the questions are adaptive, and a few mistakes will not do you as much harm as the GRE Quant (Quantitative) section will.

Both the GRE and the GMAT test your language skills. The GRE focuses on making inferences while the GMAT makes analysis a priority. On both of these tests, you will get Reading Comprehension as well as Critical Reasoning questions among other things. But generally speaking, if your strength is grammar, the GMAT would be more appropriate for you. If you are better in vocabulary, you may get better scores by taking GRE.

 Recommendations on Whether to Take GMAT and GRE

 When to Take the GRE…

  • You excel at vocabulary
  • GMAT math intimidates you.
  • You like looking through the passage questions before reading the passage.
  • Precision comes more easily to you than reasoning.
  • Formal logic is something you enjoyed and excelled in during high school or college.

 When to Take the GMAT…

  • If you can read fast and effectively at first glance
  • If you are fine with answering the question at first glance, without skipping and later returning to answer it, as the GMAT does not allow you to revisit former questions.
  • When you have strong reasoning and core math skills.
  • Prior to undergrad, you received good SAT and ACT Writing Section scores.
  • When you strongly believe you have good critical thinking and practical skills. So How Do You Make the Ultimate Choice?

Truthfully, the GMAT is more similar to the GRE than it is different, especially after GRE was revised in 2011. The differences highlighted above are quite subtle. Therefore, if you can do well on one, it is more than likely that you will be able to do well on the other.  If the differences highlighted above do not elucidate which test to take, then choose the GMAT. It is considered to give you a slight edge as you seek admission to an MBA school. Admissions committees may think you are more committed to enrolling at an MBA program, whereas with the GRE, you could be applying to MBA, MA, MS, or PhD programs.

Eliza Morrison Nimmich is a Co-Founder of Tutor the People: an online and in-person service that matches students with a 1-on-1, top-scoring, GRE Tutor or GMAT Tutor. Tutor the People also helps students with all steps of the applications process, such as personal statement review, resume review, and interview advising.




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