GMAT or GRE for Business School: What Top Schools Say

For those who are applying to business school, with or without the anticipation of a joint-degree program, the question arises: should I take the GMAT or the GRE?

In all honesty, I think the answer is either, but it's not entirely black and white. First, not all business schools accept the GRE. You'll see below that indicates, at least of this writing, which do and which do not. I've also put links to the school websites for further explanation. Things change all the time.

MBA Programs that Take the GRE Too

School GRE? Link
Cambridge YES mba/apply/requirements.html">Cambridge Judge
Chicago YES Chicago Booth
Columbia YES Columbia Business School
Cornell YES Cornell Johnson
Darden YES UVA Darden
Duke YES Duke Fuqua
HBS YES Harvard Business School
INSEAD YES mba.insead.edu/admissions/criteria.cfm">INSEAD
Kellogg YES Kellogg MBA
Mich Ross YES University of Michigan Ross
MIT Sloan YES MIT Sloan
NYU Stern YES NYU Stern
Stanford YES mba/admission/gmat-gre">Stanford GSB
Tepper YES mba/admissions/checklist/index.aspx#VII.">Carnegie Mellon Tepper
Texas YES Texas McCombs
Tuck YES Dartmouth Tuck
UCLA YES UCLA Anderson (GMAT Preferred)
Wharton YES mba/admissions/application-requirements.cfm#a6">Wharton MBA
Yale YES Yale School of Management
Haas NO mba.haas.berkeley.edu/admissions/requirements.html" target="_blank">UC Berkeley Haas (Part-time YES)
LBS NO London Business School
Oxford NO mba/Pages/requirements.aspx" target="_blank">Oxford Said

If you are looking for more schools the ETS link has a full list of MBA programs which accept the GRE. Further, to confuse, or perhaps clarify you, ETS also has a GRE-to-GMAT converter.

Why do schools even take the GRE? Because they are casting a wider net to get more interesting students, and because they realize that lots of students think about joint degree programs. Harvard Business School was one of the first schools to accept the GRE, because, as Dee Leopold said in 2009

HBS: Since many HBS applicants are also considering graduate programs besides the MBA, there is now no need for them to take the GMAT if they have already taken the GRE. We believe that the GMAT and the GRE meet our expectations of what a standardized test can tell us about a candidate's ability to thrive in our MBA Program.

The Rumor Mill
Face it, both tests are standardized, and both are computer adaptive. They are both annoying and require more studying than you want. Most, but not all schools are perfectly happy to take either. For example, this line is from Michigan Ross's application instructions:

ROSS:Your performance on either exam will be used as part of our assessment of your academic ability, and you are at no advantage or disadvantage by taking one exam instead of the other.

. But other schools, such as UCLA Anderson, strongly prefer the GMAT

ANDERSON: We strongly prefer the GMAT as a standard by which to evaluate all applicants, but we will accept GRE scores instead.

That means you have to check carefully and rely on what you read and hear from admissions officers, beyond what is on forums, and even blogs like mine. Caution, the next few lines are entirely hearsay! This could have been a quirk, a miscommunication, or a policy that has changed. For example, I had a student who took the GRE for Columbia, did well, but felt he wanted to take the GMAT to prove his quant mettle. He didn't do well because he had an off day, but because he HAD taken the test, Columbia took his GMAT instead of the GRE. What would have happened if he didn't report the GMAT? Who ever knows. (He is going to Yale SOM anyway, his first choice).

Your Quant Score
Most admissions officers admit that they want to see a balanced score on both verbal and quant. The general buzz is that around 80% on both is about right, but there's definitely some give on both sides. So don't fear if you get a 47 on the quant, which is turning out to be a 78% these days. As for the GRE, it's pretty well known that you are being measured against a different population, usually not as quant-oriented as gmat test takers. So shoot for a higher percentage, say about 85% on quant.

If you are worried about how you look by taking one test vs. another, I say, don't worry unless they really make a point of it (like UCLA).

Having said all that, if test taking is not your forte, you really should take a GRE or gmat course. You don't know what you don't know about your own study habits. It's worth the investment.

 

Some people who are taking joint degree programs feel that the GRE works better for their plans. OR, some have already taken the GRE because they wanted to keep their options open for a range of graduate programs, and then decided on business school.

Betsy Massar Come see me at my Q&A thread http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-w-betsy-massar-of-master-admissions Ask away!
 

Great post and you're definitely right about the rationale behind chosing between GMAT and GRE. In Europe, GMAT tend to be more common than GRE so if you know you want to attend business school there you might as well go with the GMAT. One might also suggest that your raw GMAT score is somewhat easier to benchmark since it's more common, although this hardly applies for any admission office.

 

Interesting. I have a good friend who is an econ major at a top undergrad school, and she's going into finance. She is trying to convince me that she should take the GRE because she'll get a higher score, but I'm concerned that most people with her profile will have taken the GMAT. Is it important that you take the test that people with a similar profile do (i.e. bankers and consultants should take the GMAT)?

 
Best Response
mango123:
Interesting. I have a good friend who is an econ major at a top undergrad school, and she's going into finance. She is trying to convince me that she should take the GRE because she'll get a higher score, but I'm concerned that most people with her profile will have taken the GMAT. Is it important that you take the test that people with a similar profile do (i.e. bankers and consultants should take the GMAT)?

Hi Mango, It isn't clear whether she will get a higher score, but if she thinks she will, then that is as good a reason as any to take the GRE. At places like HBS, I don't think she will be compared on an either/or basis to others who have taken the GMAT. She will be compared on her percentiles, though, and I would say that the bar for quant is higher for the GRE than it is for the GMAT. So in the end, it's not clear which is better for her.

Some people just get a rash when thinking about the GMAT, which is understandable, and might feel less stressed by the GRE. Since both tests are head trips, the lower the stress the better.

Betsy Massar Come see me at my Q&A thread http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-w-betsy-massar-of-master-admissions Ask away!
 

Thanks, Kejsaren, Indeed, GMAT is more common all over the world, and the ETS (creator of the GRE) is trying to get in on the act. Over the last few years, I've seen more and more students who took the GRE right out of undergrad, just because. Now that business schools are collecting more data on GRE-admits and matriculants, they are getting more comfortable with the GRE.
The real reason to put this table up was to show what schools are saying about both tests. That's why I put all those links in -- I was kind of surprised to see how it came out after doing the research. I did this back in 2011 and the table didn't have quite as many "yesses"

Betsy Massar Come see me at my Q&A thread http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-w-betsy-massar-of-master-admissions Ask away!
 

Hi Betsy,

I had a question on GMAT splits. I recently took the test for a 2nd time and scored a 710, with a 47Q (73rd percentile) and 41V (93rd percentile) placing me in the 92nd percentile overall. Initially, I was satisfied with my score, but after reading your post I was curious how adcomms will perceive the difference between my V and my Q. If I'm aiming for a top-10 business school, will a 710 cut it with a notably stronger verbal performance? To give you a bit more information, I have a pretty math-heavy background having graduated with a BS in engineering and done three years of banking (two of which at a top firm) and am set to join a private equity firm in a few months. Your thoughts are appreciated.

 
islandbanker:

Hi Betsy,

I had a question on GMAT splits. I recently took the test for a 2nd time and scored a 710, with a 47Q (73rd percentile) and 41V (93rd percentile) placing me in the 92nd percentile overall. Initially, I was satisfied with my score, but after reading your post I was curious how adcomms will perceive the difference between my V and my Q. If I'm aiming for a top-10 business school, will a 710 cut it with a notably stronger verbal performance? To give you a bit more information, I have a pretty math-heavy background having graduated with a BS in engineering and done three years of banking (two of which at a top firm) and am set to join a private equity firm in a few months. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Hi Island Banker, I am answering this here and will repost over on my Q&A thread too in the hopes that I won't be considered spamming. I wanted to put the answer over there too because it's so interesting and it's a very popular question.

The 47 quant score is not a deal-killer for you, particularly that you have an engineering background. Admissions reps know you can do the math, and considering your grades in the challenging courses, they will not worry too much about the percentile. This is because over the years a lot of very talented and good-at-test-taking students from overseas are boosting the quant range. The data is actually available on the GMAC website, and I should probably dig into it more for verification. (Watch this space).

The other thing about your candidacy is that you are already in finance and have a the kind of career path that shows progression and increasing challenge. A job in private equity after banking assures admissions people that you have already jumped over a few bars based on smarts, personality, and yes, leadership. These firms are looking for similar traits as business schools. (But note, they care about the whole package).

I personally like the fact that you are a math/science guy who can read and write. That makes your contribution well-rounded and, depending on the rest of your profile, more interesting. As Dee Leopold, head of HBS admissions often says, "We know you are smart, but are you interesting?" Note that she also says the same thing in reverse: "We know you are interesting, but are you smart? Yes, we are a school."

Does that help?

Betsy

Betsy Massar Come see me at my Q&A thread http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-w-betsy-massar-of-master-admissions Ask away!
 

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Betsy Massar Come see me at my Q&A thread http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-w-betsy-massar-of-master-admissions Ask away!

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