GRE vs. GMAT: Trends

A recent Poets & Quants article highlights some of the current data surrounding the decision applicants make in choosing between the GRE and GMAT. According to the Educational Testing Service, almost 10% of MBA applicants took the GRE instead of the GMAT in the 2012-2013 testing year, a 38% increase since last year’s testing period.

One factor responsible for this shift is the fact that some major MBA players (mainly Chicago Booth, UC Berkeley Haas, and Georgetown McDonough) finally decided to accept the GRE.

Here are some additional stats:

• 29% of b-schools surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep said that at least 10% of their applicants were GRE test takers. 18% of schools said that their GRE pool was at 18%. 6% of respondents said that their applicant pool was made up of half GRE test takers and half GMAT test takers.

• At Yale SOM, 21% of applicants submitted GRE scores last year, an increase of 18% since the previous year.

• 25% of Notre Dame Mendoza prospective students submitted a GRE score last year, up from 12% previously.

• At UCLA Anderson, only 3% of applicants submitted GRE scores.

• 5% of Columbia Business School applicants took the GRE last year, compared to 2% the year before.

• At Emory Goizueta, 8% of last year’s prospective students took the GMAT, up from the previous year’s 3%.

• Washington Olin’s GRE pool dropped 7% from 31% in 2012 to 24% last year (which is still high).

• Texas McCombs also took a slight dip, from 13% in 2012 to 11% last year.

• In India, the number of GRE test takers increased 68% last year, from 52,792 in 2012 to 88,884 last year. In the U.S., the increase in test takers over that same period was just 5.3%, from 401,286 test takers in 2012 to 422.668 this past year.

Reasons for the Growth in GRE

• Versatility of the GRE. Rob Weiler, UCLA Anderson’s associate dean, points out that many students are submitting scores from GRE tests they took up to a few years ago. “It’s clear that they had graduate school in mind when they took the test but were still considering the best avenue to take for their career,” he says. “Once it became clear that business school was their choice, they used their GRE score to apply.”

• Price. The GMAT is priced at $250, while the GRE costs only $195.

• Rankings and willingness to accept lower scores. The P&Q article states that admissions consultants are suggesting that applicants take the GRE over the GMAT because of the way official rankings take the GMAT into consideration. “So an admissions office might be overly sensitive to a low GMAT score, but might pass on a lower GRE,” states the article, which then goes on to compare GREs and GMATs of accepted students at Yale – the former being lower than the latter. (Using ETS’ comparative tool, the equivalent GMAT score based on the GRE scores accepted at Yale would be 660; the average GMAT score at Yale is 714. A similar phenomenon is found with other programs, with a 91 point gap at Cornell Johnson, a 126 point gap at Washington Olin, and a 118 point gap at Vanderbilt Owen.)

• The ScoreSelect option. This allows test takers to retake the exam and send only their best score to their target schools.

The following chart comes from the P&Q article and shows the percentage of 2012-2013 applicants who submitted GRE scores, as well as the GRE-GMAT differences.

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Source: Business schools reporting to U.S. News & World Report

My thoughts

On one hand, the focus on the comparator tool may be misplaced. When I have spoken to admissions committee members about the GRE we spoke in terms of percentile scores. I would love to see this data and the comparison between the GMAT and the GRE comparing percentile scores. I think that would be more worthwhile. I suspect it would still show similar results, but perhaps with smaller gaps.

Regardless of the validity of the comparator tool, this article suggests that the GRE may not only be cheaper, it may in a way take your score out of the public eye. And if you don’t need a high GMAT to snag an interview at an elite bank or consulting firm, and you’re struggling with the GMAT, the GRE may be a better test for you.

Although I can’t locate the blog post, soon after schools started accepting the GRE in greater numbers, I suggested that those of you with other evidence of academic ability who are struggling with the GMAT should contemplate applying with the GRE. I felt that because the GRE is not reflected in the published GMAT averages that applicants, alumni, and employers use as a quick-and-dirty reflection of student “quality,” submitting a GRE score instead of the GMAT would give admissions officers wiggle room to focus on other aspects of your application. It would allow them to consider your application without worrying about a hit to their GMAT average.

On the other hand if you can do well on the GMAT, go for it. Schools want GMAT bragging rights.

Got GMAT Questions? Visit GMAT 101 for advice.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Why You Don’t Need a Perfect GRE Score

Are you considering grad school and wondering where to start?

Anyone up for a climb?

Few things have the cachet of a perfect GRE score. Climbing Mt. Everest, and a perfect GMAT score come to mind. All amazing feats, ones in which you may be tempted to rest on your laurels. Yet, that perfect GRE score won’t open the door to every graduate program. Conversely, a score in the 330+ range can only help to get you into a top program (there is no attendant shame in falling short of perfection, as when you turn around thirty feet short of Everest’s summit).

What are schools actually looking for

Schools want a well-rounded candidate, one who has a strong GPA, excellent letters of recommendation, relevant work in the field (published papers don’t hurt!) and of course a competitive GRE score. Spending an extra month of study just so you make sure you can nail a perfect 170 on both the GRE math and the GRE verbal section takes away time that you could be working on other elements of your transcript. Again, being well-rounded trumps getting a perfect GRE score.

Average scores per programs

It may surprise you to learn that the average GRE scores for Ivy League schools are not all in the stratosphere. For instance, the average GRE quant score for Harvard engineers is 159. That means there are some Harvard bound engineers who are scoring near 150. Meanwhile, there is some math whiz with a perfect 170 on the math section who is not going to Harvard.

Does the same apply for the GMAT

For many b-school bound students, there is a raging debate: GMAT vs. GRE. If you fall into this camp, I want to make sure not to mislead you. In other words, don’t think that a perfect GMAT score can do what a perfect GRE score can’t—get you into the school of your choice. As coveted as that GMAT 800 may be, it by no means guarantees a one-way ticket to Yale or Wharton. Indeed, each year Stanford apparently turns away candidates with perfect GMAT scores.

Now that you know you don’t have to aim for a perfect score, only a very good one, you can give yourself a little bit of wiggle room. Faced with a tough triple-blank Text Completion that you just can’t wrap your head around? Guess and move on. There won’t be too many of these, and you’ll be able to relax, knowing that you don’t have to achieve perfection—just get pretty close.

Download our free report: GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

magooshThis post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE expert at Magoosh, a leader in GRE prep. For help with GRE vocabulary, check out our free flashcards and Vocab Wednesday videos on the Magoosh GRE Blog.

GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep

Bhavin-1-closeup-500x500GMAT, GRE, SAT… If one of these tests graces your future, tune in to our interview with Bhavin Parikh, CEO and founder of Magoosh, the leading online test prep company.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Bhavin for great test prep advice and the lowdown on Magoosh.

00:02:17 – The story behind Magoosh and a word about it’s future.

00:04:10 – Why Bhavin is on a “mission to change the way people learn.”

00:06:09 – More effective than traditional test-prep: How do you know?

00:07:44 – What makes Magoosh different.

00:11:39 – The risks of self-study (Magoosh is like a gym membership).

00:14:24 – Best GMAT (and GRE) prep tips.

00:18:29 – The million dollar question: GMAT or GRE?

00:22:15 – SAT changes ahead.

00:25:43 – The Hansoo Lee Fellowship for Haas entrepreneurs.

00:27:58 – Bhavin’s stand on the debate about the value of the MBA to entrepreneurs.

00:30:18 – Last pieces of advice for applicants.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

Admissions Straight Talk Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss a single episode! *Theme music is courtesy of

Relevant Links:

•  Magoosh
•  Should You Retake the GMAT?
•  How to Put Your Best Foot Forward on Test Day 
•  The Hansoo Lee Fellowship
•  7 Steps to a Successful MBA Application

Related Shows:

•  Interview with Chris Ryan of Manhattan GMAT
•  Linda Abraham on Overcoming Weaknesses
•  MBA Admissions According to an Expert
•  CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk:

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Comparing the GRE and GMAT

Visit GMAT 101 for advice.


Since business schools started accepting GRE scores for admissions, prospective students are now faced with a choice—what standardized test do I take?

Each student arrives at an answer in her own way. It’s not as simple as a straight head comparison—GRE versus GMAT. That said, it does help to know the similarities and differences between the two tests before making a decision.


Both tests have Reading Comprehension questions, requiring students to read through a passage and answer questions, such as main idea, structure, tone, author’s purpose, and inferences.

Since the revisions to the GRE, the two tests have questions that test a student’s ability to deal with arguments. The GRE has only a few of these question types whereas the GMAT has a sizeable number of these questions, about ⅓ of the verbal section. But both ask students to do similar things with an argument: strengthen or weaken the argument, choose a conclusion, evaluate the argument, or find a conclusion.

The GRE and GMAT ask students to analyze an argument containing flaws. Students have 30 minutes to analyze the logic and reasoning of the argument, explain why the conclusion is weak, and suggest ways to improve the argument.

Both tests contain “typical” standardized test math questions. These are the types of word problems and logical reasoning questions that students see in high school—but obviously more difficult. Both tests provide five answer choices and cover arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.

Both tests are computer-based, although a paper version of the GRE does exist. Unless you are taking the GRE outside of the U.S. and Europe, you’ll take a computer-based test. The rest of you will take the test a paper-based test. Everyone who takes the GMAT takes it on a computer.


The GRE has a second essay—Analyze an Issue. Students are given a prompt on a contemporary topic and are asked to form an opinion about the topic and support their opinion with reasons and examples.

Quantitative Comparison is a unique question type to the GRE. Students are given two columns with accompanying information and they must determine if one column is bigger, if they are equal, or if there is not enough information to know which is bigger.

Text Completions and Sentence Equivalence are core questions to the GRE Verbal section. Basically, these questions are fill-in the blank sentences that test a student’s vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Students need a rich vocabulary and discerning eye for the intended meaning of a sentence based on structural and semantic clues.

Both tests are adaptive; the GRE adapts section-to-section. After a student works through the first verbal and first math section, the subsequent sections will populate with questions based on the previous performance in the first sections.


In the Quantitative section, Data Sufficiency questions contain two statements, and students need to decide which statement provides sufficient information to solve the problem. Sometimes one statement works, sometimes both statements are needed, and sometimes there is not enough information to solve the problem.

Where the GRE emphasizes vocabulary, the GMAT emphasizes grammar and style in Sentence Correction questions. Each question contains a sentence with all or part of it underlined. Students must decide if the sentence is fine as is, or if one of four options is a better formulation of the idea in the sentence.

The GRE and GMAT used to be exactly the same when it came to the writing section until recently. The GMAT removed the Issue essay and introduced Integrated Reasoning. This section tests students’ ability to reason and make conclusions about data and information presented in multiple formats—emails, announcements, tables, diagrams, charts, and graphs.

The GMAT, like the GRE, is adaptive, but on a more granular level. The test adapts question-to-question, so that the difficulty level is constantly changing based on whether the student answered the previous question correctly or not.

Finally, the GMAT is more expensive, making prep materials and classes more expensive. This becomes more important too when you consider that many students take these tests more than once.

What Really Matters

Now that you have a better idea of what is similar and what is different between the tests, it’s time to figure out what test to take. The best way to decide is by taking a complete practice test for the GRE and GMAT. You can download the GRE’s free software, PowerPrep II Software, and the GMAT’s free software, GMAT Prep.

Whichever test you do better on, that’s the test you prepare for and take. Use a GMAT/GRE score conversion chart to compare your performance on each test since they have their own scoring systems.

This special report will help you navigate the MBA Maze

magooshThis post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.