Not so Nostalgic for the Standardized Test of Yore

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No longer are your parents waking you up to study or take a test.

In the twilight region of your brain, there is buried a memory. It probably goes something like this: against your will, you woke up very early one Saturday morning to crowd into a room of similarly groggy teenagers. A vaguely authoritarian figure handed out number two pencils and yelled “start” and “stop” at 30-minute intervals.

You emerged from the experience frazzled, probably wondering why you had to take a stupid test that didn’t test what you really knew but seemed intent on tricking you. A few weeks later you got a score and then went on your way, a sour taste in your mouth whenever anyone uttered the letters—SAT.

Now, what seems a lifetime later, another very similar test stands between you and your academic career: the GRE. Like the SAT, you will have reading passages, big vocabulary words, and, of course, answer choices that are designed to trick you. Unlike the SAT, you may have a very different attitude towards education. No longer are your parents waking you up to take a test or telling you when to study (or at least I hope not); you are in charge, and you are set on doing very well on the GRE.

Much of that success depends not just on the size of your vocabulary or your knowledge of integer properties, but on how well you understand how the test is designed. Below are some points to keep in mind.

1. The SAT and the GRE are not exactly the same

The information above may lead you to think that the GRE and the SAT are exactly the same. First off, the GRE is much more difficult (makes sense since it tests knowledge in grad school bound students). And students often find themselves confused with the different scoring. The GRE score range is from 130 to 170 on a math and a verbal section (the GRE doesn’t have a writing section—though, like the SAT, it does have an essay).

 2. Understand why the right answer is right and the wrong answer is wrong

For SAT test takers there is a tendency to want to argue with the answers, especially on the dreaded SAT reading passages. The key is to not fight the correct answer but understand why the test writers consider the right answer and why your original answer is considered incorrect.

3. You must learn vocabulary

In high school you were probably loath (which means reluctant) to study vocabulary. For the GRE, you have to turn your initial revulsion to all things multisyllabic into an all-consuming passion. Think of a GRE word list as your ticket to a good score.

4. How did you do before?

If you did well on the SAT, you should do quite well on the GRE. There is no SAT to GRE score conversion, but unless you spent college unlearning your math and reading skills, your good SAT score should translate into a good GRE score.

If the SATs did you in and sent you sailing in a different direction in life, don’t despair. That’s what this post is for: to galvanize you to approach GRE studying differently from how you approached SAT studying. An average SAT score doesn’t have to translate into a mediocre GRE score. You can overcome the past. So get cracking on those vocabulary flashcards!

grad 5 Fatal Flaws

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.

Related Resources:

• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep
• Why You Don’t Need a Perfect GRE Score
• GRE vs. GMAT: Trends

GMAT vs. GRE: Harvard Business School Weighs In

HBS’s admissions director, Dee Leopold shares a helpful post on how HBS approaches the GMAT versus GRE issue. I’ll preface this with her preface: Please don’t over-crunch!

In short, the HBS view is agnostic. It’s not about which exam or even the overall score, but about the component scores and how they play into the individual applicant’s profile. For example (and this is her example), an engineer with highly quantitative work won’t need to prove her quant score as much as she’ll need to show off her verbal abilities with a high verbal score (either GMAT or GRE). An English major, on the other hand, will need to step up the quant component of his exam (again, either one) to show that he’ll be able to handle the quantitative work he’ll encounter at HBS.

Here’s a little chart from the original post:

Check out our GMAT 101 Page for great advice and info!

While this data may cause some of you quant jocks to jump to the conclusion that HBS really prefers the GMAT, remember the preface: “Don’t over-crunch.” If you only look at the stats in the table, you may conclude that GMAT takers have a slightly higher acceptance rate and that the GMAT is “preferred.” However that increased rate is probably more reflective of the make-up of GMAT-takers versus GRE-takers. People in the business world who are only pursuing an MBA (and not other degrees) are more likely to take the GMAT. It’s possible that applicants with weaker scores may lean toward the GRE or applicants with liberal arts backgrounds (and weaker quant skills) may have already taken the GRE. Hence the lower acceptance rate may not reflect any preference on Harvard’s part, but more a preference in the applicant pool.

Last point: HBS applicants need to choose to submit either the GRE or GMAT – and not both.

For more info, see the original post.

Applying to Harvard Business School? Check out our HBS 2015 application tips!

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Related Resources:

• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep
• That GMAT Score: Implications for Your MBA Application, a free webinar.
• Harvard Business School Zone

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.

Check out our GMAT 101 Page!

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 Accepted.com 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 podcastthemes.com.

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

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