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.

Where Does Wall St. Hire: U.S. B-Schools Sending Grads into Financial Services

According to GMAC’s just released Prospective Students Survey Report, 37% of prospective MBA students hope to go into finance after they earn their degree, making it the most popular post-MBA destination. If you fall into this crowded category, then you’ll be interested in knowing which b-schools prepare the most grads for jobs in financial services.

As you’ll see below, we’ve created two charts (based on data from U.S. News’ top 25, which happens to have 26 schools because of a tie for 25th place) that display the U.S. schools with the highest percentage of grads going into financial services and those with the highest number of grads reporting financial services jobs. We did not include non-U.S. programs because U.S. News doesn’t rank them, and we wanted the data to be consistent. There are definitely financial powerhouses outside the U.S.

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For more information about the top MBA programs, check out our B-School Zone pages.

The top names on this list, in terms of absolute numbers, are the standard bearers in finance, known as Wall St. breeding grounds. I was a little surprised at how low MIT Sloan came out on both totem poles. It has very prominent faculty in finance, including Nobel Prize winner Robert C. Merton. Perhaps those smaller schools known for entrepreneurship, like Stanford, MIT Sloan, and Haas, are sending more of their graduates into non-traditional fields. Consequently they will not do as well in this kind of a ranking even though they have the curricular, co-curricular, and placement ability to support financial services goals.

Can you put less weight on attending schools at the top of the list even though you may want to go into financial services when you graduate? You can if you’ve already worked in financial services and are looking to get a broader understanding of business, management and leadership through the MBA. Those of you with that background already have valuable skills and a relevant network. Those of you looking to get into financial services for the first time, however, will probably want to look more closely at the programs higher up this list.

Realize that these lists don’t reflect the class profile of the programs or the typical credentials of admitted applicants. You need to know that information too to assess your competitiveness when choosing where to apply. Washington Olin (2nd in percentages) has an average GMAT of 696. UNC Kenan-Flagler (ranked #4 in percentages) has an average GMAT of 683. Both schools send 32% and 28% of their grads respectively into financial services. For those of you without GMAT bragging rights or other qualifications to get into Chicago (average GMAT 723), Columbia (716), and Wharton (average GMAT 725) — the leaders on this list in absolute numbers and overall USN ranking – Olin and Kenan-Flagler may be a good alternative and at least start you down your desired career path.

Much as I did with the similar data we compiled on consulting I must issue a warning: This list or ranking is valuable, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. “Financial services” is a very broad category covering everything from private equity and venture capital, to investment banking, money management, corporate financial analyst positions, and even good old bean counting (AKA accounting). Clearly your specific area of interest is critical, and you have to dig deeper into the employment reports at your target schools to confirm strong placement in your particular area of interest. Also understand how the curriculum and co-curricular activities, events, and clubs will help you do what you want to do after your MBA.

You want to attend a b-school that will help you realize your career goals. Identifying schools with exceptional track records for students with similar goals – especially for those of you seeking to change industries and enter financial services – is an excellent place to start when choosing which MBA programs to apply to, and ultimately, deciding where to attend. This list helps you focus your research. It is the starting gate, not the finish line.

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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.

Consulting at Top MBA Programs

MBA In Sight: Focus on Management Consulting - Click here to download your copy!Entrepreneurship is the sexy post-MBA job, but the reality is that less than 5% of grads from top MBA programs start a business at graduation. Per GMAC’s just released Prospective Students Survey Report, 34% of all graduate business students seek consulting positions after they earn their degree. My suspicion is that the figure is even higher among full-time MBA candidates. True, many will work as consultants for a few years, and then down the road start their own business.

If you are in that vast mass of MBA wannabes planning/hoping for a job in consulting immediately after you earn your degree, this ranking is for you! We’ve examined US Newstop MBA programs and the number of grads who have gone into consulting from each one. (The data here is from U.S. News.)

Schools Ranked by Percentage of Grads Going into Consulting

Schools Ranked by Number of Grads Going into Consulting

The biggest surprise is how low Stanford places on these lists. I would attribute that low ranking to the relatively high percentage of MBAs going into entrepreneurship (approximately 18%, the highest of any of these programs by far.).  Yale’s placement as #1 in percentage as well as Duke Fuqua’s, CMU Tepper’s and Emory’s as respectively #2,#6 and #8 on the percentage list also indicate real strength in consulting placement, which sometimes isn’t recognized.

Similarly Wharton’s #1 placement and Chicago Booth’s #4 spot in total numbers call into question the meme that these two programs are “just” finance powerhouses.

Certainly a high ranking in either of these lists indicates that the program has the recruiting ties, placement track record, and alumni network, as well as the curriculum, to support your consulting goals.  However, these numbers don’t tell the full picture. Dig into the schools’ class profile, placement stats, curriculum, extra-curricular activities and opportunities to determine which schools to apply to.

Ultimately you want to apply to programs that will take you where you want to go and that are likely to admit you.

Click here to download your free copy of Focus on Management Consulting

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.

From Music to MBA: IV with a Notre Dame Mendoza Student

Check out our 2014 Notre Dame application essay tips!

I was a total Type-A hiding out in the world of fine arts.

Here’s a talk with Notre Dame Mendoza student, Jessica Bonanno, a second-year student with lots of advice to share about life at Mendoza – competitions, courses, and culture. Of particular interest to ND applicants will be Jessica’s application tips and her definition of the ideal Mendoza student. Thank you Jessica and best of luck to you!

This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergraduate? What’s your favorite non-school book?

Jessica: I grew up in Central Florida and got my degree from a small liberal arts school called Rollins College, where I studied classical piano and music education. During my senior year, I started a small music program for kids which became very successful in its mission and was my full time job for about eleven years, until I decided to apply to b-schools.

Accepted: Can you talk more about your involvement with music? Is there a connection between your work as a musician and an educator and your MBA?

Jessica: I always think it’s funny when folks ask me how I went from music to business because it’s much more typical, indeed clichéd, for folks working in the corporate world to feel mismatched and dream of being an artist or a musician. But I am the opposite: I was a total Type-A hiding out in the world of fine arts.

Yes, I majored in music and went on to found an after-school music program. Yes, I ran a non-profit trade association for music teachers and I even managed a rock band. But, all along, I knew deep down that I wasn’t truly a musician on the inside. Music was just something I knew, which became a conduit for me to serve others and express my creativity. The reason my initiatives succeeded was less about my musical knowledge and much more about my entrepreneurial nature and inclination toward designing efficient systems to support innovative ideas or worthy missions.

It took me many years to realize this but, when I finally did, I knew getting an MBA would help me take my natural organizational development talent to the next level and give me some hard skills to back up my leadership ability.

Accepted: Why did you choose Notre Dame Mendoza? How would you say you’re a good fit with the program?

Jessica: Notre Dame was the very first program I ever looked at, after deciding to apply to business school. Coming from mission-driven organizations, I had a lot of apprehension about applying to business school. I knew my interest in social enterprise would not be the norm in any b-school but, at a minimum, I wanted to find a program that supported a critical examination of the role of business in society and promoted discussions about the intersection of business and ethics.

Notre Dame was that program.

This doesn’t mean that everyone here is interested in social business, like me. To the contrary – only about a fifth of my class plans to pursue this type of a career. But even if everyone isn’t interested in an expressly social career, nearly everyone in the program is interested in expressing their own personal values in their career choices. And though this means different things for different people and we sometimes disagree among ourselves, you’ll never find anyone here who would argue that it’s ok to succeed in business at the expense of others. I expected to find an overemphasis on profit at any cost at b-school but, instead I have found that nearly every MBA topic at ND is examined through an ethical lens. The curriculum is refreshingly holistic.

Accepted: What have been some of your favorite classes so far at ND?

Jessica: I set two personal goals for my MBA experience: First, I wanted to become really, really knowledgeable and skilled in the areas that I already knew something about, such as organizational leadership and social business. Second, I wanted to learn a brand new area that I knew absolutely nothing about, so I selected finance and investments.

On the social side, I’ve been privileged to take courses like Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, which is coordinated through our Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship (a fantastic resource for aspiring entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs alike). This spring, I’ll be participating in one of our program’s signature courses called Business on the Frontlines, in which students work as real-world consultants for businesses in post-conflict regions or developing economies. My team will be traveling to Guatemala to work with an agricultural cooperative.

On the finance side, I’ve been able to study topics like M&A and International Finance under expert practitioners and, this spring, am looking forward to participating in the elite Applied Investment Management (AIM) program, in which my team and I will be responsible for managing a portion of our school’s endowment.

Other highlights of my time at Mendoza include studying for 8 weeks in Santiago, Chile, writing an original case study (pending publication) for the Fanning Center for Business Communications, and competing for thousands of dollars in start-up capital in the McKloskey Business Plan competition.

But none of this compares to the sense of community. The people are what make Notre Dame special. Here’s a blog post I wrote about what it’s like to be a student in such a close-knit and amazing community.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your competition experience – both with the ND Deloitte Interterm Case Competition and the BYU Social Innovation Case Competition?

Jessica: You’ve probably heard that case competitions are considered the varsity sport of b-school. They’re a chance to consolidate the sum of your professional experience and business training to solve a real business problem in a short time, while competing against other very talented people to create the best solution.

I’ve had the pleasure of competing in three case comps and they’ve been some of the most fun I’ve had during my MBA. Most case comps are time constrained, requiring a full solution to a challenging case in under 5 days. The process is extremely intense and involves a lot of all-nighters and last-minute preparation, which can stress out a team that doesn’t have a commitment to humility, cooperation and kindness. But the amount that can be accomplished in this time is astounding, when you have a group of diverse, brilliant students with a do-or-die work ethic and an attitude of good sportsmanship, the signature trait of a Notre Dame MBA.

My teams took first place in two of the three case comps I’ve participated in, which made the fun of competition all the more rewarding. The Deloitte Interterm Case Competition is actually a part of the first-year curriculum – all students participate and we compete among other Notre Dame MBAs. The BYU Social Innovation Case Comp is an annual competition sponsored by BYU’s Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance. Notre Dame actually sponsored our team and flew us out to Utah, where we had the privilege of meeting some amazing MBAs from other schools. As part of the festivities, we even got to participate in an all-day TED-X event.

Accepted: What has your involvement with the Forte Foundation been like? Would you recommend the program to other b-school-bound women?

Jessica: I’m very supportive of Forte’s mission to bring more women into business leadership. However, the companies that they work with, many of which are large banks, aren’t necessarily a match for my own interests so I haven’t become too involved with the foundation. Regardless, I think they’ve created an amazing resource for women who are seeking more traditional business careers, which is a positive thing for women as well as for society, in general. Research shows that women business leaders tend to take less unnecessary risks and are much more concerned with the role of business in society…And the world needs more of that.

Accepted: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Jessica: My professional interests include a variety of social business topics including cooperatives, social enterprise, and impact investing. But I’m seeking a career in the socially responsible investment space because my background in non-profit and education taught me that that’s where the greatest need is. There are plenty of brilliant people with brilliant ideas in the social space but there is a shortage of socially-oriented professionals who understand how to raise capital, create sustainable revenue models, or maximize a shoestring budget. That’s the value I hope to provide, perhaps as the manager of an impact fund.

Accepted: What are your three top tips for ND Mendoza applicants?

Jessica:  1. In my observations, Notre Dame is looking for mature, honest candidates who have a record of accomplishment, a strong work ethic, and a balanced lifestyle. This community encourages excellence not only in academics and professional background, but also excellence of body, mind, spirit, and citizenship. Make sure that your essays and interview answers reflect the things about you that demonstrate this. Talk about your accomplishments and your values. Talk about your ambition and your family or community. Most importantly, don’t act entitled. Humility is the hallmark of the type of servant-leader that Notre Dame is looking for.

2. Notre Dame wants you to want them. Our program has chosen to remain small to preserve the type of close-knit community that makes us unique. For that reason, admissions officers will be impressed by candidates who can clearly articulate why they think they are a match for ND. So, find out by reaching out to current students or scheduling a campus visit. Most people don’t truly understand and can’t explain what makes Notre Dame so special until they’ve been there or interacted with the people. Once they have, they can craft a much more convincing argument for why they belong at ND.

3. Take advantage of all application rounds. Unlike some top schools, who fill most of their class in rounds one and two and have few seats left open in spring, Notre Dame admits a good number of candidates in every round. So, if it’s late in the year and you’re trying to decide whether to apply or wait for fall, go ahead and do it! As long as you have a strong application, your chances will still be good even late in the year.

Accepted: Last but not least, who would you say is the ideal ND student?

Jessica: I would suggest that Notre Dame’s MBA program is a good fit for anyone who has good qualifications but who is also interested in:

• a traditional business career (finance, consulting, etc) but who wishes to express either personal or religious values in their career; or

• social enterprise or an impact career; or

• entrepreneurship generally; or

• the emerging field of business analytics (we just developed a concentration in this field); or

• Business Communications (our Fanning Center for Communications is very well-known).

ND is also very military friendly and is good for anyone who is married or has a family (the grad school is extremely supportive of young families and couples and has many resources, activities, and housing options available).

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Notre Dame Mendoza, see Notre Dame Mendoza 2014 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips.

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Looking for MBA Application Essay Tips?

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