Now that top b-schools (including HBS, Stanford, Wharton, and MIT Sloan, among others) are accepting either GMAT or GRE scores, MBA applicants are a bit at a loss as to which test might enhance their chances of acceptance.
BusinessWeek calls the recent GMAT-GRE showdown the “business school version of the Coke-or-Pepsi debate.” Obviously choosing between taking the GMAT or the GRE is a lot less trivial than choosing between two soft drinks. You need to think carefully about your testing options.
BW explores the different factors and offers tips to b-school applicants:
- Take the GMAT if you’re applying to any MBA programs that do not accept the GRE (like Chicago Booth).
- Take the GMAT if you plan on a post-MBA career in an investment bank or management consulting firm—recruiters from such places use GMAT scores as a screening tool.
- Take the GMAT if you plan on applying to b-school this year or next. For now at least, the GMAT is the more highly regarded test among b-school adcoms (even if they claim that the tests are on equal footing).
- Take the GRE if you are fresh out of college, aren’t quite sure what you plan on doing next, feel pumped and prepared to take one final exam while you’re still in testing-mode, and are open to the possibility of applying to b-school in the next five years. (The GRE scores can be submitted within five years.) According to the BW article, this younger crowd (particularly the females) is an attractive demographic to b-schools who are attempting to diversify their applicant pools.
- Take the GRE if your schools accept the scores and if you consistently score higher on the GRE on practice tests. BW quotes me and my suggestion to take practice tests and see where you earn the higher scores. Your goal is to reach the 80th percentile or higher on each segment of the exam.
- Take the GRE if you want to save about $100 and have a hard time getting to a GMAT testing center. GREs are cheaper and are administered in more geographic locations.
I actually disagree with BW’s take on #3. Even if you are applying this year or next to schools that accept the GRE and GMAT, if your GMAT is low and your GRE is high, then apply with the GRE—especially if you are otherwise a strong candidate. Why? Because of the one element this otherwise excellent article did not address: the role of the school’s average GMAT score in rankings and in the perception of potential applicants and alumni donors.
A higher average GMAT means the school will rank better in US News and attract more applications, which will further raise its standing. Furthermore, potential applicants (and alumni donors) look at the incoming class’ average GMAT as an indication of class “quality.” The GRE is not used by US News in its highly influential rankings. There is no (at least not yet) published average GRE score for incoming MBA classes. If an applicant has good grades and work experience, but bombs the GMAT, submitting a GRE is an option that allows the school to admit him or her without taking even a slight hit to its average GMAT.
Assuming your target schools accept the GRE and you are not going into a field that may use the GMAT as a screening mechanism (#2 above), the GRE is a viable option. The GMAT probably is still the gold standard even at those schools that say they evaluate both scores equally. However, if your GMAT is more like fool’s gold, you may be better off going for the silver.
If you decide to go the traditional route and take the GMAT, don’t forget to take advantage of Accepted.com’s free GMAT prep resources, including:
- Top 5 GMAT Test-Taking Strategies
- 3 Tips to Reduce GMAT Test Anxiety
- GMAT Strategies for the Math-Challenged
- Strategies for the GMAT’s Verbal Section