GRE vs. GMAT: Which test should I take pre-MBA admissions?

Posted by Sophie Pauze on 7/4/14 7:52 AM

GMAT vs GRE resized 600

Historically, the GMAT has always been the key to business school admissions. But as of 2013, many business schools now accept the GRE. At this point, it’s clear that more students are still taking the GMAT, but the percent of GRE testers is rising.

There are a couple reasons for this:

(1) Some students find it to be an easier test.

(2) There is speculation that business schools will accept a lower GRE score relative to a GMAT score. Why? It’s unclear but the data shows that the average percentile GRE score is lower. At Wharton for example, the average GRE score was in the 65th percentile, while the average GMAT score was in the 94th percentile.

As a result of this new trend, many aspiring business school applicants are asking the question: Which test will look stronger on my business school application? The GRE or the GMAT?

We can’t say for sure which test is preferred by business schools, but can say one thing: Regardless of speculation, aspiring business school applicants should take the test that will best showcase their strengths.

To figure out which test will best serve you, let’s first start by comparing the nuts and bolts of the GRE and the GMAT:


            GRE               GMAT
 Cost  $195/test  $250/test
 How  Paper-based and  computer-based  formats  Computer-based  format
 Verbal content  Emphasis on  vocabulary  Emphasis on  grammar
 Quantitative  Content  Same concepts but  the question format  is easier  Same content but  the questions are  tricky and often ask  students to apply the  concept in an  unfamiliar way
 Other content  2 writing samples  Writing sample &  Integrated Reasoning  section (data  interpretation)
 Time  3 hours 45 minutes  3 hours and 30  minutes
 Scoring  Scored out of 170;  Writing sample  scored 1-6  Scored out of 800;  Writing sample  scored 1-6


Now that you understand the basic differences between the GRE and the GMAT, consider this set of questions:

Are you decidedly stronger in verbal or math?

If clearly stronger in verbal, take the GRE. The GRE’s emphasis on vocabulary and reading comprehension will better serve a natural verbal student. If clearly stronger in math, take the GMAT. GMAT math is significantly more advanced than GRE math. A GMAT tutor can walk you through the tips and tricks, and you’ll be readily on your way to a high score. 

Are you more comfortable taking a test in paper-based format, rather than a computer based format?

If yes, take the GRE. If no, take either.

Are you applying to a variety of degrees, or dual-degree programs?

If yes, take the GRE. The GRE is more broadly applicable and can be used for most graduate programs, except medical school and law school. If no, take either.
Finally, the hardest question because it touches on application strategy: Do you have strong financial or quantitative experiences on your resume?

This is tough because we must weigh your ability to do well with the need to back up your application. While the GMAT can serve to build your quantitative chops on the business application (assuming you do not have business experience or an academic background in math/economics/statistics), it will only help if you can perform well on it (i.e. 80th percentile and above).  If your chances of performing better on the GRE math section are higher (i.e. 90th percentile and above), take the GRE.

Not sure what to make of all this? The best way to figure out which test is right for you is to take a practice GRE and a practice GMAT. With that info in hand, a Cambridge Coaching GMAT tutor or GRE tutor can diagnose performance to help you make the decision that will best support your chances at successful business admissions.

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Tags: MBA admissions, GMAT, GRE