GMAT or GRE for Business School?

A question not uncommon among most of the B-School applicants. Should you go for GMAT or GRE to apply to international business schools? I have personally been approached by many applicants asking for what should they opt for.

The answer can be as simple as detailed it can get – most b-schools accept both test scores, but you need to choose wisely based on your preferences.

While business schools all over have been traditionally accepting GMAT score, increasing number of MBA programs are now also accepting an alternative in the form of GRE score. In the USA, top schools such as Harvard and Wharton also accept GRE score, while those in Europe and specially in the UK are a bit hesitant comparatively.

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Despite most schools now being open to accepting GRE score for application to their MBA program and have explicitly stated that they have no preference between the two- majority of the business school hopefuls still opt for the GMAT. So if you”re in the process of making that decision, consider the following points before you make your pick.

1. Speaking strictly from test perspective – the Quantitative section in GMAT is considered tougher than that of GRE, and vice-versa for Verbal section. So if you are the kind who fears mathematics and are more proficient with vocabulary, GRE might suit you. Most Indians however, tend to be good in Quant and struggle with Verbal. GMAT seems easier to crack. GMAT quant involves more reasoning skills than math section in GRE. Taking a mock test of each in the beginning to analyse where your strengths lie, will help you choose.

2. Another pertinent difference is that while GRE tests you thoroughly on your vocabulary and comprehension, GMAT is more extensive in testing you on your reasoning abilities. So while you may be great at recalling words, your grammar and critical reasoning may not be up to the mark. Consider this while making your decision on which exam to take.

3. GMAT has an added advantage in that it also consists of the IR (Integrated Section). Although it was introduced not so long ago, and many schools still do not officially take IR score into consideration, having a good IR score still positions your stance better. It is indicative of better data processing and analytical abilities, which is definitely desirable if you are pursuing MBA.

4. GRE score offers you some flexibility in terms of choosing the program. [best gre prep book]. Many students have already taken GRE and considered applying to various other non-business programs (MS, MIS etc). They usually prefer to use the same score to apply for MBA program and focus on other (and equally important) aspects of their application, than invest more time and money on taking another test all over again. This is also particularly helpful with schools that offer dual programs, such as MBA-Msc or MBA-Law, which often mandate separate applications.

5. Another dimension to #4 is that if you’re applying to a business school with GRE score, and with a plan to work in the corporate set up in future, there will at times be room for doubt on whether MBA was your preferred or well thought of choice or have you been applying for non-MBA programs too. Not a huge deal but when you are applying to your top choices and want to make sure you put forth the strongest application possible, you would not want to leave any room for doubt among the AdCom members (unless you can back your decision somehow).

6. While b-schools may be accepting of GRE score, it does not guarantee you an admission to the school. I personally know of one applicant who got a conditional offer from one of the top B-schools which is located in UK. He had applied with GRE score but was asked to take the GMAT test and submit the score to be able to confirm his admission. He was left with little time to prepare for the exam all over again and had less choice on booking the exam slot. Avoid this last-minute panic by double checking with the b-school that you are applying for.

Thus, GRE or GMAT question can be best answered by figuring out what works the best for you personally. Know the program you intend to do, the schools you want to target and the scores that they accept. If you are someone like me who is sure on pursuing an MBA and targeting International B-schools and has taken neither of the two tests before, I’d strongly recommend taking the GMAT to avoid unnecessary additional effort and anxiety.


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