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Thinking about attending Business School?

Sounds like a great idea!

But which test are you going to take?

A few years ago, GMAT was the most obvious and resounding answer one would hear from all applicants. Of course, GMAT was the only option back then

But, for better or for worse, it is no more the only option.

The GRE has now become a popular choice among a minor section of business school applicants, and the trend is growing by the year. Although close to 1200 universities across the world accept the GRE, the GMAT still remains the most valued exam by business schools.

According to the GMAC, around 5900 business programs across over 2100 universities and institutions around the world, accept the GMAT.

But, does that mean you should follow the herd and go with the GMAT?

Or, can you afford to go against the grain and take the GRE instead?

We’ll let you figure that out, but we’ll give you an unbiased review of the two most sought after tests in the graduate school world, so you’ll have solid data to decide which way you would want to go.

Who Writes The GMAT?

Anyone looking to join a business program writes the GMAT. Since every business school under the sun loves the GMAT, a majority of applicants choose the GMAT over the GRE.

Who Writes The GRE?

Well, anyone who wants to apply for a graduate program writes the GRE. Even though many business schools, ranging from the super elite to the average ones have started welcoming both GMAT and GRE scores, the GRE is still widely recognized as a test for graduate and Ph.D. programs.

About the GRE

Despite the fact that the GRE isn’t a traditional Business School entrance test, there are some great benefits attached to writing the GRE.

The testing pattern and the syllabus on the GRE differ when compared to the GMAT, and many students feel that a few topics on the GMAT are much, much harder on the GMAT than on the GRE.

So, it is important that you know what benefits the GRE offers to applicants. You can know more about the GRE, here.

Benefits of the GRE

1. Vocabulary Focused Test.

If grammar is not at all your forte, then the GRE is your best friend.

The GRE completely focuses on vocabulary and a bit of logic. The GMAT on the other hand, totally consists of grammar and sentence structure based questions.

So, if you are a wordsmith, or if they called you a walking thesaurus in high school, or if you can easily learn and use new words every day, then maybe the GRE is for you.

Also, the GMAT extensively tests your logical abilities. You’ll find plenty of logic based questions on the GMAT, so much more than on the GRE.

So, ultimately, if you find yourself struggling with grammar or logic-based questions, the GRE certainly offers you some respite, because all you need is vocabulary.

2. Easier Math

Compared to the GMAT, math is significantly easier on the GRE.

This however, doesn’t mean that it is easy.

It is just that GMAT Math is that much harder. But why?

Because the GRE has extraordinarily diverse test takers, varying from engineers and doctors to arts and history students, looking to get into another set of diverse graduate programs.

Hence, the math is simpler and more approachable, so as to cater to all students and their abilities.

But on the other hand, only one set of students write the GMAT: Those who want to go to Business Schools. And Business courses demand much stronger quantitative skills, and consequently, the GMAT math is harder.

So, if math is not your cup of tea, you’ll benefit from the GRE, since you can score a lot higher in this section. But beware of that fact that you’ll face some tough quantitative problems and cases at Business School, and you might have to take separate courses as prerequisites if you want to do well.

3. No Reasoning Section

There’s no Integrated Reasoning on the GRE!

Ever since the new GMAT was introduced in 2012, there was quite a hue and cry among students about this new section. The Integrated Reasoning is simply a combination of the comparatively harder parts of the Verbal section and data interpretation, with some strong quantitative analysis questions.

Many students have the opinion that the twelve questions you will see on this section are perhaps tougher than any other question on the GMAT. But, thankfully, the GRE doesn’t have such a section.

4. Can Correct Mistakes (Mark for Review)

Unlike the GMAT, the GRE lets you mark, skip, and review questions.

On the GMAT, if you are facing a question that you cannot answer, you have no choice but to guess the answer and move on. You don’t have the option to skip a question and return to it later when you have time.

This because the GMAT is a question adaptive test, which means the computer gives you a harder/easier question based on your performance on the previous question, which is the reason you cannot skip questions on the GMAT.

But the GRE is a section adaptive test. Meaning, it gives you a harder/easier section based on your performance on the last section. So, this gives you the option to skip questions you cannot answer. This means students can use some techniques and time management to get the most out of the benefit.

5. More Options

Like we pointed out earlier, GMAT is a test that gets you to only business schools. But with the GRE, there are far more options for a student.

If you are pretty sure about studying business, then you may go ahead with the GMAT.

But if you don’t have a clear goal as to what path you want to choose, then it is possible that you may change minds soon. So, a GMAT would then be a waste of time and money. Instead, if you take the GRE, you will have hundreds of graduate school and business school programs that you can choose to attend.

So, it is an important decision that you will have to make.

6. Money Matters

The GMAT is more expensive compared to the GRE ($250 vs. $195).

While the $55 difference might not seem like a big difference to some, for most students from the developing world, it converts into a much larger difference.

Another important factor to consider is, many students may have to retake their tests if they are not satisfied with their scores, and it only gets costlier. So, it is important that you consider test costs as well. Also, it’s not just the test scores you have to consider while registering for the GRE.

7. More Widely Available

There are more GRE tests centers than there are GMAT test centers.

If you are not from a big city, chances are you have to travel much more to take a GMAT test. The GRE has significantly more centers across the world, simply because the GRE test takers are more than twice in number, compared to those who take the GMAT. More demand, more supply.

Drawbacks of the GRE

Now of course, it’s not a completely rosy picture, much as with any other standardized test. There are a few drawbacks about writing the GRE for business schools.

1. It’s more about vocabulary.

The first drawback is the huge difference in the skills these two tests need. While the GMAT is all about sentence structure and grammar, the GRE places heavy emphasis on vocabulary.

And when we say vocabulary, it’s not about the words we use in daily life conversations. Tertiary vocabulary is what the GRE is very fond of, and there is a huge set of words like these that are known as the GRE vocab.

Most of you might have never even heard of these words, and it will definitely need a lot of attention and time to master them, even if you are native English speaker. However, there are GRE Flashcards that help you get over these words easily.

So, the question is, are you willing to learn these words for the GRE, or does this sound like something you cannot do?

We say, if vocabulary keeps you awake at night, then you should probably try GMAT.

2. Two essays vs. One.

The GRE has two essays, compared to one on the GMAT.

Now it might not sound like a big deal to some students, but you should probably consider if you want to write two essays on the trot. Essay writing when the clock is after you, isn’t particularly easy, especially when you’re a non-native speaker.

You can, however, practice your way to success, but you should think if that is what you want to do.

3. Value Unknown in the Business Community.

The most important drawback about taking the GRE for business schools, is that the importance of the GRE is still not known among the business community.

We do not know how the schools are interpreting the GRE scores for admissions, because there just isn’t enough data. It has only been a few years since they have started accepting the GRE scores, and on top of that, approximately 5 percent of the total applicant pool, applies with a GRE score.

For example, at MIT Sloan School of Management, less than 5 percent of students have applied for the MBA class of 2015 with a GRE score. So at MIT, there are quite a few applicants who submitted their GRE scores, but the sample isn’t big enough for the school to understand the skills of an applicant and how he/she has performed in the class, after admission.

So, we’ll only know how the schools are evaluating the GRE scores, once there is enough data, which would take a few more years.

About the GMAT

The GMAT is without doubt the single test that every business school that’s worth its weight in gold, requires you to take. There actually are no internationally recognized business schools that don’t accept the GMAT.

So, the GMAT is quintessentially the one thing that can get you into any MBA program you want.

But at the same time, it is significantly different when compared to the GRE; from test pattern to syllabus, from scoring system to skills tested. And though it is generally regarded as the tougher counterpart of the GRE, the GMAT still can be beneficial to many prospective business school applicants.

We have covered the drawbacks of GMAT in the Benefits of GRE section, and the benefits of GMAT in the drawbacks of GRE section above. But here are a few additional benefits of taking the GMAT instead of the GRE.

Benefits of the GMAT

1. Learner-Friendly Syllabus.

The GMAT verbal is comparatively more learner-friendly.

Unlike on the GRE, where the verbal section is more a test of memory, the GMAT verbal doesn’t require you to memorize stuff. All you need is a solid foundation in grammar, and an ability to think logically.

Now, this only sounds hard, but with the help of a few techniques, you can learn the skills quite quickly. While it normally takes about four weeks for an average student to learn new and difficult vocabulary for the GRE verbal section, one can easily spend the same time on the GMAT verbal learning techniques.

If you are applying to business school, more often than not, you’re a working professional, and you haven’t opened books in years. So, learning and applying techniques is definitely easier than having to learn words by heart.

2. Value Known and Appreciated

Everyone knows what your GMAT score means, and how it translates to your abilities. This includes the business school admissions department, the recruiters, the average Joe on the street, and more importantly, you.

There’s no information on the internet regarding what the average GRE scores are for any business school, but at the same time, there’s plenty of information about the average GMAT scores.

Here’s what Tami Fassinger at Vanderbilt University has to say about the importance of GMAT in Business School admissions:

So, if you are looking to pick schools to apply to, the average GMAT score definitely plays an important role. You don’t have to keep calling schools to find out if your score is on par or not.

What are Business Schools saying?

It doesn’t matter to schools.

Although business schools do not have solid statistics as to which of the two standardized tests is more favorable, most of them are welcoming either of the test scores without any prejudice.

When asked about the same, the MBA admissions committee at the NYU’s Stern School of Business said, “Applicants who submit GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores are not held in lesser regard. Taking the GRE exam will not have a negative impact on your application. However, we do not have any statistics on the average GRE score.”

Any test with a high score will do.

In another interview, Rod Garcia, the Director of MBA admissions at MIT Sloan said, “If someone scored a 790 on the Quant section in GRE, we’re not going to kill ourselves trying to figure out what is that in relation to a raw score on the GMAT Quant section. We know that 790 is a good score.”

This statement was before the new GRE took over the old format, but you get the point. A higher score on either of the tests will open doors for you at most top business schools.

So it is evident that business schools are quite unbiased about the test, but are still in the process of evaluating the impact of GRE scores on performance inside the class.

What you should know?

We’d like to weigh in here with our opinion.

Though business schools say they don’t mind you taking either of the tests, they most often would also like to know why you have opted to take the GRE instead of the standard GMAT, especially if you are a working professional with a few years of experience under your belt.

Now, anyone would understand why a recent graduate chose to take the GRE. He/she isn’t quite sure about the future, and would like to have as many options as possible.

What would you do?

If you have been working for a good couple of years or more, business schools expect you to be more mature about your decisions.

Imagine yourself as the Director of Admissions of a top business school, and you receive an application from a candidate who has five years of experience and has applied with a GRE score.

What would you think of them?

Clearly, they may have been looking for a graduate/Ph.D program in parallel to an MBA.

Now, unless they are planning to apply for a dual degree, the picture isn’t quite rosy. They will probably come off as not serious and not mature enough because ideally, you would want them to have figured out their plans by now, rather than just shooting in the dark.

This is why some schools would like you to explain in the interview, the reason for taking the GRE.

What about scholarships?

And the story doesn’t end there.

Most top schools give out scholarships, and since there is stiff competition from candidates, they end up taking the GMAT scores into consideration.

Consequently, it means that they are favoring those candidates who have taken the GMAT.

See what the Department of MBA Admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has to say:

“We do accept the GRE in place of the GMAT. However, the GMAT was created and is maintained for the purpose of predicting success in business school and, therefore, carries more weight than the GRE for scholarship decisions. An applicant who submits the GRE in place of the GMAT is still eligible for scholarship, but the scholarship decision will be based more heavily on the other aspects of the application.”

So, our advice for you is to not be at loss by any means. If you’re a recent graduate, then it’s completely fine.

Otherwise, it is in your best interest to take the GMAT instead.

Schools that do NOT accept the GRE instead of the GMAT

Even though thousands of business schools have started accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT, many schools are still sticking to the tradition of accepting nothing else but the GMAT.

These schools include some of the world’s best, like:

  • London Business School
  • Indian School of Business
  • University of Toronto – Rotman
  • Erasmus University – Rotterdam
  • HKUST Business School
  • IESE Business School

And these are only from the top 30 in the world. There are still thousands of other business schools that don’t accept the GRE for an MBA. This gives us another reason to go with the GMAT as a standard when applying for business school.

What are the recruiters saying?

Another interesting perspective that you should consider is, what exactly is in the minds of recruiters?

Sure, business schools are nonchalant about which test you want to take, but which of the tests do recruiters prefer?

Do they have any preferences or are they unbiased too?

The GMAT is Important

According to BusinessWeek magazine, recruiters predominantly from consulting, finance, and banking firms, look at the GMAT scores (Quant, especially) of MBA graduates. They believe that the GMAT scores are a reliable measurement of academic prowess.

This however, isn’t surprising to many business school students, because they’re always in the know about recruiting and selection processes, but the fact that GMAT is relevant during job interviews, is relatively unknown among people applying to business school.

“New admits who go that route typically take the test after they have put down a deposit but before they start classes”, says Stacey Rudnick, director of MBA career services at the University of Texas at Austin – McCombs School of Business.

Companies look for GMAT scores

“We see a large number of consulting companies, some investment banks, and a couple of corporations all looking at both GMAT and MBA GPAs.” says Patrick Perrella, Director of MBA Career Development at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza Business School. “These companies are looking for a sustained record of academic excellence.”

“Because the economy is so bad, and there’s so many people applying for positions, companies are looking for different ways to reduce the number of résumés that they go through,” says Wendy Tsung, Executive Director of MBA Career Services at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. “Of the reasons to throw out an application—GPA, undergraduate institution, years of work experience—the GMAT is an easy one.” she says.

The IR score May Be as Important as the GMAT

Some companies are very particular about the IR scores of B-School students.

For key positions in management consulting, investment banking, and others, top recruiters are looking for a way to filter out applicants, and the newly introduced IR section has become a distinguishing factor.

Considered as one of the three largest consulting companies in the world, Bain and Company, says its recruiters find a way to integrate the IR score into their hiring processes.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, Keith Bevans, global head of recruiting at Bain and Company, said “The IR scores are trying to test analytical abilities, which is important to us. We hope it’s a good match for determining if you’ll be successful at Bain.” Since almost one in twelve MBA candidates at top B-Schools choose consulting as a career, it is important that they consider these factors before deciding on taking either of the tests.

So, if you are looking at starting a career in consulting, finance or investment banking, you would probably be better off taking the GMAT instead of the GRE, so you can avoid writing it again while in business school, just for the sake of employment.

Key Differences

Before you take a final call on which of the two tests you will be taking, let us have a look at some key differences between the GRE and the GMAT.

Test Format

The GRE consists of a total of 6 sections. One 60-minute Analytical Writing section with two essays, followed by two 30-minute Verbal sections and two 35-minute Quantitative sections alternatively. There’s also a 30-minute experimental section that can be either math or verbal, and it might come in any order.

The GMAT consists of a total of 4 sections. A 30-minute Analytical Writing section with one essay, a 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section, a 75-minute Quantitative section and a 75- minute Verbal section in the exact same order.

Testing Time

GRE: 3 hours 45 minutes, excluding official breaks.

GMAT: 3 hours 30 minutes, excluding official breaks.

Score Pattern

In the GRE, Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 130 to 170 with 1-point increments. Hence the overall score range is between 260 and 340. In the GMAT, the overall score ranges from 200 to 800 with 10-point increments. But in both the tests, the AWA score pattern is similar: it ranges from 0 to 6.0, with an increment of 0.5 points.

Score Validity

Both the GRE and the GMAT scores are valid for 5 years from the date of the exam.


The GRE is a section adaptive test, while the GMAT is a question adaptive test.

Test Fee

The GRE costs $195 while the GMAT costs $250.

Still not Sure Which One’s Right for You?

It is possible that even after so much information, you are still unsure about which test to take. And that’s okay, because you can figure that out easily. Here’s a simple, three-step process that can help you out.

1. List out your target B-schools.

Since by now you must have understood that even thought a ton of business schools accept the GRE in place of the GMAT, there are still quite of lot of potential business schools who stick with the GMAT. So, before you make up your mind on which route you want to take, figure out what your target schools are and understand whether they would be okay with both the tests are just the GMAT. This must be your first step.

2. Reach out to admissions.

Once you have figured out which business schools you would want to apply for, check their respective websites thoroughly for information regarding which tests they accept for their programs. If you couldn’t find the relevant info, or if you thought it wasn’t enough for you to take a firm decision, do not hesitate to contact the admissions offices at these schools. Call them or send out an email asking for more information – statistics, if possible – so that you can figure out which test you can take.

3. Take a practice test

If you want to know which exam you would like better, you need to know which of the tests matches your skill set. You don’t know which test would suit you better until you know both the tests thoroughly. And the best way to know a test is to take the test. So, take two separate free practice tests for both the GRE and the GMAT on two separate days, without any preparation, with the same test conditions, and preferably at the same time. This will help you get a hang of both the test formats, and will help you decide which one you like better. There are official practice tests available on the internet, for both the GRE and the GMAT. Download the respective tests from ETS (GRE) and GMAC (GMAT) websites and write each of them on separate days, without any prior preparation. You may find that one of them suits you a lot better than the other, and you can hence start preparing for that test.


So that’s about the GRE and the GMAT, the two most popular tests on the planet. Now it is up to you to decide which of them you would want to take. If you have any more questions in mind, ask us right away, and we’ll be happy to help you out.

But for now, which test would you choose to take, and why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

2 Comments to “GRE vs GMAT: Which Test Is Right For Business School?”

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