Timeout with Trav: GMAT or GRE for Business School?

Click here to read the intro to this new blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com.

Dear Trav,

Is it better to take the GMAT or GRE for business school applications?

Over the past several years, many business schools have started accepting GRE scores in lieu of the GMAT for admissions. This enables MBA programs to open up their pool of applicants to people who are considering B-school among other graduate programs such as Master’s in Public Policy, Health Care Administration or other fields, or who may be looking for a joint degree. There are a few business schools that will only accept the GMAT and do not accept the GRE, so you may want to check the websites of your target programs before making any decisions about the GRE and GMAT.

Schools have no preference

Schools that accept both exams are very adamant about the fact that they have no preference for the GRE or GMAT.  Because some schools still do not accept the GRE, we generally feel that the GMAT is a “safer” choice if you know you’re aiming for an MBA and not another graduate degree, as it keeps all of your options open.

However, most people ask this question because they are looking for some kind of test-taking arbitrage opportunity—a way to gain an advantage in the admissions process.  For the most part, we at Veritas Prep feel there is no overarching advantage to either exam and that you should feel welcome to take either one.  In all reality, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll do significantly better on one exam than the other, so you should simply choose the exam for which you have the best resources to help you prepare. (Of course, I’m a little biased that the BEST resources available to you are right here at Veritas Prep, the highest-rated GMAT provider on 3rd party sites).

Individual circumstances may dictate your choice

Every applicant is different so here’s a little food for thought, although I wouldn’t choose one exam over the other based on any of these items individually.

  1. Since the GRE is used in a much broader array of graduate programs, remember that you’re going to be compared to candidates for programs such as comparative literature and other “right brain” thinkers. Given the competition, it’s possible that achieving a top-level percentile on the verbal section could be more challenging on the GRE than on the GMAT.
  2. In its Quantitative Reasoning section, the GMAT includes a problem format called “Data Sufficiency.” The GRE does not have Data Sufficiency questions. Because many students struggle with Data Sufficiency questions, they prefer the quantitative section of the GRE. However, if you can learn some key strategies to conquer Data Sufficiency, you could be at a strategic advantage on the GMAT over those candidates who have not prepared adequately for this problem type.
  3. If you’re still deciding whether you want to apply to business school or another graduate degree program, the GRE will provide more options. If you know you want to go to b-school, but are not sure which one, the GMAT will provide more options.
  4. In speaking with some admissions officers candidly, they have mentioned that average GRE scores are not currently included in the methodology for popular rankings such as U.S. News, Bloomberg Businessweek or Financial Times. Therefore, if they find a “rockstar” candidate with strong undergraduate academics, but who is a poor test taker, it is easier for them to accept this candidate if they have taken the GRE rather than the GMAT. Beware: this is not a recommendation to simply take the GRE because your chances for admission will be stronger! Admissions officers use every data point in your application to determine whether you will be able to succeed and contribute in their program, and test scores are a big part of that assessment. A low score on either the GRE or the GMAT will be a red flag to admissions officers that you may not have the aptitude they seek in their program. However, if every other element of your application convinces them that you will be a very strong addition to their class, and you know that you are a very poor test taker, the GRE could be an interesting option to avoid becoming a big drag on the school’s ranking. This “loophole” in B-school ranking systems is likely to be remedied very soon, however, as the GRE becomes more popular.

Take the necessary time to prepare

To emphasize, admissions officers have made it clear that neither the GMAT nor the GRE will give you a significant advantage in the admissions process.  They have started accepting the GRE simply to provide applicants with more options and to ease the admissions process for some candidates. There is no way to “trick” the admissions committee into accepting you if you are not qualified to attend their program. So instead of looking for arbitrage opportunities, we recommend you put all that energy into preparing properly for your exam and utilizing every resource at your disposal to maximize your score.  At Veritas Prep, we’re very fond of the saying: “Success favors the prepared.”

We wish you the best of luck as you prepare for business school!  Be sure to look around our website for test prep and admissions consulting resources to enable you to achieve your goals!

Kind Regards,


If you’re thinking about applying to business school, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011.