GMAT or GRE: How Will MBA Admissions Officers View My GRE Score?

GRE vs. GMATOver the past five years or so, more business schools have been jumping on the GRE bandwagon by accepting either a GMAT or a GRE score. The percentage of candidates to top MBA programs who apply with only a GRE score is growing, but it’s still very small — less than 5% at most schools.

This leads many candidates to wonder how applying with a GRE score may be viewed by MBA admissions committees.

After speaking with dozens of admissions officers, I have a few insights that may be helpful:

  1. Feelings have changed over the past five years, so be careful that you don’t use outdated information. Countless blogs have been written over the years about whether to take the GRE. If they were not written in the past year, I would not put any stock in them. Attitudes have changed dramatically at many business schools over just the past year or two as they have greater experience in handling applicants with a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score.
  1. Unless stated otherwise, almost all business schools genuinely do not have a preference between the GMAT and the GRE. While Veritas Prep believes that the GMAT exam offers a more accurate and nuanced assessment of the skills that business schools are looking for, according to feedback from admissions officers across the board and our independent analysis, the two exams are treated equally. Using data published by the business schools, trends clearly show that average GMAT scores and average GRE scores are nearly identical across the board. There is no inherent advantage or disadvantage to applying with a GRE score.
  1. Across the board, admissions officers use the official ETS score conversion tool to translate GRE scores into equivalent GMAT scores. Because so few candidates apply with a GRE score, the admissions committees don’t have a really strong grasp of the scoring scale. Every school we’ve spoken to uses ETS’ score conversion tool to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores so they may compare applicants fairly. You can use the same tool to see how your scores stack up.
  1. The GRE is not a differentiator. I get a lot of “traditional” MBA applicants with a management consulting or investment banking background who ask if they should take the GRE. They’re often nervous that their GMAT score won’t stack up against the stiff competition in their fields and hope that the GRE will differentiate them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. If anything, admissions officers may wonder why they chose to take the GRE even though all factors in their career path point toward applying to MBA programs and not any other graduate programs. There’s no need to raise any questions in the mind of the admissions reader when the GMAT is a clear option.
  1. The GRE isn’t easier, but it’s different. I also see a lot of applicants who struggle with standardized tests who seek to “hide” behind a GRE score because they believe that it’s easier than the GMAT. Even if the content may seem more basic to you, what matters is how you stack up against the competition. Remember that every Masters in Engineering and Mathematics PhD candidate will be taking the GRE, focused solely on the Quant sections. They’re going to knock these sections out of the park without even breaking a sweat. On the other side, English Lit majors and other candidates for humanities-related degrees will be focused exclusively on the Verbal sections, and their grammar abilities are likely to be much better than yours. This means that getting a strong balanced score (which is what MBA admissions officers are looking for) becomes extremely difficult on the GRE. Even if the content feels easier to you, remember that the competition will tough. That said, if you’re struggling with the way the GMAT asks questions, you might find the GRE to be a more straightforward way of assessing your abilities. This can be an advantage to some applicants based on their unique thought process and learning style, but it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea for all test-takers.
  1. Some schools are GMAT-preferred. For example, Columbia Business School now accepts the GRE, but its website and admissions officers clearly state that they prefer the GMAT. If you’re applying to any business schools that fall into this category, we highly recommend that you take the GMAT unless there’s a very compelling argument for the GRE. One compelling argument might be that you have already scored well on the GRE to attend a master’s program directly out of undergrad and you would prefer not to take another standardized test to now get your MBA. Or perhaps you’re applying to a dual-degree program where the other program requires the GRE. Without a compelling reason otherwise, you should definitely plan to take the GMAT.

Bottom line: We recommend that the GMAT remain your default test if you’re planning to apply to exclusively to business schools. If you really struggle with the style of questions on the GMAT, you might want to explore the GRE as a backup option. In the end, you should simply take the test on which you can get the best score and not worry about trying to game the system.

If you have questions about whether the GMAT or the GRE would be a better option for your individual circumstances, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1-800-925-7737 or submit your profile information on our website for a free admissions evaluation. 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.