Is the GMAT Still the Best Choice for MBA Admissions?
For most people who are thinking about applying to business school, the admissions test is the first hurdle. The GMAT has long been the “default” test of MBA admissions, but the last decade has seen that perception shift rapidly.
MBA candidates know that if you want to get into a great business school, you (usually) need to get a great test score. That means studying early, studying often, and choosing the right test for your needs.
To some extent, the old advice still holds true: if you know you can get an exceptional quant score on the GMAT, you’re better off taking that test. This is particularly true if your undergrad transcripts don’t feature many upper-level quant courses, and you want to prove to the admissions committee that you do have the chops to handle the quantitative aspect of a top-tier b-school education.
Outside of those cases, though, there isn’t always a clear-cut answer as to which test is the better option. What matters for any given applicant is getting the highest score they’re realistically able to achieve. If you’ve been trying to decide between the GRE and the GMAT, read on for some additional perspective.
GMAT vs. GRE: The Basics
Both the GMAT and the GRE are constantly being revised and updated. Test makers are always striving to make their test more relevant and attractive to both schools and students, leading to a continual arms race of differentiation. While the tests have become more similar in some areas over the years, there are still marked differences in scoring, test fees, and topics covered:
Changing Rates of Acceptance for the GRE
The GRE “stigma” is largely a thing of the past these days, at least for admissions committees. This is due in part to a substantial marketing push by ETS, the makers of the GRE, and to a growing awareness that GMAT scores are not the only reliable indicator of business school success.
A recent survey conducted by Poets&Quants illustrates a clear increase in the percentage of students submitting GRE scores with their MBA applications.
Duke University’s Assistant Dean of Admissions, Anneli Richter, indicated that the school has seen a trend over the last several years of students increasingly submitting scores for both the GRE and the GMAT. It’s a trend that likely holds true at other business schools as well. Taking both tests allows applicants to ensure that admissions committees get a sense of the breadth of their capabilities, and also lets them hedge their bets about test preferences at different schools.
While it’s use is undoubtedly increasing, the GRE is still not quite the dominant test when it comes to b-school admissions. According to research from US News & World Reports that was covered in the Poets&Quants article, of schools that report their GRE acceptance rates, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business had the highest GRE rate at 42% of accepted students for the class of 2016.
At top business schools, the numbers are significantly lower: Yale SOM had the highest acceptance rate of schools that report GRE acceptances, with 22% for their 2016 class. MIT Sloan reported 18% of accepted students submitted a GRE score, Michigan Ross 14%, Stanford GSB 13%, Dartmouth Tuck 13%, and NYU Stern 13%.
However, that fact may say more about MBA applicants than MBA admissions committees. Whether it’s applying to a dream school or to a dream job, people tend to default to a bit of superstition and magical thinking when faced with an inscrutable hiring or admissions process. If top MBA candidates think that taking the GMAT will give them an edge over taking the GRE, then that’s what they’ll do (and they’ll wear their lucky socks to the interview, too).
Should You Choose the GMAT or the GRE?
Ultimately, choosing between the GRE and the GMAT isn’t going to be the make-or-break factor in your MBA application. What will matter is getting the best score you can, and then putting together a highly effective MBA admissions package and using your application essays and interview period to showcase a strong personal brand that meshes well with what your target schools are looking for in a candidate.
Need some help with that last part? EXPARTUS works with MBA candidates who are seeking admission at elite business schools. We rely on our more than 50 years of combined admission experience (no superstition here!) to help you hone your personal brand and put together a complete MBA package that showcases your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses.
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