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To GMAT or GRE? That is the question I currently work at a top business school and am therefore able to keep my finger right on the pulse of b-school trends. Earlier this week, I had a discussion with our Director of Admissions about the GRE. It seems that over the past several years, there has been a subtle migration away from GMAT exclusivity among the top b-schools for several reasons. Firstly, there has been overall a pretty remarkable downward trend in application volume. This drop in number of applications has put a dent on revenues for schools as well as in the overall quality of the application pool. It makes sense: fewer applicants generally will mean fewer top applicants (not always true, but in this case, the percentage of good, better and best applicants seems to hold pretty constant no matter how many applicants there are in total). Neither result is attractive to these top schools. One way to combat the drop in application volume is to try and reach outside the normal circles for folks who might think of applying to b-school who perhaps would not have in the past. Accepting the GRE instead of the GMAT is one way top schools have broadened their search. Because the GRE is widely considered a more “accessible” test for the general graduate school population, it has never in the past been given serious consideration by the b-schools, who are in agreement that the GMAT is a better indicator of b-school success. Granted, the GRE does not have a large enough statistical base to test its predictability for b-school success yet, but old traditions die hard. Enter Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, the first and last bastion of high quality business school reputation. Certainly if you are Harvard, Stanford or Wharton, your reputation will not be dampened using any test for admission(even “guess how many fingers I am holding up behind my back?”)—point is, no matter what these super elite schools do, their rankings will likely not suffer. So, they started accepting GRE scores in lieu of GMATs. This did indeed give them a broader look at those interested in graduate school and has enticed more students to choose b-school as their graduate education path. As could probably have been predicted, so goes H/S/W, so goes the rest of the b-school world, and sure enough, over the past several years, more and more schools have been quietly accepting GRE scores. So which test should you use as part of your application package? If your target school accepts the GRE, should you use that instead of the (some argue more difficult) GMAT? This is indeed the question. In some respects, the GRE is a tempting alternative. For starters, it’s about $100 cheaper to take the test, which for some post-college, recession damaged applicants, is real money. Additionally, the test is not quite as rigorous on the quantitative side, making it for some, a less punishing preparation process. There is also the argument that it could help you stand out in the crowd, since with fewer applicants submitting GRE scores, you force yourself out of the general application pool and into a category which will require the admissions committee to consider you separately from the crowd. Is this true? The Admissions Director I spoke with said it makes no difference whether someone submits the GMAT or the GRE, but I argued that simply due to the new nature of the discussion, there will naturally be more attention drawn to applicants with GREs. This could be simply a psychological phenomenon, and of course the risk is that the lack of reliable data out there with which to compare scores, could put applicants in a no-man’s land without any real evidence of aptitude. At least with the GMAT, the scores are very well established and everyone knows what a 550 means vs. a 650 or 750. As more GRE scores show up in admissions committee evaluations, we will begin to establish some better standards for exactly what a good score is as compared to the GMAT, but as for now, it’s really anybody’s guess what that score should be. The other challenge for b-schools who are now accepting the GRE is what to do with the scores when the time comes to tally statistics for rankings. The GMAC as well as the BW and US News rankings boards have indicated that schools need only list whether or not they accept the GRE, and are presently not required to report their average scores (which in the case of some schools, could be the average of as few as one or two applicants’ scores). Again, as more data comes online, we may start seeing a dual category, with schools listing both their GMAT average and their GRE average. I wouldn’t bet on this, however. The same b-school traditions and history which established the GMAT in the first place will be hard to sway in another direction. The computer adaptability of the GMAT test and other technological advances it has made vs. the GRE is keeping it in a position of superiority for now. In the final analysis, I would say that if the GMAT is kicking your tail, you might at least try your hand at the GRE, just to see if perhaps the test better meets with your abilities. If your target schools accepts the GRE for admission, and your score on the GRE is impressive who knows? You might just be able to “slip in through the back door” while other applicants who are relying on mediocre GMAT scores get lost in the proverbial shuffle. I would be interested in your comments about whether you think the GRE is a worthy substitute for the GMAT and whether you think it’s worth some of the “risks” in submitting something other than the well established standard. _________________
You raise some good points with the GMAT vs GRE. I doubt if a lot of people including myself would take the GRE. I think the GRE would be an alternative if your GMAT score is not very high. Like you said the schools might accept you because most people will apply with the GMAT. You might be their guinea pig. Hahaha. I have noticed more top schools accepting it (Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, Yale, and NYU) I still find it hard to believe a test can determine my success in business school but that is why they pay "smart" people to do studies.
Important distinction between "determine" and "predict." The standardized tests have been shown to fairly accurately predict success in programs, but certainly do not determine it. There is so little data out there yet for GRE from b-schools that it is too soon to have any predictive conclusions for that test. The GMAT on the other hand, has more data than they probably know what to do with! _________________
Important distinction between "determine" and "predict." The standardized tests have been shown to fairly accurately predict success in programs, but certainly do not determine it. There is so little data out there yet for GRE from b-schools that it is too soon to have any predictive conclusions for that test. The GMAT on the other hand, has more data than they probably know what to do with!
They do have predictive data because there are other schools that accept the GRE for admission. But they do not want to rely on it. I really do not believe it can predict anything. The individuals that apply to business school are ambitious in the first place. They just see business school as a way to further their careers or change them. From talking to people in business school the most difficult part is getting in. If you go to a top school you are just about guaranteed success. That is why people aim for the top 10 or 20. If ten people score a 730 on the GMAT and Harvard accepts them then they are just about guaranteed success in this country ( or the world). Of course I can say a high GMAT score predicted they were going to be successful when in reality it was Harvard that predicted their success. If Harvard accepted someone with a 500 and they worked hard like everyone else then they would be successful as the person that scored a 730.
I would like to chime in with Karite's points, with which I totally agree. In many ways, I feel strongly that it is unfortuate the top schools rely on standardized test scores. While I understand there is data showing a relationship with scores and success in various programs (see link in post above), I feel there is so much more to doing well in school than can be measured with a test. While schools have their 80% range within which most applicants fall for GMAT scores, there are each year several admits who fall below this range--some dramatically. I personally saw a student be admitted to a top 5 program with a 470 on the GMAT and had no doubt she was going to succeed. Very few if any fail out of business school and indeed the hardest part is getting in--the same can be said for elite undergrad schools, some of which don't even have grades. For this reason, I never discourage clients from applying with lower GMAT scores as long as I can see something else in their profile which indicates they can overcome the low score and still get the attention of the adcoms. Many potentially great MBA students are rejected each year. One need only to look at a list of global entrepreneur success stories to find many of them! _________________
In my opinion, you are taking a HUGE and unjustified risk by submitting a GRE score as opposed to a GMAT. You bring up some good points, but what it ultimately boils down to is that the GMAT is for your MBA. If you submit a GRE, adcoms will wonder why you were taking that test in the first place. It will show that you don't have direction towards an MBA, and could directly hurt your candidacy. Without comparison to your fellow applicants, it would be extremely challenging to get into top schools. Only top candidates who are strong in other areas will have a good shot. Not to mention, if you do badly on the GMAT, you chances of doing significantly better on the GRE are most likely extremely low.
Adcoms are trying to bolster applications, but this might be a backdoor way for someone who wasn't considering an MBA to maybe try their hand at it. I don't feel that it should be the other way around. If you want to get an MBA, the GMAT is the gold standard. Any time you spend studying for another test will be time away from getting the GMAT score you need.
But hey, if I was a prep company, I would sign you up for GMAT and GRE prep. Hey, and if you have a good verbal score, maybe the LSAT is for you. Well maybe you should try all three and see what you like best.
Seriously though, spend 100% of your time on the GMAT if an MBA is what you want. Get that 700+, and go to your top pick because a 1550 GRE might just make those Adcoms wonder, "Does this guy really want an MBA?". _________________