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Should I take the GRE, not the GMAT?

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From The Staff of MBA,
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Should I take the GRE, not the GMAT?

Many candidates who take the GMAT test several times and cannot score well on the exam begin to wonder if they should switch to the GRE.

Over the past few years, increasing numbers of top business schools have accepted the GRE score instead of the GMAT score. However, it is still the case that so few candidates apply with GRE scores that admissions committees sometimes waver over whether to admit a candidate with a good GRE score, because they don’t have enough other candidates to compare the score with, and also because they don’t have years’ worth of abundant data about how candidates with certain GRE scores performed within their programs.

If you completely ace the GRE, then submitting that score will likely be fine. For example, one of my clients currently has a high-90s percentile ranking on both the verbal and quant side of the GRE and because her academic record is also strong, I believe she will be in a good position for admission to the top business schools.

If you don’t completely ace the GRE, though, your calculation about whether to submit a GRE score rather than a GMAT score can be a bit more difficult. My general advice to candidates about the GRE is that there are some cases in which the choice to take the GRE is obvious. If you simply cannot get a strong GMAT score and your score is so low that it will mean an automatic rejection (a score in the 500s, for instance), you are likely better off offering a GRE score with a high percentile instead (about 85th percentile or higher, for example).

If you are an over-represented candidate, like an Indian foreign national male engineer or a tech candidate from East Asia (foreign national status), the admissions committees may not be as receptive to a GRE score (unless you completely ace it) because they may assume you simply could not do well on the GMAT and therefore may have challenges with the quantitative side of their program. Because there are so many other highly qualified candidates to choose from of your profile, this can put your application at risk. If you are of an over-represented profile and you absolutely must apply with a GRE score that is strong but not superior, it is imperative that you present a truly outstanding, first-rate application overall in order for the admissions committee to want to be accepting of the score.

Candidates who are under-represented profiles, such as Hispanic Americans or African Americans, often have more latitude in presenting strong GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores.

Also bear in mind that if you do present a strong but not superior GRE score and you also have a degree that does not prove you can handle a highly quantitative curriculum, you may need to provide other evidence to the committee that you have strong quant skills, such as taking an online course in a business-related subject from a reputable university and presenting the admissions committee with an A grade.

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Best wishes,

Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts)
President, MBA