GRE versus GMAT: The competition between the GMAT and GRE intensifies, as more and more B-schools announce the acceptance of both tests as a part of their admission process. Both Graduate Management Admission Council, or the GMAC, (administrator of the GMAT) and ETS (administrator of GRE) are at loggerheads – vying to attract the same pool of B-School aspirants by doling out student friendly test features one after the other (read this article to know more). The latest school that has announced the acceptance of GRE in their application process is Indian School of Business, a top league institute for management studies in India.

While five years ago, GMAT was the obvious choice for B-School aspirants, GRE’s foray into the management program admissions in 2011 has added a lot of confusion. As a B-School aspirant, you now have two options to choose from – GRE versus GMAT. Which test should you take?

Ask yourself the following questions to arrive at a definite answer:

Step 1: Are you only looking at management programs or are you open to explore options beyond them?

The GMAT is widely accepted by management programs but only a handful of masters programs (such as MSc in Finance in a few schools). If you wish to keep your options wide and also wish to apply to dual degrees or traditional masters programs (such as an MS in CS) alongside, GRE should be your choice since it is accepted by most graduate masters programs as well. Also, GRE scores offer more fallback options in case of rejections.

Step 2: Do all B-school programs you are applying to accept the GRE?

Around 90 of the top 100 B-Schools on the FT rankings accept GRE. If you are applying to an institute, you must check whether they accept GRE too. If even one of your choices of schools does not accept GRE, go for the GMAT exam. Refer to this link to know if the B-Schools you plan to apply to accept the GRE.

Step 3: Do any of the B-school programs you are applying to prefer the GMAT?

It is possible that the school you are applying to accepts both GRE and GMAT but prefers GMAT. In such a case, we recommend that you choose GMAT over GRE. Currently, Columbia Business School, UC Berkeley – Haas, UCLA – Anderson are few of the schools that prefer GMAT.

Step 4: Do you plan to work in the management consulting / banking sector once you graduate?

Historically, major management consulting firms and banks have used GMAT scores as a criteria for recruitment of MBA candidates. Recently, Bain & Co. has started considering GMAT Integrated Reasoning scores during hiring. Thus, it is advantageous to take the GMAT if you wish to join one of these firms.

Step 5: How good are you in Verbal and Quantitative?

Both GMAT and GRE test you on your verbal and quantitative skills. However, what they test and how they test are quite different. Therefore, a candidate might not perform at similar levels when he takes the two tests. The following shall help you decide whether to go for GRE or GMAT.

  • Verbal: Vocab versus Grammar
    GRE is vocal heavy and you should have a good grasp over word lists to ace the verbal section. In contrast, you shall see a lot of Sentence Correction questions which test you on English Grammar. Therefore, if you prefer grammar over vocab, GMAT suits you more and vice versa.
  • Quantitative: Geometry and Data Interpretation versus Word Problems and Algebra
    GRE has higher number of geometry and data interpretation questions. GMAT, on the other hand has higher number of word problems and algebra questions. If you are taking GMAT, you should expect questions on number theory and the rest. Overall GRE quantitative is considered to be slightly easier than GMAT quantitative section.
  • Essay versus Integrated Reasoning
    In the GMAT, you shall have one essay task and one integrated reasoning task of 30 minutes each. The two sections are scored separately – 0-6 for the essay task and 1-8 for the integrated reasoning section. GRE has two essay tasks on 30 minutes each. The scores of both essays contribute to a score of 0-6.

Take a diagnostic test for GRE and GMAT to know which of the two tests suit you.

To take IMS GMAT Diagnostic Test, Register here. To take IMS GRE Diagnostic Test, Register here.

Step 6: How does stress and uncertainty impact you?

The question types for both GMAT and GRE are well defined and if well prepared, you should know what kind of questions you should expect. However, both the tests are lengthy and tend to stress candidates. However, there are certain things in the tests which might suit a candidate more.

GMAT follows a certain sequence of sections – Essay (30 mins) -> IR (30 mins) -> break -> Quantitative (75 minutes) -> break -> Verbal (75 minutes)

GRE starts with 2 essay tasks. However, you can’t expect what comes next. You shall see 2 verbal sections (30 min each), 2 quantitative sections (35 min each), 1 unscored verbal or quantitative section (which would look identical to scored sections) in any order followed by a research section with short 1 minute breaks. If you are someone who gets stressed due to short sections with frequent switches from one section to another along with the anxiety due to uncertainty, GMAT might suit you more. However, if you find GMAT’s 75 minute sections without any break hard to tackle, short sections in GRE might suit you more.

Step 7: GRE versus GMAT: Still undecided? Take the GMAT!

If steps 1 to 6 doesn’t help you decide the GRE versus GMAT question, we recommend that you take the GMAT.

(i) GMAT is exclusively designed for management program admissions. Hence, it reflects your true aptitude for the management program.

(ii) Taking the GRE might signal the admission committee that you are uncertain about your career direction. In that case GMAT might give you an edge.

(iii) Given that B-schools are accepting GMAT for decades unlike GRE, which is a new entrant, B-school admission committees might simply be more comfortable with GMAT scores.

The GRE versus GMAT comparison table published by ETS to translate GRE scores into GMAT scores might throw out some interesting insights. A 330 (V-163, Q-167) on GRE translates to a 730 on GMAT. A respectable 325 (V-161, Q-164) on GRE translates to a 690(a sub 700 score) on GMAT. While this might look disadvantageous for GRE takers, B-schools might use low GRE scores as compared to GMAT scores, given the fact that most ranking systems use GMAT scores as a parameter to rank B-schools. It is too early to comment on the real impact of GRE versus GMAT scores on a student’s candidature as it is too early to draw conclusions based on acceptance of the two test scores.


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