Guest Post by Rich Carriero, Next Step Test Preparation
The decision by some business schools to allow applicants to submit GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores poses the question, which test should MBA candidates take? As a tutor of both tests for the past ten years I’ve had to answer that question many times and like most thorny questions in life, the answer depends on a number of factors. The most straightforward response I can give is that if your scores are comparable on both tests, it’s better to take the GMAT. All business schools accept it and a high GMAT score will never place you at a disadvantage vis a vis a high GRE score. There are, however, situations when the GRE might be the better option.
So when should you take the GRE over the GMAT?
If you are also applying to policy school or another Masters program
If you’re undecided between business school and policy school, a high GRE score does double duty on your applications to both schools and it saves you the cost and hassle of having to take both tests. So if you’re on the fence about whether to pursue an MBA or masters in linguistics, taking the GRE can really simplify matters.
If all of your b-schools accept the GRE
Pound for pound, the GMAT is a tougher test than the GRE. It adapts by question rather than by section. There is no calculator, the sections are longer and you have to do your scratch work on a dry-erase board. The multiple choice math questions on the GMAT tend to be more elaborate and have answers that are not nice, neat integers. Nearly all of my students find data sufficiency questions more difficult than quantitative comparisons. The issue essay is a walk in the park compared with the eye-strain and stress of the integrated reasoning section. Sentence corrections are, for many students, a horror show of grammar rules learned improperly in middle school.
Reading comprehension, logical/critical reasoning and the argument essays are about the same on both tests. Just about the only ways that the GRE could be considered harder are the presence of sentence completions (there is no vocabulary tested on the GMAT) and a greater proportion of geometry questions. So, if no one school requires you to take the GMAT, the GRE is a safer option.
If your GRE scores are substantially higher
I’ve had a few students over the years that were frustrated by the GMAT to the point that they considered abandoning their plans to seek an MBA. In each case it was something about the test—the lack of a calculator, the data sufficiency questions, the wording of word problems–that threw them off in ways that significantly affected their scores. After repeated trials and failures, confidence usually also became an issue.
Finally, after all test prep strategies had been employed and all advice tried to no avail, I suggested to these students the possibility of taking the GRE instead. In most cases my students knew little about the other test (or that they could submit GRE scores to their b-schools of choice). They were, however, hopeful about the possibility of circumventing the GMAT and weren’t fazed by the notion of having to study vocabulary. After administering a GRE practice test, their scores then climbed to levels well beyond those comparable to their GMAT scores. This dramatically increased their confidence and made it even easier to prep them for the new test. On most occasions these students went on to be accepted to business school.
If you find yourself in one of the aforementioned categories and the GRE is a possibility that you haven’t considered before, first I recommend checking with the schools to which you plan on applying. You can find out whether the GRE is an option by checking out their websites or a simple phone call. Next, take a practice GRE. If you find the test markedly easier, you may have found yourself a viable alternate path into your dream business school.