Grad: The GRE vs. the GMAT

Which test to take?

There’s a feud brewing in the - graduate-school testing world.
The Graduate Management Admissions Test has been required by MBA programs for more than 50 years, while the Graduate Record Examination is the standard for graduate schools in general. The Educational Testing Service administers the GRE and used to do the same for the GMAT before losing the rights two years ago to ACT Inc. and Pearson. Now it is trying to get some of that business back, lobbying business schools to accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT: more than 115 have agreed, including at Stanford, MIT and Johns Hopkins.
What’s the difference between the tests? Both assess verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and writing. “Contrary to what people might think, there are no business or finance aspects of the GMAT that make it specialized,” says David G. Payne, an associate vice president of ETS.


For business schools, the GRE offers a chance to increase their applicant pool by tapping into some of the more than 600,000 people who take it annually. For students, the GRE is less expensive ($140) than the GMAT ($250).
ETS is sweetening the deal by adding a noncognitive component in July: a mentor can fill out a questionnaire on creativity, ethics, communication and other qualities, resulting in a score on something called the Personal Potential Index. “Some students may not have gotten the best grade point in their undergraduate career or maybe aren’t great at standardized tests,” Mr. Payne says. “They may want admissions officers to take other things into account.”


More than 1,800 business schools accept the GMAT, which was designed by business school deans to predict how well applicants would do in their pursuit of an MBA. High scores on the test correlate well to success in the first year of business school, says David A. Wilson, head of the Graduate Management Admission Council, which owns the GMAT. The lack of long-term GRE validity studies for business students, he says, could deter schools from signing on. What happens if the MBA program you want doesn’t accept the GRE?
Mr. Wilson acknowledges there are few differences in content between the two tests (although GMAT ditched analogies a few years ago). But, he says, “schools turn to the GMAT because it is a valid, trusted and robust assessment. One way to think about it is that you don’t want your dentist to buy drill bits at Home Depot.”


Many admissions experts say that, for now, they would advise students who want a business degree to take the GMAT, or both tests.
Alex Duke is a senior admissions consultant at MBAPrepAdvantage and a former director of admissions for the executive and part-time MBA programs at the University of California, Los Angeles. Countering the new GRE ads, he advises would-be graduate students to know what programs and schools they want to get into before beginning the rigorous process of taking admissions tests. And he suggests that only a narrow population take the GRE alone for business school. “If you’re an international student, say from a third-world country, and you only have the financial means to take one test for any graduate studies, then I could see taking the GRE is a good option.”

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