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GRE or GMAT for Business School
Nov 30, 2015

GRE or GMAT for Business School

Making the Decision: GRE or GMAT for Business School

Just a few short years ago the decision between GRE and GMAT for business school candidates was simple. If you wanted to attend business school you took the GMAT. However, today things are a bit more complicated as most business schools in the country have begun accepting both GMAT and GRE scores. This leaves you with a tough decision, should you take the GRE or the GMAT? The tests are structurally different enough where taking both is not a viable option.

One of the most common questions that I hear asked is “which test is easier?” Let’s get this out of the way right now. Neither test is inherently easier, but even if one test were easier than the other it would not actually matter. The reason for this is because your scores are ultimately ranked into percentiles. If one test were easier, then it would be easier for everyone taking the test and everyone’s numerical score would rise. However, your percentile would remain the same meaning that your rank in the candidate pool would remain unchanged. Instead of focusing on which test is easier for everyone, you need to find out which test is easier for you personally.

How Not to Make the Decision

I am not going to stand here and say that the ETS (the company behind the GRE) and the GMAC (the company behind the GMAT) are bad organizations. In truth, they both try to create tests that are fair and accurate. What you need to keep in mind is that both the ETS and the GMAC have a very real economic incentive to convince you to take their test. This issue only got worse when business schools decided to start accepting GRE scores. ETS is trying to carve itself a meaningful place in its new market while GMAC is fighting to retain its market share. With this in mind, both companies will try to tell you why their test is better for business school applicants than their competition. ETS will brag about the ability to go back and change answers and how this can improve your score as you will be able to return to tricky questions before the time limit expires. GMAC loves to tout its Integrated Reasoning section and it is very happy tell you how effective it is in its measurements. Here is the problem, these are just companies pitching their products and they are not unbiased sources of information. You should take their claims with the same grain of salt that you would when comparing any two products for purchase. In the end, it does not matter what statistics the ETS and GMAC throw at you about the success of their exams. The only statistics that matter are your own. Your results will determine which test you should take.

How to Make the Decision

The GRE and GMAT are different enough that there is a very good chance you will score higher on one or the other. So, take a practice test for both the GRE and the GMAT and compare your results. Never compare the raw numerical scores of the tests. GRE and GMAT scores are not the same and comparing them directly will tell you nothing. Instead, use your numerical scores to find your percentile on each test. If you score a noticeably higher percentile on one test than you do on the other then congratulations you know which test to take!

What if your percentiles are not all that different between the two tests? My advice is to trust your gut. When you took the tests there was likely one test that just felt better for whatever reason. Also consider who the test is designed for. If you want to enter business school then either test can get you there. However, the composition of candidates taking each test varies considerably. If you opt to take the GMAT, you will be surrounded by other business school hopefuls and everyone that you meet who is also studying for the GMAT will have similar aspirations as you. On the other hand, the GRE attracts a much more diverse crowd, but recent data shows that only 4% of GRE test takers intend to pursue a business degree.

At the end of the day, all that matters is getting into the program that you want. The GRE and the GMAT are just tools to help you reach those goals. Which test you take is entirely up to you. To make the decision between the GRE and the GMAT you have to do a little leg work and find out which test you score better on. After you make this decision, the real challenge begins. Learning how to take the test takes a lot of time and effort. Have you made up your mind between the GMAT and the GRE? Let us know which test you are studying for in the comments below.

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