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GMAT vs. GRE: Why Is the GMAT More Popular for MBA Admissions?

Matt Hazenbush

Matt Hazenbush - mba.com

Matt Hazenbush is the former editor of mba.com. He is currently Director, Research Analysis and Communications for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). 

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There’s no doubt taking an admissions test can help you stand out in competitive business master’s or MBA applicant pools.

Admissions tests, like the GMAT™ exam and the GRE, are an important part of what business school admissions committees call the holistic admissions review, in which reviewers consider the entirety of your application to gain as complete a picture as possible of your fit for their program.

Among the components of your application—including your undergraduate GPA, work experience, letters of recommendation, essays, and interview—the one part that’s standardized, or directly comparable across applicants, is your admissions test score. This helps schools evaluate talent across broad applicant pools and make comparisons between applicants from different professional, academic, or geographic backgrounds. It also helps promote fairness and eliminate bias in the admissions process.

So earning a top test score is a great way to elevate your standing among other qualified applicants, and can even help you land a scholarship.

GMAT vs. GRE: Which should you take?

The two most widely accepted admissions tests for MBA and business master’s admissions are the GMAT exam and the GRE.

Analysis of data from the Application Trends Survey, an annual survey of global graduate business school admissions offices, shows that 9 in 10 applicants to MBA programs ranked in the top 100 of the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking applied with an admissions test score. Of those applicants, 7 in 10 used the GMAT exam.

In addition, a recent poll by admissions consultancy MBA Crystal Ball found that 4 in 5 business school candidates think the GMAT exam is the better choice for business school admissions.

4 in 5 applicants prefer gmat 

Why do so many more MBA applicants opt for the GMAT instead of the GRE?

In the last year, both the GMAT and GRE introduced the ability to test at home. Let’s break down some key differences between the two at-home exams to help you understand the differentiated value of the GMAT exam on your journey to fulfilling your business school goals.

Get a side-by-side comparison with our GMAT vs. GRE infographic.

The GMAT exam is purpose-built for business school

The GMAT exam is the only admissions test designed specifically to be used for admissions to graduate business programs. First introduced in 1953 by nine leading business schools, for decades b-schools around the world have trusted the GMAT exam because it’s specifically validated to predict performance in the first year of an MBA program.

Because the GRE is a general graduate school exam—accepted by a wide variety of non-business graduate programs—taking the GRE can leave business schools guessing whether or not you’re truly committed to earning an MBA or business master’s degree. Did you know that just three percent of GRE test takers use their scores for MBA or business master’s admissions?

Taking the GMAT exam, on the other hand, sends a clear, unambiguous signal to your target programs that you’re committed to enrolling at a graduate business school. Schools like that because they’re interested in admitting applicants who are more likely to enroll in their programs, and they like to see that you have a clear vision for your education and how it will support your professional goals. Over the last five years, more than 1.1 million GMAT exams have been taken for graduate management and business school admissions.

As a bonus, lots of employers—especially top-tier consulting firms—consider GMAT scores in job applications. That means taking the GMAT can help you land a competitive (and high-paying) job after business school.

The GMAT exam measures skills relevant to your career in business

The GMAT exam measures the higher order skills most relevant to succeed in a graduate business program, as well as in your business career. Each of the four sections of the GMAT target specific skills that are highly relevant to the career path you aspire to. When you prep for the GMAT, you are investing time not only in earning your best score, but also in sharpening your skills for business school and your career.

GMAT Exam 8-Week Study Plan

Reduce your test anxiety by leveraging a solid plan for prep. Follow this link to download the free 8-week study planner.

 

What’s more, the GMAT’s Quant and Verbal sections employ a best-in-class, computer adaptive design. That means the test tailors itself in real-time to your ability level and arrives at your score with a high degree of precision and efficiency. Translation: no wasted time and effort. The total time of the GMAT online exam is 3 hours 7 minutes.

The GRE, on the other hand, clocks in longer at 3 hours 45 minutes, and typically includes either an unscored (and unmarked) experimental section of 30-35 minutes or a 30-35 minute unscored research section. This may leave you guessing on test day whether the questions you’re working through will even count. The three GRE test sections are not related to any specific field of study. In addition, the GRE is only computer adaptive at the section level, versus the more sophisticated question-level adaptivity of the GMAT exam.

GMAT vs. GRE: Differences Between the Two At-Home Exams

 

GMAT

GRE

Purpose

Only test designed specifically to be used for admissions to graduate business programs. Specifically validated to predict performance in the first year of an MBA program.

General graduate school exam – accepted by a wide variety of non-business graduate programs

Online Time

3 hours 7 minutes

3 hours 45 minutes

Sections

4 test sections target specific skills that are highly relevant to the career path you aspire

3 test sections not related to any specific field of study

Tools

You have freedom to choose the order in which you complete the test sections. You can choose to use a physical whiteboard, an online whiteboard with a keyboard, or both throughout your test.

You must complete the test sections in a fixed order. You do not have the option of an online whiteboard with keyboard.

Unofficial scores

Preview your unofficial scores for the Quant, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning Sections right away.

Not available

Sending scores

Send your scores to an unlimited number of programs for up to five years.

Send your scores to four programs at no cost before you have to pay an additional US$27 per institution.

Retesting

Option to retake the GMAT exam once after 16 days.

Option to retake the GRE exam after 21 days.



The GMAT testing experience offers choice and control

Before, during, and after your test, the GMAT exam is designed to offer you choices that put you in the driver’s seat to personalize your experience to your preferences.

For the GMAT online exam, enjoy the flexibility of testing appointments being available around the clock, and available to book up to six months out on a rolling basis.

On test day, you have the freedom to choose the order in which you complete the exam sections. You’ll also have the choice of using a physical whiteboard, an online whiteboard with a keyboard, or both throughout your test. The GRE requires that you complete the test sections in a fixed order that they dictate, and they do not provide the option of an online whiteboard with keyboard.

After finishing your GMAT online exam, you’ll be able to preview your unofficial scores for the Quant, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning Sections right away, and after you receive your unofficial scores on mba.com within 7 days of your test, you have the power to decide if you want to send your scores to an unlimited number of programs. Your scores are good for five years, so no rush if you’re not ready to send your scores!

Free GMAT™ Prep from the Makers of the Exam

The best way to jumpstart your prep is to familiarize yourself with the testing platform and take practice tests with real GMAT exam questions.

For the GRE, you can only send your scores to four programs at no cost before you have to pay an additional US$27 per institution. Official scores are available after 10-15 days.

Not satisfied with your GMAT online exam score? You have the option to retake it once after just 16 days. The GRE requires you wait 21 days to retest.

Take the GMAT exam to show you mean business

So, why the GMAT over the GRE for your business school applications?

The GMAT is built specifically for business school admissions, so your target programs know you’re serious about pursuing a degree from their school. Business school admissions committees trust what your GMAT score says about your ability to succeed in their classrooms. Because the GMAT is designed specifically for business, your prep time is an investment not only earning your best score, but also in sharpening your skills for business school and your career. The flexibility and freedom of the GMAT online exam and its unlimited score sending give you the confidence you need to showcase your talents and elevate your standing in competitive MBA and business master’s applicant pools.

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Matt Hazenbush

Matt Hazenbush - mba.com

Matt Hazenbush is the former editor of mba.com. He is currently Director, Research Analysis and Communications for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). 

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