Could the GRE Supplant the GMAT?

Class listening in a lecture hall

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2014 survey of business school admissions officers, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is now accepted nearly universally as an alternative by schools which ask for Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) results.

“The trendline for business schools that accept the GRE as an admissions alternative to the GMAT has been unmistakable over the past five years,” Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep said in a statement. “What was once seen as an almost exotic admissions policy by business schools has become nearly ubiquitous.”

Historically, the GRE has been the admissions exams for non-business graduate programs, but according to the survey, 85% of MBA programs now give students the option submit a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score. In 2009, less than a quarter (24%) of business schools accepted the GRE, which means that in just five short years, the GRE has more than tripled in popularity amongst business schools.

“Students who are interested in business tend to be very quantitative,” says  Jacqui Byrne, Partner, Ivy Ed in New Jersey and online. “The GMAT favors those students even on the grammar questions; grammar is determined by a set of rules applied in certain circumstances: sounds like math, doesn’t it? The GRE, on the other hand, is very verbal. Vocabulary is much tougher and there are fewer strictly multiple choice questions. I think students who want to go to business school are deliberately choosing the GMAT because it mirrors their strengths.”

However, just because an unprecedented number of schools are accepting the GRE doesn’t mean students seeking entry into an MBA program are taking the GRE. In fact, just over half of the admissions officers Kaplan surveyed said that as few as one in 10 or fewer applicants chose to submit a GRE instead of a GMAT.

According to Kaplan’s press release, this was likely because those students feared that their applications wouldn’t be considered as favorably as those who had submitted a GMAT score.

Carlidge advises potential MBA candidates to contact each of the business schools they’re interested in, and find out which exam the school prefers. Such a preference many not even exist, either. About 78% of MBA programs say that they view scores from the two tests equally.

Although there is a distinct trend amongst business school admission programs towards the GRE, it seems that the exam has not yet cornered the business school market, though this doesn’t mean it won’t someday.

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