Background on the Two Exams

GMAT and GRE stand for Graduate Management Admissions Test and Graduate Record Enterance, respectively. The GMAT is conducted by a non-profit council of leading business schools, known as GMAC (Graduate Management Admissions Council). The GRE is conducted by ETS (Education Testing Services), the world’s largest private nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization. GMAT used to be the test for master degrees in management (MBA, MiM, MSF etc), while GRE was the test for master degrees in core disciplines (MS in a range of science, arts, and humanities subjects). This changed in 2011 when GRE underwent a major change in format. As a result of this format change, GRE is now accepted by almost all of the world’s major business schools. Since then, “GMAT or GRE” has turned into a burning question

Differences in the Exam Formats

In essence, both GMAT and GRE test the candidate’s verbal, quantitative and writing aptitude. A close examination of both tests will show that while their questions are quite different, the skills tested by them are largely the same. A purist will tell you that GRE focuses on testing one’s memory. The idea behind this rationale is that the GRE verbal questions lay stress on vocabulary and its quant questions often require an almost direct application of formulae and concepts. By contrast, the purists consider GMAT to be a more mature test that focuses on testing the candidate’s logical ability. As they see it, the verbal questions, on the GMAT, require more exact and refined reasoning and its quant questions need an extended application ofthe concepts. These subtle differences are why preparing for one of these tests can help you prepare for the other but it will not be sufficient, in and of itself, to prepare for the other. In spite of their similarities, these two tests are different enough that they require markedly different preparation approaches.

Scoring processes of the Two Exams

GMAT has maintained the same scoring pattern for decades, each candidate is scored on a scale of 200 to 800. 700 is typically considered to be the 90th percentile of the GMAT. By contrast, the GRE scoring has gone through many changes. The maximum GRE score was originally 2400, in 2002 it was changed to 1600. Currently, a GRE candidate is scored on a scale of 260 to 340, with the 90th percentile falling at approximately 327. Both tests include an analytical writing assessment section, as well. In this section, the candidate receives a score, on a scale of 6, based on their written essay response. This score is separate from the candidate’s total GMAT/ GRE score and does not contribute to it.

Business Schools’ Interpretations of the Scores

For a number of reasons, business schools seem to be more comfortable working with GMAT scores. One big reason is thatthe schools have been using GMAT scores for quite some time, while GRE scores have only become acceptable recently. Another reason is that GMAT’s core format and total score have been consistent for decades, while GRE’s top score has changed quite a few times in the few years since the schools started accepting its scores. In addition to these points, the GMAT scoring range is much wider, which makes it easier to parse the candidates true standing. Consider this, on a 260 to 340 scale 310 may seem like a 90% score. The truth, however, is that 310 is actually quite a poor score. Converted to GMAT scoring, a score of 310 is only 580 – the 49th percentile. On GMAT’s 200 to 600 scoring range the scores are much more intuitive. A 720/800 score sounds like it would be a 90% score and is indeed a 94th percentile. It is telling that EST has felt the need to include a GRE to GMAT conversion tool on their website but GMAT has felt no need to include a corresponding tool on theirs.

The Majority of Admissions to the Top 50 US Business Schools Happen Through GMAT

According to the official GMAC website, 90% of all enrollments in the top 50 United States business schools happen through GMAT. On the face of it, the GRE score is held in the same regard as the GMAT score. The GRE score is accepted by almost all of the world’s most prominent business schools and very few schools have expressed an actual preference for GMAT. The simple truth, however, is that GMAT is still the preferred choice of the most serious of MBA aspirants and thus the schools are bound to be more familiar with it. The schools are also more comfortable interpreting GMAT scores, as they have been using them for much longer.

Conclusion

Ultimately, there is no perfectly correct answer to the question of “GMAT or GRE”. Both tests’ scores are accepted by the vast majority of prominent business schools, across the world. Furthermore, a high enough score will largely render the question of format moot. One look at the number, however, makes the facts clear. The overwhelming majority (90 %) of all admissions to the world’s premium business schools happen through GMAT. This is enough to prove, without a doubt, that GMAT is still the preferred test of both business schools and aspirants.GRE is a core disciplines admissions test that has complicated itself by trying to move into the realm of management admissions. GMAT has been designed from the ground up to be a management admissions test (the M stands for management, after all) and has stuck to that strength.

Additional Tip:

GRE is a rather good option for those who are still in the early stage of their career or uncertain about what they want to pursue. The GRE’s versatility makes it a good option for those who have not decided whether they want to pursue core discipline or management education, for their masters, as it is acceptable for both options. While GMAT is certainly the safer option for those pursuing management education, in this case, GRE will better suit one’s needs.

The above article has been inspired by the thoughts of Mr. Mayank Srivastava. He is the Founder of Experts’ Global, one of the world’s leading EdTech firms in the field of GMAT prep and MBA admission consulting.