The MBA has long been the premier degree for business professionals, and the GMAT has long been the key to getting into business school. But in recent years, this equation has begun to change as highly ranked business schools have begun to open their doors to qualified individuals from less traditional backgrounds. The GRE exam, which gauges the academic preparedness of graduate school applicants in most other fields, has emerged as an alternative to the GMAT. Students with high GRE scores can win admission to many top business schools, meaning that it is now possible to earn a prestigious MBA degree without taking the GMAT.
Why the Change?
Business schools have begun to accept the GRE as a tactic for bringing in a greater diversity of academic and professional experience. Because GRE test-takers have usually come from art or science backgrounds, they tend to have a different approach to their work then other b-school students. Their presence enriches conversation in the classroom and strengthens the student body as a whole. While much has been made of this shift in b-school admissions policy, it doesn’t represent a huge shift in the student bodies of business schools. According to Poets and Quants, 95 percent of Sloan’s applicants still send GMAT scores, despite the fact that they accept the GRE.
GRE vs. GMAT
Now that business school applicants have a choice about which test to take, an argument has broken out over which test is better and, of course, which test is easier. Numerous nuanced positions have emerged, although not all of them are backed up by evidence. The GMAT’s math section is generally considered to be more difficult, while the GRE rigorously tests your geometric abilities. Many claim that the GRE’s verbal section is more challenging, but it primarily tests vocabulary, whereas the GMAT focuses more on grammar and logical reasoning ability.
In addition to the debate about the challenges of the tests themselves, applicants have begun debating which test admissions officers look more favorably upon. Does taking the GMAT send a message that you’re more serious about your MBA?
The problem with this argument is that no applicant really knows exactly what the admissions officers at a particular school think or what metrics they use to equate scores from the two tests. There is probably some diversity of opinion, and some admissions officers may prefer one test to the other. But overall, admissions officers have clearly indicated that they are interested in expanding the diversity of their schools and that diversity matters more to them than what test you take.
So, what does this all mean for MBA applicants? It means that you have more options than ever before regarding how you put your application together. It means that it’s far easier to apply to a mixture of MBA and other graduate school programs. It means that those who are unsure about pursuing an MBA degree can take an admissions test without making a definite decision about what programs to apply to (just make sure you check that your target MBA programs accept both tests). Rather than stressing about which test to take, it is better to take these different options as a boon, and take whichever test better fits your background and admissions.