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GMAT vs. GRE: Which is Better for Business School?

Now that many MBA programs are accepting the GRE as well as the GMAT, it leads many students to ask themselves: “Which one should I take?” Many other questions pop up around this topic, such as “which test is easier?” or “will one exam improve my chances of acceptance over another?” Naturally, any changes in b-school admissions are bound to bring about questions, confusion, and perhaps even a little controversy. It’s hard for people to wrap their minds around alterations to what were once steadfast and inflexible admissions requirements. If you had tried to get into business school 30 years ago with a GRE score, let’s just say you wouldn’t have been welcomed with open arms!

ETS, the administrator of the GRE, addresses this new trend on its website: “Business schools that accept GRE scores may not only get more applicants to choose from, they get more diversity as well.” The GRE, frankly, is easier to schedule, with more testing centers and test dates around the world than the GMAT. On the whole, it’s a far more widely taken test than the GMAT. This plays into the reasoning of schools such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and many others in their decision to accept GRE scores, as it opens up the possibility for a breadth of students the GMAT just hasn’t seemed to reach. Clearly, diversity of background, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status is important to business schools, as exemplified by their decision to take a more wide-reaching approach to their entrance examinations. This is good news all around, because options lead to more possibilities.

While this may open up doors, it can create a dilemma for students weighing the pros and cons of the GMAT and the GRE. Take a look at the following breakdowns of both exams, which feature important elements such as their cost and structure in addition to the opinions of business leaders and admissions officers regarding the best choice. Hopefully, this will help you understand which test is right for you and your business school goals. If you want to get a hands-on impression of the two exams, please check out Manhattan Review’s GMAT practice questions and GRE practice questions, where you can find representative exercises for each test, including detailed solutions for all questions and statistics on how you performed in comparison to other test-takers.


One consideration for both exams is, well, cost. Taking the GRE is $205 in most countries, whereas the GMAT is more expensive at $250. While there may be some slight crossover, specifically with vocabulary, studying for both exams at the same time isn’t only boggling for your mind but also detrimental to your wallet. With test prep study books, practice exams, tutoring, and tuition for in-person or online classes, the expenses can really add up. A big reason to choose one exam over the other is to avoid breaking the bank.


Each exam has its own distinctive scoring system. The GRE scoring rubric ranges from 130 to 170 with one-point increments, while the GMAT ranges from 200 to 800 in 10-point increments. There are online “score conversion charts” that will inform you what your GMAT score would likely be on the GRE scale and vice versa, but again, scores aren’t necessarily easy comparable because they are different tests altogether. Still, there is a GMAT to GRE score conversion page and also a GRE to GMAT score conversion page that you can consult to get a rough idea of your score concordances.

Differences and Similarities Between the Two Tests

Both the GMAT and GRE are roughly the same length, with the GRE taking about three hours and 45 minutes and the GMAT lasting three hours and 30 minutes. The GMAT used to last four hours, but as of April 16, 2018 it was reduced by a half an hour. Changes included a reduction of Quantitative Reasoning questions as well as a decrease in the Verbal section.

With respect to test structure, the GRE has a 60-minute Analytical Writing section with two essays that are 30 minutes each. The GMAT has a 30-minute Analytical Writing section requiring only one essay. The GRE has two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning portions, whereas the GMAT has a 65-minute Verbal section. The GRE includes two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections, along with a 30- or 35-minute experimental portion that could be either Quantitative or Verbal. The GMAT has a 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section and a 62-minute Quantitative Reasoning section.

Both exams are computer-adaptive if taken in the United States. The paper version of the GRE is obviously not adaptive and is often the version more widely accessible overseas, particularly in the Philippines. Scores for both exams are valid for five years.


About 580,000 future graduate students take the GRE every year, compared to approximately 260,000 who sit for the GMAT annually. For GMAT test-takers, their desired degree programs are likely master of business administration, master of finance, master of accountancy, etc. The bulk of GRE test takers are probably headed for graduate degree programs in the social sciences, engineering, or the arts and humanities (in addition to graduate management). If you take the GRE, your competition will be a highly diverse academic population across a variety of disciplines. GMAT test-takers are primarily aiming to score higher than others vying for graduate management or business degrees. Imagine yourself in each of these rooms and among their respective demographics. Would you want to be compared to the first group or the second? That depends highly on evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses.  

What Are Companies Saying?

Although most companies consider the attainment of an MBA or other graduate business degree to be sufficient evidence of academic aptitude, the GMAT may have an effect on employment prospects after degree completion. Business school prestige and rankings, the latter of which are partially determined by test scores, play a substantial role in companies’ on-campus recruiting choices. The top employers prefer to recruit at business schools with the most promising students, and the perception is that those people are most easily found in programs with the highest degree of selectivity.

Furthermore, some companies (particularly in banking and consulting) actually use the GMAT as part of the hiring process. McKinsey & Company, for example, typically asks its job candidates for all of their standardized test scores, including those for the GMAT and GRE if applicable. Bain and Company is another firm that considers applicant test scores, as explained by Partner and Global Head of Consulting Recruitment Keith Bevans: “We do look at the GMAT score. There is no minimum, but we do have a sense of what a strong score is. The truth is, most students in MBA programs often have the GMAT on their resume. We do have a fair amount [sic] of applicants with a GRE or LSAT and we can convert that to an equivalent GMAT score.”

What Are Business Schools Saying?

With the rise in overall acceptance of both tests, what are business schools saying? Harvard Business School made news in 2009 when it announced it would accept either exam for admission. “We are pleased to widen our requirements to give all MBA candidates the option of submitting results from either the GRE or GMAT exams,” said Deirdre Leopold, who was the Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the time.     

“Since many HBS applicants are also considering graduate programs besides the MBA, there is now no need for them to take the GMAT if they have already taken the GRE,” Leopold clarified. “We believe that both the GMAT and GRE meet our expectations of what a standardized test can tell us about a candidate’s ability to thrive in our MBA Program.”

In the September 2017 update to its website, the Stanford Graduate School of Business stated: “We have no preference for one test over the other. If you take both exams, you may provide both scores. Candidates applying to joint-degree programs that require the GRE should not feel obligated to take the GMAT.” Stanford was one of the first schools to accept GRE scores instead of GMAT scores, starting as early as 2005.

Positive and encouraging comments confirming exam non-bias are plentiful from admissions officials. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, was quoted in Bloomberg: “Good people always manage to shine whether they take the GMAT or GRE.” The George Mason University School of Business is “now using the GRE or the GMAT. We do not have a preference of which exam you take.”

The overarching goal to reach a more diverse applicant pool is outwardly stated by many recruitment officers. Nikhil Varaiya, Director of Graduate Programs for San Diego State University, explained this to U.S. News & World Report: “With more and more employers saying, ‘We want students from diverse backgrounds,’ it was sort of difficult to argue that the GMAT was the only measure to use.”

Finally, and perhaps most encouragingly, the Admissions Committee at NYU’s Stern School of Business publicly affirmed the equivalence of the two exams: “Applicants who submit GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores are not held in lesser regard. Taking the GRE exam will not have a negative impact on your application.”

It is important to note, however, that the following schools still only accept the GMAT: London Business School, the University of Toronto, Erasmus University, IESE Business School, the Indian School of Business, and HKUST Business School.

Test Centers in the Philippines

As of the time of this posting, there are two test centers that administer the GMAT in the Philippines. One is MISNet Incorporated located in Cebu City (32 2531536) and the other is MISNet Inc. in Makati City Manila (2 751-2871).

There are also two test centers that administer the paper-delivered GRE in the Philippines. One is the Training, Education and Development Center in Cebu City, located at 308-Centro Maximo D on Jakosalem Street. The other is the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati City, located at 130 HV Dela Costa Street.

The closest test center to offer the computer version of the GRE is in Malaysia, at the Prometric Technology Center in Kuala Lumpur. You can reach them by phone at 60-3-7628-3333.

Please note that test centers and test dates can change on short notice. Therefore, please consult the website of exam administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS) for the latest test-taking options in your geographical area.

So Which One Do You Take?

With either exam accepted by countless business schools, we return to our earlier question: Which one do you take? Consider several things as you weigh this possibility. After all, you don’t want to spend your money, time, and energy studying for both tests when you’re best served by taking only the exam that most closely meets your needs.

The first element to consider is whether or not you’re applying to other graduate programs besides business schools. Most grad schools that aren’t business- or MBA-focused will want the GRE. Clearly, if that’s the exam they want and the business schools you’re applying to also accept the GRE, your energies should be devoted to studying for that assessment. GMAT scores won’t help you get into that grad program in psychology (take it from us).

On the other hand, if you are only applying to b-schools, then it really boils down to preference and aptitude. In all honesty, the Quant section on the GMAT is known to be challenging for those not gifted in math. If math is your strength and the Quant section comes easier to you, then that might be where you have the best opportunity for a higher score. Conversely, if your natural abilities are along the lines of grammar and vocabulary, the GRE is viable option, as the Verbal portion is more challenging than it is on the GMAT.

With this new trend of exam flexibility, you really have to weigh the pros and cons of both and determine which one is right for you. What are the requirements of the schools to which you’re applying? It might be a good idea to do a little research and find statistics and quotes for yourself to be truly certain. Also, be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses, and pick the exam that will get you your best score. While it’s nice to have choices, it’s important to make the right ones when it comes to your test prep and MBA application. Clearly, you want to put your best foot forward—or in this case, your best test score.

About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review is an international test prep firm that mainly offers preparation for admissions tests needed to apply to US-based universities and schools, including the SAT, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and TOEFL. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, the company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review offers SAT Prep in the Philippines and many cities in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Tarnaka, Jayanagar, Madhapur, Dilsukhnagar, and Hong Kong. Please also check out our official website for Manhattan Review India.

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