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Chioma Isiadinso

Should I take the GRE, or is the GMAT the gold standard?

Potential student, 35

Chioma is chief executive of Expartus, the business school admissions consultancy, and author of The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets. Her answer appears below.


A few years ago, this question would have been a shot in the dark, but the GRE has been enjoying a surge of popularity among MBA students. About 10 per cent of applicants took the GRE instead of the GMAT during the 2012-2013 admissions cycle. Officially, admissions officials will tell you that the tests are not viewed differently. However, some have argued that officials are willing to overlook a lower GRE score because those scores (unlike GMAT scores) are not used by major ranking systems. Additionally, every school approaches the two tests a bit differently. For example, at Yale School of Management, where approximately 21 per cent of the applicant pool takes the GRE, officials expect GRE test-takers to rank a bit higher in the quantitative percentiles than their GMAT counterparts.

If you score high enough on the GRE, it simply will not matter that you did not take the GMAT. The problem comes when your GRE score is average or below average. That scenario would raise many questions that are open to interpretation by the admissions office and that might not work in your favour. Overall, I would advise prospective students to stick with the GMAT unless you fall under one of the following categories:

• You are uncertain which graduate degree you want to pursue. Taking the GRE will give you more flexibility if you are still considering other graduate options besides an MBA. It will also save you from taking two gruelling tests

• You have a strong transcript but mediocre GMAT scores. If you have a lower GMAT score but can do better on the GRE, that might be your best option. However, I would only advise this if you have a transcript that can powerfully prove your competency in quantitative subjects. Otherwise, enrol in prep classes and stick with the GMAT

• You have taken practice tests for both the GMAT and GRE and your GRE score is significantly higher

Read more articles on applying to business school:

How to assess the value of an MBA

Tips on campus visits

Tips on one-year v two-year programmes

Tips on writing admissions essays

Tips on MBA interviews

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