Applying to a Master’s in Management (MiM) course once meant (almost certainly) taking the GMAT, a standardized exam run by the Graduate Management Admission Council. Today however, there is another test that is growing in popularity among business students: the GRE, administered by the Educational Testing Service.
The GRE was created to serve graduate programs in general, rather than business courses like the GMAT, but business schools are definitely warming to the upstart exam. According to data from education services company Kaplan Test Prep, in 2009, only 24 percent of business schools said they accepted the GRE. Today it is well over 90 percent.
“A decade ago, business schools accepting GRE scores was an anomaly. In 2018 it’s nearly unanimous,” says Dennis Yim, Kaplan’s director of academics and an established GMAT and GRE instructor.
He advises MiM students to call up the programs they plan on applying to see which exam they prefer students take. “If they express complete neutrality, then our advice is to take a practice test for both the GMAT and GRE to see which one you do better on,” says Yim. “Once that’s established, devote all your energies toward scoring well on that exam.”
Some business schools do express a preference for one exam over the other. A survey by Kaplan last year of admissions officers found the GMAT was preferred by 21 percent of MBA programs. Only 1 percent of those polled said GRE-takers had an edge over those who took the GMAT. The bias likely extends to MiM courses.
“It’s the test they have come into contact with the most,” Yim says of the GMAT. “There’s a bit of a culture adjustment going on for some schools.”
Shari Hubert, Duke Fuqua’s associate dean for admissions, says the leading US business school does not have an exam preference; Fuqua accepts both tests from aspiring MiM candidates. “Some applicants choose to only take GRE or only take GMAT,” she says. “Other applicants take both tests and send us their best score. We tell candidates to do what is best for them and put their best foot forward.”
Some business schools do see some advantages to the GRE, however. Because a wide variety of graduate school programs accept the GRE as an entrance exam, the increase in business schools accepting GRE scores could lead to a broader pool of applicants, says Hubert.
This reasoning is backed up by another Kaplan survey of admissions teams, in which the vast majority say a GRE policy has resulted in the enrollment of more students from non-traditional backgrounds.
“Undergraduates who are undecided about their future graduate school plans but wish to take an entrance exam while still in school may see the GRE as an attractive way to maximize their options,” Hubert says.
She goes on to say that applicants might want to consider the industry or type of career path they wish to pursue, as “some consulting firms and banks request and review GMAT scores as part of their recruitment process”.
Recently, the length of the GMAT was shorted by 30 minutes in an apparent attempt, admissions consultants say, to improve market share as the GRE becomes more popular. Research by the education consultancy CarringtonCrisp found that one-fifth of MBA, but not MiM, candidates only apply to schools where they do not have to take an entrance exam, as they are notoriously difficult; some people spend up to 100 hours studying for the GMAT.
The growing competition between the exam administrators is a good thing for MiM candidates, Yim believes, because it gives them more options. But he warns that “applicants should pay less attention to the test makers’ marketing share and more on their own goals”.
At ESMT Berlin in Germany, the GMAT and GRE are accepted equally from MiM candidates. Boban Sulic, senior admissions manager, says that the standardized test is just one element of the application. So candidates should not lose sight of the other aspects of the application where they can also shine and demonstrate their competitiveness and fit for the school.
But Sulic adds: “At the same time, a higher score will strengthen the overall profile and make the candidate more competitive. Therefore, candidates should do their best when preparing and taking either test.”
Image: Tara Anderson / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (cropped)