Should I take the GMAT or GRE?

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There are a growing number of business schools that now accept both the GMAT and the GRE -- HBS, GSB, Booth, Wharton, and Tuck, to name a few (click here for the full list).

Many students ask, which should I take?

  • Amazing at math? Take the GMAT.
    • The quantitative portion of the GMAT covers a broader set of mathematical topics and offers more complicated problems than the GRE. Additionally, in the GRE you can use a calculator--not so for the GMAT.
    • However, because those who take the GMAT (namely, business school students) score higher than those who take the GRE (general graduate school students), it is harder to get a high percentile math score on the GMAT than on the GRE.
    • For example, a scaled GMAT quantitative score of 51 (i.e. no wrong answers) puts you in the 97th percentile and a score of 50 (only one wrong) puts you in the 87th percentile. On the GRE, a perfect quantitative score or one off would both put you in the 97th percentile.
  • Bad with time pressure? Take the GRE.
    • In the GRE you are given a certain time allotment per section (30 minutes for 20 Verbal Reasoning questions or 35 minutes for 20 Quantitative Reasoning questions) and you are free to go back and forth answering questions within a section. The GRE even has a function that allows you to "flag" questions that you would like to return to. This allows you to calmly budget your time according to the difficulty of the questions and not waste your time on one impossible one.
    • The GMAT on the other hand only presents one question at a time. You can't go back or advance to the next question until you answer the current one. The test does this because the difficulty of later questions depends upon how well you answer earlier ones. People who stress out on standardized testing may spend the GMAT fretting about each question they get and second-guessing their previous answers if they see an easier question later in the test.
  • Not a native English speaker? It depends. 
    • The GRE has a very heavy emphasis on vocabulary. Even native english speakers have to build up decks of flashcards to study the arcane words that the test loves to use.
    • The GMAT emphasizes grammar logic. Pick your poison.
  • Bad at test taking in general? Take the GRE.
    • Some business schools, usually the ones who are fighting to maintain or move up the MBA rankings (e.g. Wharton, Columbia, and Yale), place more emphasis on the average GMAT score of their incoming class, since publications such as U.S. News & World Report and The Economist use that statistic in their annual rankings of business schools.
    • If you are going to get an equivalently low score on your standardized test, it is better to do so in the GRE since that statistic is not as closely tracked and a school may have less hesitancy in admitting you for fear that you will bring down that average.
  • Not 100% sure about business school? Or want to do a Joint Degree Program? Take the GRE.
    • The GRE will get you into any graduate school, and leaves you some optionality.
    • However, certain joint programs (such as the JD-MBA at Kellogg) require you to take the GMAT, so do your research.
  • 100% sure about business school? Take the GMAT.
    • If you feel you're equally equipped to take both the GRE and the GMAT, and you're serious about business school, take the GMAT. It can signal to the Adcom that you're serious about business school, and can even qualify you for some merit-based scholarships. However, if you know the GRE plays to your strengths, go ahead and take it. Your score matters!

At the end of the day, our advice is to take the test where you can score highest. Take practice tests to figure out which is best for you.