GRE Gaining Ground On The GMAT

by John A. Byrne on

GMAT-vs-GRE-HEADERNearly 10% of MBA-bound applicants during the past 2012-2013 testing year took the Graduate Record Examination instead of the dominant GMAT test, Educational Testing Service said today (April 29).

The testing organization, which has been promoting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, said that GRE test-taker trends during the current testing year from July 1, 2013, through January 31, 2014, show even more growth. “In this time period, the number of GRE test takers indicating MBA as their intended degree rose dramatically, by 38 percent, compared to the same time period last year,” ETS said.

At least some of the growth can be attributed to the decision by several hold out business schools, including the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School and Georgetown University’s McDonough School, to finally  accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT for classes that enter in the fall of 2014.


But most of the increase is due to increasing numbers of applicants who are using the test to get into an MBA program. “We have heard from schools that they are seeing anywhere from 10% to 30% of their MBA applicants presenting GRE scores, and we expect this number to continue to grow,” says David Payne, Vice President of Global Education at ETS, in a statement.

At Yale University’s School of Management, a record 21% of last year’s applicants submitted a GRE score, up from 18% a year earlier. At Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, GRE test takers accounted for a record 25% of the applicant pool last year, up from 12%. At Columbia Business School, 5% of the prospective students last year took the GRE, up from just 2%. And at Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, 8% of last year’s applicants submitted the GRE, up from 3%.

When Kaplan Test Prep surveyed business school admission officers last summer, 29% of the respondents said that GRE applicants now make up at least 10% of their applicant pool, while 18% said the GRE portion of their pool had increased to 18%. About 6% of the admission officials said that the GRE was being submitted by half of the candidates.

Not every school reported a greater percentage of GRE test takers. Washington University’s Olin School, for example, reported that the GRE pool fell to a still high 24% from 31% in 2012. The University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business reported a slight decline to 11% from 13% a year earlier. But these numbers appear to be counter to the trend of applicants opting to take the GRE over the GMAT. The percentage of applicants submitting GRE scores on their MBA applications ranges from a mere 3% at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to a high of 25% at Notre Dame, according to data provided by the schools to U.S. News.


Some admission officials are confirming the ETS report of continued growth. “The GRE pool is definitely increasing,” says Rob Weiler, associate dean of the MBA program at UCLA. “We have admitted many more people with GREs. We have probably doubled the number of applicants with GREs from what it was last year, and certainly among the ranks of those admitted. We are better able to assess it now that we have had a couple of years of accepting it.”

Weiler says that a lot of candidates this year submitted GRE scores from a year or two ago. “It’s clear that they had graduate school in mind when they took the best but where still considering the best avenue to take for their career. Once it became clear that business school was their choice, they used their GRE score to apply.”

A good chunk of the growth could also be the result of soaring GRE test taking in India. The number of prospective students who sat for the GRE in India jumped by 68% last year to 88,884, from 52,792 in 2012. In the U.S., in comparison, some 422,668 people took the GRE last year, up just 5.3% from the 401,286 who took it a year earlier. Some of that rapid growth may be due to the cost difference in the tests: The GRE is priced at $195, while the GMAT costs $250.

There’s another very plausible reason for the marketshare gains by GRE. Several MBA admission consultants have been advising clients in recent years to submit GRE scores when they perform poorly on the GMAT. The stated reason for the strategy: Some ranking organizations, such as U.S. News, use GMAT scores to rank MBA programs. So an admissions office might be overly sensitive to a low GMAT score, but might pass on a lower GRE.


Newly disclosed data, provided by the schools to U.S. News & World Report for its recently published annual business school ranking, support the notion that MBA programs have been willing to accept lower scoring GRE candidates compared to those who submit GMAT scores. At Yale’s School of Management, for example, the average admit who got into the MBA program with a GRE score had a 160 verbal and a 162 quant, with a 4.7 analytical writing score. Using ETS’ comparative tool, the equivalent GMAT score would be 660, 54 points below Yale’s average 714 GMAT score for admits.

In every single case where a school reports both GMAT and GRE numbers for admits, a school is willing to accept lower GRE scores–and in many cases, much lower scores based on ETS’ comparative tool. The gap between the predicted GMAT score of admits from GRE exams and average GMATs can be 100 or more points wider at many prominent schools. At Cornell University’s Johnson School, where the average GMAT for admits was 691 last year, the average GRE for admits was predicted at 600–a difference of 91 points. At Washington University’s Olin School, the gap was 126 points, while at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate Sehool of Business, the difference was 118 points (see table on following page).

Of course, scores on entrance exams are only one of many variables in an MBA application. It’s also possible that the non-traditional students taking the GRE may offer a class greater diversity and also have a more differentiated narrative to entice an acceptance from admissions.

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  • Somine

    It is obvious that schools would feel comfortable with accepting low GRE, simply because it will free them from the ranking sickness and will give them greater space to pick more unique profiles.

  • devils0508

    Wow, this should be bigger news. Basically, who gets into the top schools is now based on who is best at gaming the system – people who paid consultants and knew to take the GRE and GMATs. 100 point spread between GMAT and GRE equivalent is absolutely ridiculous. Something needs to change

  • Thatguy

    To be fair, the comparative tool mentioned gives you the middle value of an 80 point “estimated GMAT score” range. So the estimated 660 could have been as high as 700. It’s not as drastic of a difference as this article is making it out to be.

  • Thatguy

    Correction, 110 point range.

  • gregmat

    I took both tests. My “estimated GMAT score” was a 650, but I ended up scoring 710 on the GMAT. The greatest difference between both tests is definitely the format of the GMAT, given you can’t go back to previous questions. (I don’t know if the GRE has changed since then but I last took it in 2012; took the GMAT in 2013)

  • Robert

    I would imagine they feel the GRE is a more reliable measure as it’s less of an obscure subject matter, paying for points test.

  • gre or gmat

    I took the GRE and scored in the 98 th percentile – an equivalent score of 740 in GMAT. But, in almost every b school interview, i was asked ‘why did i take it instead’… there was an assumption that I took the easy way out, and had to explain myself – I think GRE negatively affects your admission chances, no matter what the schools say.

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for weighing in. I know there are some admission consultants who make the same argument and would prefer that their clients apply with the GMAT over the GRE for exactly the same reason you cite. I think an obvious answer to the question you were asked is that you were initially uncertain whether to get an MBA or another master’s degree so the GRE kept your options open. The test is also less expensive which is another reason in its favor.

  • Linda Abraham

    Also, many admissions offices pay more attention to the percentile score than the raw GRE score. In fact several years ago, but after they were already accepting the GRE, I attended a panel with admissions officers from top programs and they hadn’t even heard of the comparative tool mentioned in this article. They were relying on percentiles to evaluate applicants and compare GRE vs GMAT. I suspect my experience reflects a basic approach and while they probably know about the comparative tool today, they’re still looking at percentiles, and that’s not discussed here. It would be interesting though…

  • Michael Cohan

    Really useful information John. I have many applicants who (1) need to choose GRE versus GMAT and (2) if they choose the GRE need average scores from the MBA schools as one method to benchmark themselves versus the competition. Thanks.

  • JohnAByrne

    Michael, I found this data fascinating and quite a revelation.

  • Michael Cohan

    Agreed, John. It is nice to have average GRE scores (on the 2nd page). I appreciate your article because the information is actionable. If Yale is seeing 1 out of every 5 applicants submit a GRE score then in general applicants are not disadvantaged in taking the GRE over the GMAT. Of course, split by country would be helpful as the numbers might be skewed towards certain regions or towards applicants with prior graduate degrees. So, hypothetically, only a small minority of domestic applicants with only an undergraduate degree might be taking the GRE.

  • Linda Abraham

    Actually you didn’t have to pay a consultant for this. It was on our blog a while ago.

    Also, US News as of this year does calculate the GRE in its rankings, but doesn’t calculate it in its GMAT averages, which are published and tend to get a lot of attention.

  • Law School Bound

    The decision of “name brand” MBA programs to accept the GRE means that more and more MBA programs will accept the GRE. Why wouldn’t they? MBA programs have to compete too. This means that the GRE will eventually overtake and (my prediction) pass the GMAT. The GRE is simply a more flexible, less expensive admissions test that can be used for general graduate school admissions to boot.

  • jimismash

    I think it is an excellent way to avoid relying on a monopoly. The GMAT is still (probably) better to take than the GRE when looking at B-schools in aggregate; I felt it was more quantitatively intense. By increasing competition business schools are upping their bargaining ability with the GMAC.

  • Jaime

    Ms. Abraham do you mind clarifying? How is the GRE average of a school calculated in the US News ranking?

    Thank you for your time.

  • Linda Abraham


    Thanks for the question.

    This is what US News says on its methodology page:

    “Mean GMAT and GRE scores (0.1625): This is the average
    Graduate Management Admission Test score and average GRE quantitative and verbal scores of full-time MBA students entering in fall 2013. For the second consecutive year, we have used both GMAT and GRE scores in the ranking model for MBA programs that reported both scores. Using the GRE scores allows us to take into account the admissions test scores of the entire entering full-time MBA class.”

    The scores are reported by the schools.

  • Joe

    Its actually probably smart to take the GRE over the GMAT, especially if math isn’t your stronger suit. Its basically just a way to game the system. If you can score above the 90% on the GRE (which will obviously be easier because of the number of test takers vs the GMAT) but are struggling on the GMAT it just helps you stand out. Then you can use the BS converter to say that it converts to a 750 or so and B schools will be happy. I’ve been studying for the GMAT a ton with mediocre success (high 600s in mock tests) and I think if I don’t hit 700 I might just switch to the GRE.

  • FutureMBA

    I am a bit confused about conversion from GRE to GMAT tool, when I convert the new revised score it gives different GMAT score than when converting the equivalent old GRE? why?

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Is there any benefit to taking both and scoring well on both (have a 750 GMAT and I’m wondering if scoring well on the GRE as well will improve my chances of getting into my top schools)?

  • Linda Abraham



    Given your 750, I see absolutely no value in taking the GRE. Focus on your application and other means of improving your qualifications. You’ve shown you have the brains for a top bschool. Now show you have the other qualities they want to see.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Thanks Linda.

    BTW, would earning my CPA and CMA before applying help or does it not really matter?

    I’m working towards both certifications and just wanted to know if I should hold off on B-School apps until after I finish those exams.

  • Linda Abraham


    I’d need to know more about you before I reply. Where are you applying? What are you doing professionally? Where did you go to school and what were your grades like? When will you complete these certifications? What do you want to do after your MBA?


  • Avinash Tyagi

    Hi Linda,

    A bit of Background about me, I’m 34, working as an Accountant, my professional background dating back to before I went to college was as a Bookkeeper and later an Accountant, I’ve worked at small and Medium sized companies during my career.

    I graduated in 2011 with a Degree in Technical Management from Devry, my GPA was 4.0 graduated with Honors, Summa Cum Laude.

    I’m planning on finishing my Certifications in early 2016, as I still have some accounting classes to finish and can only go to school and study for the exams part time (working full time at a small to medium sized CPA firm).

    Depending on the situation and available opportunities I’d be willing to do either Full time or Part time MBA (since I’m married and we’re planning to have children, full time may be harder to pull off financially)

    If I were to do Full time, my choices would be HBS, Stanford or Booth

    Part time would be Booth, Kellogg or Haas.

    My Desire after my MBA is to become a CFO at a Fortune 500 company (Eventually making the move to CEO)

  • Linda Abraham

    With or without those certifications, IMO acceptance to one of the part-time programs you mentioned is much more likely than to the full-time programs at HBS, Stanford, or Booth. Given your goals and academic background, the CPA and CMA would improve your chances of acceptance to the part-time programs at Booth, Kellogg, or Haas.


  • Linda Abraham

    You’re most welcome, Avinash. Thanks for considering our services.


  • Dhimmi Tude

    I’m sure any Fortune 500 prospective employer will be interested to know that you go around calling American conservatives “baggerstain” while expressing highly partisan left-wing opinions in the rudest language possible. My advice: (a) adjust your tone (maybe grow up a little first to help that process) and (b) don’t use your real name if you plan to be rude and/or extremist in your online communications. Moron.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Rofl glad to see you are so obsessed about me that you feel the need to stalk me.

    Looks like I’m living rent free in your mind. :D

  • Dhimmi Tude

    Your arrogance is predictable but tiresome.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Says The Guy Who Has Nothing Better To Do Than Stalk me.

  • Dhimmi Tude

    You’ll know it when it rises to the level of “stalking” you loud-mouthed arrogant twit.

  • Jen K

    Avinash, I’m afraid your stalker is right in this case [even if he isn’t in your corner]. Schools and corporate recruiters do look up your online presence, and frankly the comments you’ve left on other pages are rather troubling.

    Your antagonistic remarks towards other minorities, sexual orientation, affirmative action (a core principle of the Democratic Party you claim to support), other faiths, and posters with political views different to yours is likely to hurt your chances of being seen as someone willing to work in diverse teams.

    I say this as an MBA student at one of the top full-time programs you’re seeking to apply to. Students here tend to avoid those with inflammatory opinions, so the risk of being ostracized is rather high even if you do make it.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    I have to question the veracity of your comment, you say I have made antagonistic remarks towards minorities, people with minority sexual orientations, and towards affirmative action.

    Sorry, but that is untrue.

    As for religion, I haven’t hid the fact that I am skeptical and disbelieving of other faiths, but again, nothing that can be reasonably called antagonistic.

    Only on those of other political beliefs is your comment accurate, and I won’t deny that I have made many antagonistic remarks towards those of other political beliefs that could be considered inflammatory.

    Your advice about the danger of having inflammatory political opinions has merit, but it has never hampered my ability to work with teams in the past, so I’m not too concerned.

  • Jen K

    Avinash, you have made comments suggesting you would have gotten into schools(?) easier if you were Black or Latino. I think that is in poor taste, because it fails to consider the obstacles they have had to overcome.

    As a member of the LGBT community, I found your view about a female actors’ sexuality, a little too flippant and off-the-cuff. These are comments best made in a living room, and not in the public domain.

    Political differences are easily tolerated. But all that invective you have used – under your own name! – at people with different opinions, will very likely hurt your recruiting chances at major firms. Not only because many highly-qualified corporate executives and C-level leaders tend to be Republican, but all companies are sensitive to the image they portray to clients.

    You may be right when you say you put aside your feelings of antagonism towards others on the side while at work, but schools and firms are NOT going to give you the opportunity to prove that it’s true. Remember, nothing is off the table during an analysis of the candidate.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    No it is fact, as Sandy Kreisburg himself has pointed out on many occasion, underrepresented minorities, such as black and Latinos have an easier time getting in with lower stats because there are so much fewer of them in MBA programs today. This has nothing to do with what obstacles they face or do not face, just a plain truth of MBA admissions.

    Flippant and off the cuff is hardly antagonistic, in fact my comments indicated no animosity about their sexuality, just pointing out evidence that indicates their sexuality. If people are scared to discuss sexuality, then how can you ever expect equality. Be open and honest about it.

    So like I said, your comments that I am antagonistic towards those of different sexuality or towards minorities is false.

    You may be correct in your comments about political differences hurting my chances, I can neither verify nor disprove such an assertion, and as a result I will take your advice under consideration.

  • A. Subramanian

    Well, this thread got interesting.

    Avinash Tyagi, Jen is right and wrong.

    To be frank, and I know you appreciate straight-talk, I don’t think your profile is strong enough for any of the programs you mentioned. Devry with its 93% acceptance rate isn’t going to cut it at the HBS committee or at any of the other schools. Linda Abraham was wording it mildly, but the elite programs look for candidates with outstanding profiles and high-profile unedergrad schools. I recommend looking at non-M7, non-Ivy schools ranked 20 and lower – where your good GMAT score will offset the weaker parts of your profile and you will get a free ride.

    Trolling forums and political-baiting has its consequences, sure. Even if you don’t mind working with others, they certainly will. Your “frank” talk about race and sexuality will likely scare recruiters away. If you want to become a CFO, you should know CEOs (mostly Republicans) won’t take an antagonist under their wing. SMH here man. Just common sense really.

  • Avinash Tyagi

    You may be right that my profile is too weak at the moment, which is one reason I’m currently working on making it stronger before applying. Not really interested in going to a lower tier school though, not worth it financially, an MBA might be nice, but my dad made it to CEO at his company with just a CPA and masters in accounting, so it’s not a must have for my goals. It’s more a nice to have. I could easily just do my CPA, CMA and maybe get a master’s in finance , accounting or something similar.

    This is also why I’m not concerned about my political positions hurting my chances, I’ve yet to see any real detriment to my career so far, maybe it may hurt me at some point, but I don’t see any evidence at the moment.

  • Ryan S.

    This is somewhat misleading. While the GRE equivalent is less, in terms of percentiles it’s roughly equivalent. Considering that the GRE is taken by a much larger amount of people, and the scale is far less aggressive, it’s actually far harder to score in the same percentile.

  • Ryan S.

    That is great to know.

  • Ryan S.

    There’s a bit of a misunderstanding here, although the “gre to gmat” converted score is lower, the scores are nearly the exact same in terms of overall percentile placement within the sample. This differentiation is more of a result of the conversion tool, and not so much in terms of success on one test versus the other.

  • GRE % > GMAT %

    Hi Ryan,

    If you don’t mind me asking, from what position do you speak off? I’m trying to get a better idea of how Ad Coms see the GRE. My GRE converts to my own GMAT score but my GRE percentiles look much better.

    I’m still hesitant to fully commit to the GRE since there is so much GRE bashing.

    Any opinion on this?

    Thank you.

  • Ryan S.

    Most schools look at percentiles against the sample vs absolute score.

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