Schools Accepting Lower GRE Scores

As more business schools agree to accept Graduate Record Exam scores in lieu of GMATs, some admission consultants have been advising clients 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 Duke University’s Fuqua School, where only 4% of applicants submitted GRE scores last year, the average GRE verbal score was 159, while the average quant score was 156. That roughly translates to a 77th percentile score. The equivalent GMAT score for those GRE scores, according to the Educational Testing Service’s comparison tool, is 640. Duke’s average GMAT score is 690, the 88th percentile on the GMAT test, is a 50-point difference from the GRE results. The reported scores are for GRE’s newly revised test.


At the University of Michigan’s Ross School, average GRE scores are the equivalent of a 670 GMAT. But enrolled students who took the GMAT have an average score of 703–a difference of 33 points.

At Washington University’s Olin School, the difference between GRE and GMAT percentiles was even greater–nearly 100 GMAT points. The average GRE scores (156 verbal and 152 quant) were in the 67th percentile for the latest enrolled class of MBAs, the equivalent of a 590 GMAT. But the average GMAT score (698) was in the 89th-90th percentile.

In some cases, the differences are small. At Yale’s School of Management, where a sizable 18% of the applicant pools submits GREs, the average verbal score of enrolled students was 164, while the average quant score was 161. That roughly converts into an 87th percentile average versus Yale’s average GMAT of 717, or the 93rd percentile. The difference? An equivalent GMAT score of 710 vs. the actual average of 717.

Generally, the numbers seem to show that applicants who have trouble with the GMAT exam should consider taking the GRE instead. Generally, however, a higher proportion of non-traditional MBA students take the GRE so this could also be a factor in admissions decisions.


The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which said that 5% of its applicants last year submitted GREs, provided U.S. News with average scores for the old GRE test–not the newly revised exam. The school reported that the average verbal score for enrolled MBAs was 560 and the average quant score was 635. Combined, that’s roughly equivalent to scoring in the 65th percentage. Wharton’s average GMAT, meantime, is 718, nearly the 94th percentile. So the difference at Wharton has been fairly significant.

Just how long this difference will exist is unclear. For the first time, U.S. News attempted to use the average GRE scores in addition to the GMATs in its methodology to create the ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Many schools, however, failed to report those scores to U.S. News. Average GRE scores are rarely, if ever, published by business schools so this is also the first time users can see comparative average scores.

The percentage of MBA applicants submitting Graduate Record Exam scores instead of GMATs varies greatly among the top business schools. The percentage of applicants submitting GRE scores on their MBA applications ranges from a mere 2% at Columbia Business School to a high of 31% at Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis, according to data provided by the schools to U.S. News.


Several prominent business schools reported that GRE applicants are now in double-digits, including Vanderbilt University’s Owen School (23%), Yale’s School of Management (18%), the University of Texas’ McCombs School (13%), Notre Dame’s Mendoza School (12%), and Wisconsin Business School (11%).

Several of the most prominent business schools, including Harvard, Chicago Booth, and Berkeley, did not provide U.S. News with any data on GRE scores–not even the percentage of their applicant pools submitted GRE instead of the GMAT. Several other schools, including Stanford, MIT, Columbia, and New York University’s Stern School, merely reported the percentage of applicants with GRE scores but not the averages.

Still, enough schools supplied the data to allow a first glimpse at what the averages are for enrolled MBA students and how they compare with average GMAT scores (see following page for table on top schools reporting average GRE and GMAT scores).

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