The rise of the GRE continues unabated — for the most part. The Graduate Record Exam is becoming the preferred test for an increasing number of students, and an increasing number of candidates are getting into business schools by submitting GRE scores rather than — or in addition to — scores from the traditionally preferred Graduate Management Admission Test.
An analysis by Poets&Quants of 50 elite MBA programs shows that while some have seen a slight decrease in the percentage of admits with GRE scores, far more have seen an uptick — something easier to define as students incline toward the GRE or choose to take both tests, and as schools increasingly make GRE score averages and related statistics available to the public.
The stigma long attached (fairly or unfairly) to the GRE is fading, and the exam is becoming a legitimate avenue for B-school aspirants.
EIGHT SCHOOLS SURPASS 30% IN ADMITS WITH GRE SCORES
Eleven schools saw a drop in GRE admits between 2015 and 2016, though of those declines, six were of just 1 percentage point. On the other hand, 24 schools saw increases, ranging from 1 percentage point to 24 points in a single year. While nine schools continue to have GRE admits in the single-digit percentages, 18 have eclipsed 20% and eight have surpassed 30%, led by Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, where a remarkable 42% of the 2016 intake were admitted with GRE scores.
Other notable schools: Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School (39%, up from 15% in 2015), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Business (36%), Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business (35%, up from 12% in 2015), Washington University’s Olin Business School (34%), and the University of Georgia’s Terry School of Business (31%). The previous year’s high-level mark for GRE scores was owned by Yale School of Management, with 23%.
At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the percentage of admits with GRE scores tripled in the three years from 2013 to 2015, from 4% to 12%. Last year it dipped to 11%, but according to Anneli Richter, assistant dean of admissions, that may be an aberration.
“We accept both GRE and GMAT scores,” Richter tells Poets&Quants. “We have seen an increasing trend of students taking both tests. In those cases, our admissions team evaluates candidates based the strongest score. We feel both tests gauge academic readiness and our team values them equally.
“We are seeing a slight increase in GRE scores submitted (in 2017), but it’s premature to give a final tally since applications are still open.”
STIGMA AROUND ‘NON-GMAT’ OPTION DISAPPEARING
Richter and other admissions officers say they have no preference between the GRE and GMAT. The biggest shift, consultants say, is in the attitude of applicants.
“MBA applicants are finally comfortable with the notion of taking the GRE instead of the GMAT,” says Dan Bauer, chairman and founder of academic and career counseling consultancy The MBA Exchange. “In prior years, most candidates found it difficult — or even embarrassing — to accept the fact that they simply couldn’t crack the GMAT, even after multiple attempts. Those individuals felt that opting for the GRE would confirm their ‘weakness’ and thus constrain their chances for admission. However, as more B-school websites and blogs have confirmed that adcoms are now officially indifferent between the two tests, more MBA candidates have overcome their reluctance to go with the GRE. The stigma surrounding the ‘non-GMAT’ option is disappearing by the day.
Harvard Law School’s much-ballyhooed decision to open its doors to GRE takers won’t have much effect on business schools, which already have largely come to accept the exam, Bauer says. But the reverberations are being felt nevertheless, he says.
“As with business schools, Harvard Law School’s decision to accept the GRE as an alternative to its traditional admission test (LSAT) is motivated by their need to grow the applicant pool,” Bauer says. “The only impact on business schools that we envision is that, if and when more law schools follow Harvard’s lead, more MBA applicants will pursue JD/MBA dual degrees, since there’s no longer a need to take a second test. Other graduate programs that are more likely to feel the impact of Harvard’s move are Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Administration programs — e.g., Harvard Kennedy School, Princeton Woodrow Wilson School, etc. Applicants to MPP and MPA programs will be more likely to add JD programs to their target list, since the same GRE test can be used for all.”
REPORTING, NOT REPORTING, SCORING HIGH, SCORING LOW
Even as the GRE gains acceptance, some major schools refuse to report GRE scores — notably Harvard Business School, but also the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, among others. These schools aren’t declining to accept students who take the GRE; they are simply not reporting scores, as a way to insulate the school from the repercussions of admitting students with lower scores. If no GRE scores are reported, then those scores can’t impact a school’s ranking.
Its a practice that may soon end. Robert J. Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News & World Report, which does the most complete annual ranking of MBA programs, told Poets&Quants last year that U.S. News may adjust its ranking calculation for schools that fail to report GRE scores.
What kind of scores would a prestige B-school be proud to report? Once again in 2016, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has the answer. The school led all elite programs with a 165 Quant score and a 329 total score, and was third on the writing score (4.9) behind the only two schools to score a 5.0: the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business. Stanford edged out Yale School of Management by 1 total point, though Yale topped all schools with a 165 Verbal score. Rounding out the top five in total GRE score were the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (326), NewYork University’s Stern School of Business (324), and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business (324).
On the other end of the spectrum, the top school with the lowest scores was the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, with a 153 Verbal and 152 Quant. Katz also had the second-lowest score in the writing portion of the test, at 3.8. The lowest in writing? The University of Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management, with a 3.7.
(See the following pages for tables showing percentages of GRE admits and GRE scores for top business schools.)