What is a Good GRE Score For Top Business Schools?

The data are (usually) never wrong. The Graduate Record Exam’s popularity as a means to enter business school continues to grow — and that’s leading to changes in the way the other big test, the Graduate Management Admission Test, is administered.

According to a Poets&Quants analysis of more than 50 leading business schools over the last three years, most have increased the number of MBA candidates they accept who submit GRE scores. In 2015, eight schools admitted 20% or more of their students this way; in 2017, that number ballooned to 22 schools. Last year, 12 schools showed a negative year-over-year trend in GRE admits; this year, that number shrank to seven. Nine schools have seen double-digit increases in GRE admits over the last three years.

Most of the top-tier schools continue to keep their GRE admit lists short(er), but they can brag about quality over quantity. The GRE has three scored sections: a Verbal Reasoning score reported on a 130-170 score scale; a Quantitative Reasoning score reported on a 130-170 score scale; and an Analytical Writing score reported on a 0-6 score scale. Atop the GRE scoring mountain again this year is Stanford Graduate School of Business, where admits averaged a total (Verbal plus Quant) score of 329. Joining Stanford at No. 1 is Yale School of Management, which saw a 1-point bump in its average overall score from last year. On the writing test, meanwhile, only two schools managed an average of 5.0: UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.


While Stanford stayed level and Yale caught up with a small overall score increase, some schools saw big jumps in their average GRE total scores. Rice University leaped 7 points to 321, and UCLA jumped 8 points to 328, behind only Stanford and Yale and tied with Harvard, which reported its scores for the first time this year (though only the median and not the average). Sixteen schools ranked by P&Q saw increases in their GRE total average scores, and three were flat — which means most schools, 22 in fact, saw decreases. However, 14 schools scored above 320 (at least 160 on each of the Verbal and Quant sections); last year that number was only 11. Not reporting for either year were a handful of top schools: Wharton, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, Columbia, along with Emory Goizueta and BYU Marriott. (Not reporting writing scores: Ohio State, Boston Questrom, Rutgers, Illinois.)

Of note: Most schools boast higher Verbal averages than Quant averages — a reflection of the difficulty of the math portion of the test or the specialized nature of the knowledge therein. Among the schools to buck this trend were Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, well-known for its embrace of quantitative learning, and Boston Questrom, which went 157-158 a year after going 158-157. Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management was another notable, achieving the biggest gap in a quant-leaning score: 153-161.


Dennis Yim, Kaplan Test Prep

The data on percentages of GRE admits (see next page) make the situation clear — but in case there was any doubt, the recent decision by the Graduate Management Admission Council to shorten the length of the GMAT by 30 minutes bolsters the view that the GRE is now a real threat to the GMAT, long considered the go-to test for would-be MBAs.

While GMAC did not mention its rival in its announcement about shortening the GMAT, its decision to shave half an hour off the test’s duration certainly looks like a response to the growing influence of the former test. Top-tier schools, however, may serve as a bulwark to protect the GMAT’s supremacy: The further down the list of schools you go, the bigger the GRE admit percentages. Among the elite, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business leads with 19%, followed by MIT Sloan School of Management’s 18%. Last year just one school, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, had more than 40% of admits who submitted GREs; this year there are three, all in the lower tier, led by 45% at both Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business and the University of Texas-Dallas’ Jindal School of Management. In fact, Ohio State’s GRE admits have skyrocketed 30% in three years. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (41%) also cracked the threshold; meanwhile, Boston Questrom (29%) was one of a few schools to backtrack, along with notables like UC-Irvine Merage School of Business (20% to 14%) and SMU Cox School of Business (35% to 20%).

Another way the GRE is creeping up on the GMAT: More schools are reporting their GRE admit percentages, though several big-name schools continue to refuse to do so. This year for the first time, Harvard Business School (12%) and UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business (10%) reported GRE admits to U.S. News & World Report (though the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management continued their silence).

Most schools haven’t dumped the GMAT altogether — though it certainly hasn’t escaped GMAC’s attention that a few have. Recently, P&Q wrote about another approach: skipping both tests, which is something Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business has decided to try. Meanwhile, GMAC’s response to the growing influence of the GRE has taken on other interesting forms.


Dennis Yim, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of academics and a long-time GRE and GMAT instructor, tells Poets&Quants that the move to shorten the GMAT is doubtless an effort to confront and curtail the appeal of the GRE. Whether it succeeds is another question.

“It can’t be lost on business schools or test takers that with this change the GMAT will be 15 minutes shorter than the GRE, with which it’s fighting a pitched battle for market share in the admissions space,” Yim says. “With GRE acceptance nearly universal among MBA programs, many top business schools have reported an increase in the number of applicants who are submitting GRE scores. This change may be an effective strategy to reverse the trend.

“But despite increased acceptance of the GRE among business schools, MBA applicants should be aware that the GMAT might still give them an edge at some schools. According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2017 business school admissions officers survey, 21% of MBA programs that accept both exams say those who submit a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over those who submit a GRE score. Only 1% say GRE takers have the advantage, with the remaining 78% saying neither exam taker has the advantage.”

See the next page for percentages by school of admits submitting GRE scores, and pages 3 and 4 for a breakdown of score averages and comparison with 2016 data.

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