As MBA applicants know, standardized test scores are a vital part of the business school application process. For you, the candidate, it is important to understand the testing process, timelines, and differences between the GMAT and GRE. Here are some things you should know to help you plan ahead and do as well as possible on your test of choice.
- GMAT or GRE? The first decision you should make is which test to take. These days, most MBA programs accept either of these tests, so you should take the one where you score higher. To determine which test is a better fit for you, we encourage taking a diagnostic of each of them. The tests are different so you may find you are stronger at one format than the other. For example, the GMAT requires that you take the sections in order without skipping steps or changing answers. The GRE provides more flexibility to skip around and set your own path. Depending on your style, one test might be a better option for you. Among admissions committees surveyed, 26% prefer the GMAT, 2% prefer the GRE, and the rest do not have a preference.
- Your post-MBA goals MAY factor into your decision on which test to take. Some of the more prestigious management consulting firms require the GMAT and take into account your score when offering interviews to MBA graduates. If you’re sure you want to work at McKinsey or Bain, for example, you would be well-served to take the GMAT. Students admitted with a GRE score who decide later to pursue consulting often have to take the GMAT during the second year of their MBA program – not a very appealing option!
- Canceling scores and scheduling re-takes. For both exams, test takers get their scores right after they have completed the exam. For the GMAT exam, if you are unhappy with the score, you can cancel it immediately, and if you change your mind later, scores can be reinstated within 30 days. You can take the GMAT exam once every 16 calendar days and no more than eight times in a 12-month period. For the GRE exam, you also can cancel your scores immediately. Scores can be reinstated within 60 days. You can take the GRE once every 21 days and no more than five times in a 12-month period.
- Quantitative scores are the most important. Another element to consider is that MBA programs focus more on the quantitative score than the verbal score of either exam since it is an indicator of preparedness for the quantitative rigor of the curriculum. For example, if your overall GMAT score is 710 but you received a 49 raw score on the verbal section and a 36 raw score on the quantitative section, admissions committees could be concerned that your quantitative skills are not sufficient.
- What about the other sections? Many applicants wonder about the importance of the relatively new Integrated Reasoning (IR) and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) sections of the GMAT. The short answer is they are not as important as the quantitative and verbal sections, but more and more schools are starting to pay closer attention to these scores, so a very strong IR score could help a candidate. While the AWA score has not become a major factor, a solid score on AWA is a way to convince admissions committees your English skills are strong enough to be able to contribute to an MBA program. Do NOT just skip doing these sections as a super low score (even when your overall score is above 700) can indicate that you don’t care about things that are not graded.
- Your scores affect school selection. We recommend looking at schools where your score is within or above the 80% range. This is another reason it is ideal to have a score you are happy with by late spring so you can start focusing on your essays for Round 1 starting in June when the prompts come out! Those deadlines in September (and January for Round 2) come fast and furiously and you will be happy you planned ahead and were able to focus on the rest of the application.
Jennifer Jackson is an MBA Admissions Consultant at Stratus Admissions Counseling. Jennifer’s background includes 10 years of public relations and human capital consulting, as well as experience writing, editing, mentoring and coaching.