As we’ve reported, the popularity of the Graduate Record Exam as a substitute — or complement — to the Graduate Management Admission Test continues to grow. In 2018, according to data collected by U.S. News & World Report for its newly released annual ranking of U.S. business schools, the GRE was more popular than ever.
Poets&Quants’ analysis of U.S. News data from last fall’s intakes at the top 50 schools finds that most — 30 of 48 that report the data — saw a year-over-year gain between 2017 and 2018 in the percentage of entrants who submitted GRE scores. Expand the scope to the last four years and that number grows to 41 of 48 schools, at an average increase of more than 100% (102.5%, to be precise). Eleven schools saw double-digit increases in percentage points of GRE submitters in the last year; in the last four, the number grows to 18 schools.
And what about scores? There, the picture is a little more mixed. The GRE has three scored sections: a Verbal Reasoning score reported on a 130-170 score scale; a Quantitative Reasoning score also reported on a 130-170 score scale, and an Analytical Writing score reported on a 0-6 scale. Once again leading all schools in overall score in 2018 is Stanford Graduate School of Business, which reported an average 165 Quant and 165 Verbal for a 330 overall. Placing second is UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, at 329 total, while three schools scored 328 total: Harvard Business School, Yale School of Management, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. However, only 18 of 43 schools saw their overall GRE scores rise since 2016; eight other schools stayed even, while 14 schools saw drop-offs.
Stanford and Yale also tied for the best writing score, with a 4.9 average.
SOME SCORES GO UP, SOME GO DOWN, BUT WHY?
The biggest score jumps came at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, which rose 7 points to 314 between 2016 and 2018; and at UC-Davis School of Business, which also climbed 7 points, to 323, in that span. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management climbed 6 points in two years, to 326, good for sixth place overall; Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management also climbed 6 points, to 318. Two schools, Illinois Gies and Penn State Smeal, saw 7-point drops in their overall scores, both landing at 308. (See all data on the following pages.)
In some cases, schools that saw declines in their overall scores could attribute that to having greatly increased the number of entrants who submitted GRE scores in the first place. Take Washington University’s Olin Business School, for example. Olin’s percentage of admits who submitted GREs jumped from 27% to 50% (second-most among all schools); meanwhile, the school’s overall average score (310) dropped 2 points from last year and 5 points since 2016. Another school, Illinois, which had the highest percentage of entrants submitting GREs (64%), grew that number in one year by 56%, and by 178% in the last four years; its overall average (308) correspondingly has fallen 7 points since 2016. Similar effects can be seen at Michigan State Broad, Georgia Tech Scheller, and Boston Questrom, among others.
Eight schools — including five of the top 10, Wharton, Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, and Columbia Business School — have never reported GRE data to U.S. News. Another, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, reported the last few years but declined, for some reason, this year. Harvard Business School only reports a median quant score; it is also one of several schools that decline to report a writing score.
TWO SCHOOLS OVER 50% IN ENTRANTS WHO SUBMIT THE GRE
The number of schools with over 20% of entrants who submitted GRE scores is now 25, up from 22 last year. The number over 30% is 14, double what it was only a year ago. Last year there were no schools over 50% and two schools at 45% (Ohio State Fisher and Texas-Dallas Jindal); both saw declines, but two new schools rose to replace them: Illinois Gies, at 64%, and Washington Olin, at 50%. Meanwhile, SMU Cox School of Business climbed to 47% from 20%, Boston Questrom climbed to 45% from 29%, and Michigan State Broad climbed to 29% from 8%, a 263% gain.
Overall in the last four years, six schools have seen a 250% or greater gain in entrants who submitted GRE scores, led by the University of Washington Foster School of Business, which grew from 2% to 16% from 2015 to 2018. That’s a 700% increase.
It remains true, however, that the further down the rankings you go, the more GRE scores tend to figure in the mix for enrolled MBA students. The top-ranked school with the highest percentage of GRE submitters is Yale SOM, at 25%, 17 schools down the list. Michigan Ross is right below Yale at 24%. That’s why it is no surprise that Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, has partnered with Yale on a new soft-skills assessment tool that would most likely allow GRE to gain further market share over the rival and dominant business school test, the GMAT (see GRE Pilots A New Soft Skills Test At Yale SOM).
GMAT REMAINS THE GO-TO TEST TO GAIN B-SCHOOL ADMISSION
Elite schools eschewing the GRE continue to be a bulwark of support for the GMAT, even as the GRE is now accepted at all of the Poets&Quants top 50 schools and most schools overall. Last year, Dennis Yim, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of academics and a long-time GRE and GMAT instructor, told Poets&Quants that the move to shorten the GMAT was clearly an effort to confront the appeal of the GRE.
Still, Yim says, the GMAT remains the go-to test for aspiring B-school applicants.
“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 a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of business school admissions officers, 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%,” Yim adds, “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 2017 and 2016 data.