The GRE may have peaked.
For years, the Graduate Record Exam had gained ground on the Graduate Management Admission Test as the preferred entrance exam to graduate business programs. And at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, it seemed that process may be accelerating, as the GMAT stumbled out of the gate with an at-home test while the GRE had a much smoother transition.
Curiously, however, by 2021 the GRE seemed to be losing steam in the percentage of MBA candidates who submitted scores for admission to top programs. And even though the GMAT continues to have its problems — significant ones, as Poets&Quants has reported — it no longer seems imminently in danger of being supplanted as the go-to MBA admissions exam.
In 2022, according to U.S. News data published in conjunction with their new ranking last month, submission rates of GRE scores dropped at 21 of P&Q‘s top 50 business schools, mostly at the lower 25 schools (though two top-25 B-schools saw double-digit declines). That’s similar to the year-to-year decline seen at the top 50 schools the year before. Leading the way with huge drop-offs in GRE submissions: Rice University, whose Jones Graduate School of Business saw a 28-percentage-point decline to just 7% this year. See table below.
And in terms of GRE scores — those are down, too. Across the P&Q top 50, 18 schools reported an increase from 2021 to 2022, down from 32 schools between 2020 and 2021; eight were in the top 25, down from 18. Read more about GRE scores on page 2.
TOP 50 U.S. B-SCHOOLS SEE OVERALL DECLINE IN GRE SUBMISSIONS
We write a lot about MBA entrance exams at P&Q. And that means comprehensive coverage of the struggles of the GMAT, which has seen a historic drop in test-taking volume in recent years. The test's administrator, the Graduate Management Admission Council, has responded by overhauling the GMAT significantly, launching a "Focus Edition" later this year that will be one hour shorter and feature far fewer questions in both the Verbal and Quant sections. Registration for the new test opens in August.
The GMAT's struggles would seem to present an opening for the GRE, and for a while it looked like the test might overtake its competitor as the top B-school entrance exam. But in 2021, 24 schools out of the top 52 as ranked by Poets&Quants saw declines in the percentage of new entrants submitting Graduate Record Exam scores, including eight by double digits. Nine of the schools with declines were in the lower half of the top 50. (By contrast, 21 of 52 B-schools saw increases in applicants submitting GRE scores in 2021, including 14 of the top 25 schools.)
So where are we in 2022? As noted, 21 top-50 B-schools in the U.S. reported drop-offs in GRE submissions by MBA candidates from the previous year — once again, mostly in the lower half of the top 50 — and 21 reported increases, mostly in the upper tier. But the average decline was 9.3 percentage points, while the average increase was only about 5 points. At the top 25 schools, the average submission rate was 30.6%, up from 28.5% in 2021, led by Georgetown McDonough School of Business's 49% (up a percent from the year before, though down from a school-high of 54% in 2020). However, the average rate at the lower 25 was just 23.8%, bringing down the overall top 50 average to 27% — a huge decline from 33.6% the year before.
Overall, 23 schools were above 25% GRE submission rates in 2022, down from 26 in 2021. Fourteen schools were above 35%, exactly the same as the previous year, and four were above 45% — also the same. But none were above 50%, whereas in 2021 there were two and in 2020 there were four. See the table on page 3 for school-by-school details on GRE submission rates.
SOME GOOD NEWS FOR THE GRE
It's not all bleak for the GRE's prospects. In the top 10, the average percentage of GRE submissions in 2022 was 34.1%, up from 27.9% in 2021 and 28.1% in 2020. Every one of the eight schools that reported the data last year saw increases, with No. 10 UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business and No. 3 Stanford Graduate School of Business getting the biggest bounce, of 9 percentage points each, the former to 45% and the latter to 33%.
Across the last six years, the GRE has still seen more growth than declines, with just 13 schools reporting drop-offs in the percentage of submissions for admission since 2017. The biggest growth in that time has been the 35-point jump at Berkeley Haas, followed by 28 points at Virginia Darden School of Business (to 36%), 25 points each at Duke Fuqua School of Business (to 36%) and Florida Hough Graduate School of Business (to 46%), and 23 points at Dartmouth Tuck School of Business (to 38%).
The school reporting the highest overall percentage of GRE score submissions in 2022 was, as mentioned above, Georgetown McDonough, at 49%; the Olin Business School at the Washington University in St. Louis, last year's No. 1 with 70%, saw a precipitous decline to 47%, still second-best in the top 50; and Florida Hough, last year's No. 2 with 62%, was third in 2022 with 46%. They were followed by Berkeley Haas (45%), Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management (44%), and Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business (40%).
The bottom schools overall: Michigan State Broad College of Business (5%), Rutgers Business School (6%), Rice Jones (7%), and Washington Foster School of Business (9%).
See the next page for GRE score averages at the top U.S. MBA programs.
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