As challenging as business school can be, tension often starts well before the first class. Students taking standardized tests to secure a slot with prestigious programs are left wondering which examination is preferred. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE)? The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)? Or perhaps both? Although there’s no clear answer, the battle rages on for admissions and profits.
The 411 on Standardized Testing
For those who are unfamiliar with either of these two college entrance tests, the differences between them are subtle. Both the GRE and GMAT are computer-adaptive tests (CAT) that adapt to your performance as you take the test. Both assess of verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and writing. However, the GMAT touts its ability to accurately predict how a student taking this exam may do in the first year of business school. Consequently, MBA hopefuls have traditionally preferred it over the GRE for this reason.
The New York Times highlights some of the contrasts in the two tests:
Price Points. The GRE costs $140, where the GMAT stands at $250
GRE in the Numbers. Over 600,000 students take the GRE annually, and it’s scores are valid for a five-year period
GMAT in the Numbers. Over 1,800 business schools accept the GMAT, and it’s been the admissions norm for over 50 years
Today, a storm is brewing between the GRE and GMAT for business school supremacy.
Battle of the Higher Ed Organizations
Not surprisingly, the fight is over both tradition and money. Nearly 250,000 students take the GMAT on an annual basis, which accounts for $62.5 million dollars in testing revenue. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) used to administer both tests. However, ETS lost its rights over the GMAT to ACT, Inc. in 2003 and has been appealing to business schools to accept the GRE in its stead ever since.
In fact, ETS launched a comprehensive campaign in early 2008 to begin winning over business schools. This plan included a variety of tactics from lobbying business schools to revising the GRE to make it more applicable to business programs. According to BusinessWeek, some of the modifications include adding more reading comprehension to test inferential reasoning, more data interpretation questions and real-world problems, and a soft skills measure called the Personal Potential Index. The transformation seems to be working, as several high-profile MBA programs are consenting to the change.
Inside Higher Ed reports that much of the ground gained by the GRE in recent years–115 business schools now accept the GRE–is due in part to misconceptions about the GMAT. Contrary to popular belief, the GMAT does not focus on finance, accounting, or business strategy. Also, students wishing to hedge their bets, and who have the financial means, are choosing to take both tests. That way, they’ve got both scores ready no matter which one is preferred by their particular school of choice.
The Final Word
While the debate rages between business school deans, educational experts, and testing proponents, the decision to choose between GRE and GMAT continues to fall on the student’s shoulders.
Personal preference and convenience may come into play as you decide the test that’s right for you. With the immense amount of research completed on these tests as well as the proposed up-and-coming changes, choosing one or the other before finding out all of the facts might just be the only mistake you can make. The most practical and easiest way to make a decision is to check with your desired program and ask them for their preference.
Hopefully, they’ll have an answer.
Publish date: February 18, 2009