Tag Archives: GMAT

Should You Take the GMAT or GRE?

Now that most of the top business schools in the United States accept both the GMAT and GRE exam for admission, how do you decide which test you should take? Many elite schools hope to diversify their applicant …

MBA application

Now that most of the top business schools in the United States accept both the GMAT and GRE exam for admission, how do you decide which test you should take? Many elite schools hope to diversify their applicant pool by accepting the GRE as an alternative in the admissions process. Another favorable aspect for business schools: it creates a more competitive enrollment rate; the number of available spots stays the same but the volume of applications goes up.

Prospective grad students of the arts and sciences have typically submitted GRE scores, so applicants deciding between business school and other graduate programs appreciate having one less test to study and pay for. Meanwhile the GMAT, long considered the gold standard for the specific academic skills needed in graduate business school, is more expensive and offered in fewer locations worldwide.

One essential difference between the tests is that the GRE requires you to do the arguing, whereas in the GMAT you analyze what has been argued. The style expected from GRE test readers is more abstract and draws from various sources and disciplines for examples or references, whereas it is more concrete and analytical for the GMAT. This supports the suitability of the GRE for the more academically-minded student.

A recent US News and World Report article weighs in with the following five factors MBA applicants should consider when choosing between the GMAT and GRE:

  1. Does the school have a strong preference for the GMAT?
  2. Are your math skills especially strong? The GMAT is generally more difficult in the quant section
  3. Are you a wordsmith at heart? The GRE is more challenging in verbal, particularly for non-native English speakers.
  4. Consider your post-MBA career goals. Some firms require applicants to submit GMAT scores.
  5. Test anxiety is generally lower with the GRE, which allows you to save and return to questions to check your work.

In general, top business schools will be looking for fairly high percentile scores on the GRE, especially on the quantitative section. I had one client who, while phenomenal in many ways, could not achieve a GMAT score above 600. Her quantitative percentile came in around 40—half of the target score.

Although I’ve seen applicants admitted with very low GMAT scores in the past, we decided to take advantage of this new option and submit her application to Harvard Business School with the GRE instead. Despite a lower overall performance, her GRE results boasted a much higher quant score, and in the end, she was admitted to HBS.

Ultimately though, the GMAT remains the “tried and true” entrance exam for business schools—the admissions team will have no questions about why you chose it. If you are a great test-taker and it’s all the same to you, I would stick with the GMAT.

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Texas MBA Gives Admissions Perspective on GMAT vs GRE

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The Pros, Cons of Retaking the GMAT or GRE

This guest post is provided by our friends at LA Tutors 123 After working through a grueling standardized admissions test, the moment of judgement arrives when you get your scores. If you got the score you …

GMAT test prepThis guest post is provided by our friends at LA Tutors 123

After working through a grueling standardized admissions test, the moment of judgement arrives when you get your scores. If you got the score you were hoping for, congratulations! You can now focus your time and energy on the rest of the MBA admissions process. If your score is much lower than you’d hoped, however, you have to decide about whether or not to retake the test.

My biggest advice is: Don’t retake the test if you haven’t done any additional preparation!

As a tutor, I’ve encountered student after student who has taken the test two or more times before seeking a tutor or doing additional practice, hoping to somehow “get lucky” on the retake. This rarely works because these tests are not lottery tickets; the only way to substantially raise your score is to master the skills and test taking strategies they require.

A well-planned retake, however, can give you the boost you need to improve your application and clear the path to the business school of your dreams.

It’s a good idea to retake the test if:

You’re willing to put in the time and effort necessary to prepare for the retake.

Use the score report from your first test to map out how much time you’ll need to improve your skills. For low-scoring students, this might require several months, or an intense effort if you have limited time. You might consider finding a tutor (or purchasing additional hours, if you had one before) to help. Then, take at least one more practice test, preferably more, before the next real test to make sure you’re making progress.

You had extenuating circumstances on your test day.

One of the only exceptions to the additional preparation rule would be extreme circumstances, such as if you became violently ill halfway through the test, accidentally deleted your entire essay ten seconds before your time was up, or your test center was invaded by aliens.

In these cases, you might score substantially higher without additional preparation. Hopefully you’ve already cancelled your scores, because it’s better to not to have a score show up on your score report if it doesn’t reflect your true abilities. Most of the time, however, the biggest factor in how you score is preparation.

You scored substantially higher on your practice tests than the real test.

If your official test performance was much lower than your practice tests, test anxiety may have been a factor, as practice can’t fully mimic the stress of the real test. There’s a chance that once you’ve had the real test-taking experience, you’ll be calmer and more clear-minded the second time around.

That said, you should still to evaluate the reason your real test scores were lower and try to address the problem. For example, did you only complete the practice test in sections instead of all at once? If that’s the case, you should complete a few full-length practice tests in one sitting before your retake. Did the questions on the test seem harder than those on the practice tests? If so, you should seek out a different brand of practice tests and work through those.

Your score is just shy of a posted requirement.

If the school to which you’re applying has posted minimum or expected scores and you are just short of those requirements, a retake might get you over the top. You should still do additional preparation, however, otherwise you’re just as likely to score lower the second time around.

You probably shouldn’t retake the test if:

You haven’t done enough additional preparation and aren’t scoring better on practice tests.

The best way to tell if you’ve improved is to take at least one more practice test and see if your score has gone up. If it hasn’t, the retake might be a waste of time and money.

You scored higher than you did on any of your practice tests and don’t have more time to prepare.

In this case, there’s a good chance you’ll score lower if you take the test again, so don’t tempt fate.

You’ve already retaken the test several times.

While one or two retakes is common, retaking the test over and over again can weaken your application, especially if your scores don’t go up. A single retake with substantial gains, however, can show the admissions committee that you worked hard to improve, or that maybe the first test didn’t reflect your true abilities.

If you do choose to retake your admissions test, make it your goal to retake it only once and get the score you need. If you didn’t seek professional help in preparing the first time around, a class or tutor might be what you need to get you over the top. A private tutor can help you evaluate your weaknesses, keep your studying on-track, and come up with the best plan to make sure you do the retake right.

Image credit: Flickr user Steven S. (CC BY 2.0)

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Will a Low GMAT Score Doom Your MBA Application?

The GMAT. It’s an acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of many a prospective MBA student. And for good reason: while your GMAT score is just one data point out of your entire package …


The GMAT. It’s an acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of many a prospective MBA student. And for good reason: while your GMAT score is just one data point out of your entire package for the AdCom to consider, it’s often viewed as proof of academic prowess. A strong performance on the GMAT is a key component of the MBA application to most top business schools. But what can you do if your score isn’t where you want or need it to be?

Whether your lower-than-desired score is a result of illness, test anxiety, or just plain insufficient prep time, don’t let it throw you off your game. Make peace with the fact that it’s totally normal to take the GMAT more than once. In fact, I typically advise clients to plan for two attempts at the GMAT, leaving a buffer for a retake if needed.

There’s really no harm in taking the test several times, and unless you score well right out of the gate, you often will do better the second time—you’ll have fewer nerves, more familiarity with the process, and no big surprises. There’s no such thing as a bad test, just opportunities to build on and learn from.

If you didn’t prepare enough, then ramp up your studying, take a class, or consider hiring a tutor who can help you streamline your efforts and teach you the best methods for answering the various question types.

Also, don’t worry about how the schools will perceive those multiple tests. Admissions committee members often interpret this dedication to improving your score as a sign that you’ll do whatever it takes to prove you’re ready for business school.

While it’s natural to become hung up on achieving the highest score possible, or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, I urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range. Many schools list this information directly within their class profiles.

Keep in mind that this high number is primarily for those targeting a top-tier MBA program. For example, the 80 percent range for the MBA class entering UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in fall 2016 is 680-750. Columbia Business School had a similar 80 percent range this year of 680-760, and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School listed the 80 percent range as 700-770 for the class of 2017.

If you scored a 680, think carefully about whether a retake would significantly improve your overall candidacy. You may decide your energies should instead go toward focusing on your essays, or coaching recommenders.

Targeting these numbers at the lower end, rather than at the out-of-reach average, may keep your application viable. However, if you’re 50 points away, it’s time to rethink your selected programs and consider adding options in the top 20 or 30.

You can still leave the highest-ranked options on the table, but these have officially become what we call “reach” schools. Applicants looking at programs in the top 20 or 50 should check the average scores of admitted students to determine their personal target GMAT score.

If your score hasn’t improved significantly despite two or more attempts, don’t beat yourself up over it. Turn your focus to taking a broader look at your entire application strategy. The GMAT score foretells how well one would do in the core academic courses of an MBA program, but isn’t a predictor of success throughout the entire b-school experience. This is why most schools have a holistic approach to considering each application.

It’s entirely possible to offset a low GMAT score with a proven track record in a quantitative job, a high GPA from a respected undergraduate school, and compelling leadership activities. Put your energies toward boosting your candidacy in the areas of your application you can control, namely the essays, extracurriculars, and to some extent, the recommendation letters, where your recommenders can highlight your quantitative skills.

Although you may feel tempted to use the optional essay to explain a low test score, try to resist, as this will likely come across as making excuses rather than providing additional information.

Business school hopefuls can be incredibly hard on themselves when they make mistakes on the GMAT, but should actually think of each error as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. So don’t become discouraged if your first score isn’t where you’d hoped.

The admissions process is a complex one, so after you’ve done the best you can on the GMAT, it’s time to focus on developing your personal brand by packaging your goals, passions, work experience and “why business school, why now” into a compelling case for your admission. In the end, your exceptional accomplishments will likely shine through despite some academic challenges.

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B-Schools Say GRE Option Attracts More Non-Traditional MBA Applicants

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 business school admissions officers survey finds that 92 percent accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, giving aspiring MBAs more flexibility than ever in deciding which exam to take …

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 business school admissions officers survey finds that 92 percent accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, giving aspiring MBAs more flexibility than ever in deciding which exam to take to get in.

This all-time high percentage in Kaplan’s annual survey represents a huge jump from its 2009 survey — the first year Kaplan asked the question — when only 24 percent of business schools said they accepted GRE scores.

But despite increased acceptance of the GRE among business schools, there’s a point of consideration for MBA applicants who are considering this option: The GMAT might still give applicants an edge at some schools. Twenty-six percent of admissions officer say those who submit a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over those who submit a GRE score.

Only 2 percent say GRE takers have the advantage; the remaining 73 percent say neither exam taker has the advantage, essentially unchanged from Kaplan’s 2015 survey.

Business schools have contended that accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT — long the only accepted admissions exam –widens the pool of applicants beyond students from ‘traditional’ MBA backgrounds like finance, banking or consulting.

Kaplan survey data supports this notion and finds that schools have been successful in this effort, with 61 percent saying offering the GRE option has resulted in the enrollment of more students from nontraditional backgrounds. The GRE has not, however, significantly contributed to business schools enrolling more female students (25 percent), students of color (24 percent), or low income students (16 percent).

It’s important to note, unrelated to the GRE, that the percentage of female students at top business schools has increased over the past several years and there are other efforts underway to increase the number of students of color; and the GRE alone isn’t the only reason business schools have enrolled more students from non-traditional MBA backgrounds.

“One reason acceptance of the GRE continues to grow seems to be because it generally broadens the application pool to include prospective students who might bring a different set of experiences and skills to business school and the business world, which is important as the economy continues to diversify. It’s also possible that business schools that don’t offer the GRE option may lose excellent prospective students to schools that do,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

“We continue to stress to students to understand that some schools are still reluctant to give both tests equal cachet, even though they accept both exams. Our advice is to gather intel and ask admissions officers if their program has preference for one exam over the other.”

*The survey was conducted between August 2016 and October 2016 of admissions officers at 224 business schools in the United States. Among the 224 business schools are 18 of the top 50, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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