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Whether applying for admission to a traditional or online MBA program a standardized entrance exam score may be required for admission. The two tests MBA programs accept are the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Each test has different value to consider.

Does Everyone Have to Take a Test?

Not everyone applying to an MBA program is required to take an entrance exam. Individuals currently working as business professionals may qualify for an entrance exam waiver based on professional work experience. The experience needed to be eligible for an exemption varies among institutions, but typically ranges from three to ten years. Schools accepting waivers use undergraduate grades, along with recommendations and professional experience to determine if a candidate is a good fit. Additionally, a handful of schools do not require an entrance exam or work experience. These business schools may or may not be accredited and should be examined carefully before spending money on an application.

How are the Tests Different?

The GMAT is considered the gold standard for admission to a Business, Management or an MBA program. The GMAT exam is more specific to business school admission than the GRE, similar to the way the LSAT and MCAT are unique to law school and medical school admissions. Because the GMAT has historically been considered a predictor of one’s ability to be successful in business school, many universities prefer it. All business programs accept the GMAT, but only some programs take the GRE. However, this is changing. The list of MBA Programs that Accept the GRE instead of the GMAT  grows every year. Recent data released by the Educational Testing Service indicates GRE Test Takers Are Successful in MBA Programs  and confirms GRE scores are valid predictors of success in MBA programs.
For students considering careers other than business school, the GRE is a more versatile alternative to the GMAT used for entrance to most graduate programs including MBA programs. Additionally, the GRE is less expensive than the GMAT. In 2017 the GRE cost $205.00 compared to $250.00 for the GMAT.

Which Test is Harder?

Ah! The million-dollar question – Which test is more difficult? Opinions differ about the difficulty of these two exams, but there is a consensus that the math on the GMAT is more complicated than the math on the GRE, and the verbal part of the GRE is heavily laden with difficult vocabulary. Depending on the test taker’s strengths and abilities, one test may be easier than the other.
Beyond the difficulty of the test questions, the delivery format of the GMAT may make it more challenging compared to the GRE. Both tests are computer adaptive, but the GRE is a section adaptive test which allows the test taker to skip questions within the section and return to them later. The GMAT is a computer-adaptive but not section adaptive. Questions can only be answered once and not revisited or skipped.

Both tests have similar sections and formats. The four sections of the GMAT exam are Quantitative, Verbal, Analytical Writing Assessment, and Integrated Reasoning. The GMAT scoring ranges from 200 to 800. The four sections of the GRE are Quantitative sections, Verbal, Analytical Writing, and a Research and Unscored section used to test new questions. The GRE total scoring ranges from 130 to 200 for each of the Quantitative and Verbal Sections for a total range of 260 to 400.

What Score Do I Need to be Accepted to an MBA Program?

Most business schools require a certain minimum score on an entrance exam. The equation for determining eligibility for admission is calculated using undergraduate GPA and total test scores. While all schools are different, standard calculators for both tests are illustrated below. The GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools is useful for converting GRE score to predicted GMAT scores.

GMAT Calculation Example
(Undergraduate GPA x 200) + (GMAT total) = > 1050
(3.00 x 200) + (500) = > 1050
600 + 500 = > 1050
1100 = > 1050

GRE Calculation Example
(Undergraduate GPA x 200) + (GRE total) = > 850
(3.00 x 200) + (300) = > 850
600 + 300 = > 850
900 = > 850

What if I need more time to study for the GMAT/GRE, but I am ready to start a program?

Graduate Certificates can be a valuable stepping stone toward an MBA degree. Certificate programs usually do not have a GMAT or GRE requirement for admission, and enrolling in a graduate certificate program is an excellent way to get started while studying for the GMAT or GRE. Check with each school’s MBA program to determine if they offer certificate programs that will also earn credit towards an MBA.

Register for exams early and give yourself plenty of time to study. Free practice tests and study materials are available on the GRE and GMAT websites. For more comprehensive business school planning advice check out our new guide: Set Your Priorities: The Essential Guide to Choosing the Right Management Program