Deciding whether to take the GMAT or GRE is a common dilemma for MBA applicants when applying for graduate business school programs. Historically, the majority of business schools and top MBA programs required GMAT scores for admissions considerations. However, over the last decade, an increasing number of schools have started to accept GRE scores as an alternative to GMAT testing. GMAT vs GRE for MBA

This article provides a comparison between the GMAT and GRE exams to help MBA candidates determine which test to take when applying for MBA programs. Key factors covered include:

Key differences between the GMAT and GRE

  • Exam structure and format
  • Scoring scales
  • Test focus and content
  • Value and reputation for business school admissions committees

Considerations for choosing the GMAT or GRE

  • Number of MBA programs accepting GMAT vs GRE scores
  • Alignment to academic strengths
  • Test prep time and costs
  • Retake flexibility

With about 80% of U.S. business graduate programs now accepting GRE scores instead of the GMAT requirement, applicants have more choice than ever regarding which standardized exam to take. By understanding the major differences between the tests, MBA applicants can make an informed decision between taking the GMAT or GRE when targeting top MBA program rankings.

Test Format GMAT vs GRE for MBA


  • Primarily multiple-choice questions
  • Analytical writing assessment
  • Quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning sections

The GMAT exam is a standardized test designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council specifically for business school admissions purposes. The GMAT tests key skills like analytical writing, mathematical ability, critical reasoning, and data interpretation across four sections.


  • Multiple-choice and numeric entry questions
  • Analytical writing section
  • Verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections

Unlike the GMAT, the GRE is a more general standardized exam measuring quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing abilities for admission to various graduate programs. While not business-specific like the GMAT, over 100 MBA programs now accept GRE scores as an alternative to GMAT testing for MBA applicants.

Scores GMAT vs GRE for MBA

ExamScoring Scale
GMAT200-800 points
GRE130-170 points for Verbal Reasoning
130-170 points for Quantitative Reasoning
  • The GMAT exam has a larger scoring scale which allows for greater differentiation among candidates
  • The average GMAT score for top MBA programs tends to be higher than average GRE scores
  • Business school admissions committees may preference high GMAT quant scores more than GRE quant

Test Acceptance GMAT vs GRE for MBA

ExamAcceptance Rate
GMATAccepted by majority of MBA programs
GREAccepted by ~80% of MBA programs

MBA Admission Policies

  • Which GMAT or GRE exam is accepted by target business schools?
  • Any differences in how GMAT vs GRE scores are used in MBA application?

MBA applicants should thoroughly research the testing policies and requirements at their selected business schools. Admission committees may have preferences or weighting approaches that consider GMAT and GRE scores differently.

For example, some top MBA programs focus more on high GMAT quantitative scores as an indicator of potential academic success. Understanding these nuances is key before deciding whether to take the GMAT or GRE.

Test Prep Resources

  • Availability and cost of GMAT or GRE prep materials
  • Access to practice tests before taking the GMAT or GRE

The GMAT exam tends to have more abundant test preparation options, from practice tests to tutoring services. The GRE also offers official practice tests and prep materials, though fewer free resources.

Sufficient practice before taking either exam is vital – applicants should budget adequate time and funds for studying based on their target test and access to low or no-cost prep.

When the GRE Test is a Better Fit

  • For strong verbal skills
  • Seeking shorter prep time compared to GMAT exam
  • Want flexibility in GRE test retakes

Applicants who excel in verbal and writing abilities may find the GRE verbal section aligns better to their strengths. The GRE poses less difficulty for high-level vocabulary skills than GMAT verbal questions.

For test takers with already strong vocabulary knowledge, preparing for success on the GRE verbal can be less intensive than expanding vocabulary range for the GMAT.

Additionally, the GRE test offers more flexibility for MBA applicants regarding retakes. GRE tests can be taken as often as once per month, allowing more chances to try to improve scores before application deadlines for target MBA programs.

When the GMAT is a Better Fit

  • For strong quantitative and analytical skills
  • Business schools still prefer GMAT scores
  • Seeking more focused business exam

The GMAT exam is designed specifically to measure aptitude for graduate business school academics. Applicants with strong math, logical reasoning, and data interpretation abilities may find aligning better with the GMAT over the more general GRE test.

Additionally, while GRE acceptance continues rising, many top MBA programs rank and admit candidates based largely on GMAT scores given the business focus of the exam. Scoring well on the GMAT quant and verbal sections sends a strong signal regarding skills needed to handle MBA courses.

Since the GMAT tests higher-level math alongside business scenario-based logic – like interpreting charts and graphs – it can better demonstrate business management potential expected for MBA programs.

MBA Programs Without GMAT or GRE Requirements

While the majority of MBA programs require GMAT or GRE scores from applicants, there are some business schools that do not ask for standardized test scores for admission purposes.

Types of Programs Without Testing Requirements

  • Part-time / executive MBA programs
  • Specialized MBA programs (e.g. healthcare, finance)
  • Smaller or newer MBA programs seeking to expand applicant numbers

Applying Without Test Scores

For programs not requiring GMAT or GRE, applicants should emphasize other aspects like:

  • Work experience
  • Academic history
  • Admissions interviews
  • Application essays

Strong professional profiles and leadership experience is key when standardized tests are not a factor for MBA admission decisions.

Tradeoffs to Consider

  • Saves test prep time and cost
  • Removes test score barriers

But harder for programs to compare applicants and filter large pools without test data points.

Types of MBA Programs Without Testing Requirements

Certain categories of MBA programs that may not require GMAT or GRE:

  • Part-time / executive MBA programs
    • Some business schools do not require standardized test scores for applicants to part-time or executive-format MBA programs which cater to working professionals
    • These programs emphasize professional work experience more heavily over exam testing requirements in admission decisions
  • MBA programs focused on specific industries (e.g. healthcare, finance)
    • Specialized graduate business programs in narrower industries frequently waive GMAT/GRE requirements
    • With tailored curriculum in niche job sectors, they focus admission more on candidates’ relevant career backgrounds
  • Smaller or newer MBA programs wanting to expand applicant pools
    • Small or newly launched MBA programs may not mandate GMAT or GRE to attract a wider, larger pool of applicants
    • Without established prestige, removing test barriers encourages more applicants to help grow the program’s recognition and enrollment numbers

The common thread across MBA programs without standardized testing requirements tends to be emphasizing career work experience and practical management skills within the admission process itself.

Applying Without Test Scores

When applying to programs without test requirements, candidates need to emphasize other aspects of their profiles:

  • Professional experience and achievements
  • Academic record
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Admissions interviews

Strong career progress and clear goals for pursuing an MBA become especially vital for admission committees to evaluate applicants without test score data points.

Tradeoffs to Consider

The advantages to programs not requiring GMAT/GRE scores include:

  • Avoid test prep time and expense
  • Reduce barriers for candidates who don’t test well

However, it can be harder to benchmark applicant competitiveness without test data points. Programs may have fewer concrete metrics to narrow large applicant pools to a final selected class.

The decision between taking the GMAT or GRE often depends on the individual applicant’s academic background, skills, test-taking abilities and target business school preferences for standardized tests.

As explored throughout this paper, both the GMAT and GRE exams can support admission to MBA and other graduate management programs – a majority of business schools accept scores from both tests.

Applicants are best served by determining which exam better showcases their aptitudes while also meeting a selected business school’s testing requirements or expectations.


  • Take GMAT and GRE practice tests
    • Access free and/or paid practice exams to assess skill levels and feel for each test
  • Research business school GMAT vs GRE policies
    • School websites outline standardized test requirements and scores statistics
  • Align exam choice strategically
    • Choose GMAT or GRE based on opportunities to maximize scores for MBA applications

By following these recommendations, prospective applicants can determine through methodical analysis of policies, skills, and test experiences whether the GMAT or GRE is the right choice for their MBA admission chances.


Should I take the GRE or GMAT for MBA admission? Many business schools accept both GRE or GMAT scores for admission, though the majority still prefer the GMAT as a standardized test designed specifically for graduate management programs. Know that top MBA programs rank more heavily on GMAT performance. That said, strong GRE scores are now viable for a rising number of schools.

If the GRE is accepted, should I take that or the GMAT? It depends – assess your test skills and school targets. If aiming for top 10 MBA programs, taking the GMAT is likely still needed to remain competitive as many focus more on GMAT scores. If applying more broadly, taking just the GRE can open options.

Is the GMAT much harder than the GRE? The GMAT is considered harder for the quantitative section in particular. Expect more advanced mathematics on GMAT quant vs. GRE quant which aims for a basic math or analytical skillset. Also, GMAT verbal requires a broader vocabulary.

Can I just take the GRE if I don’t perform well on my first GMAT attempt? Many applicants today who don’t hit target GMAT scores switch to the GRE given the flexibility of retaking it sooner. Just be aware that your GMAT score says a lot – business schools still value it highly. So relying just on GRE instead may be riskier for top programs.

How should I decide whether to take the GMAT or GRE? Taking practice tests is hugely helpful for deciding. Try sample exams to gauge abilities relative to GMAT vs GRE scoring scales. This shows areas of strength/weakness. Also research the testing policies and average scores at your target business schools specifically. Consider both your skills and what schools prefer.

Further Reading and Resources for GMAT and GRE Tests

These resources provide a solid foundation for understanding and preparing for the GMAT and GRE tests, crucial steps on the path to MBA program admissions.

  • GMAT Official Website: The official website for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), offering comprehensive information on GMAT preparation, test dates, test centers, and how to understand your scores. It’s the primary resource for anyone looking to take the GMAT.
  • GRE Official Website: The official site for the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), providing details on preparing for the GRE, scheduling tests, and interpreting scores. Essential for students considering MBA programs that accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT.
  • Kaplan Test Prep: Offers extensive preparation courses and resources for both the GMAT and GRE. Kaplan is well-known for its test prep expertise, providing students with practice tests, study materials, and strategies for improving scores.
  • Princeton Review GMAT Prep: A renowned source for GMAT preparation, offering a variety of prep courses, tutoring options, and free resources to help test takers succeed on their GMAT exam.
  • Manhattan Prep: Specializes in GMAT and GRE prep courses, known for its strategy guides and comprehensive study materials. Manhattan Prep offers both in-person and online courses to fit different learning styles and schedules.
  • Magoosh Online Test Prep: Provides online preparation courses for the GMAT and GRE, featuring video lessons, practice questions, and full-length tests. Magoosh is a great option for self-motivated learners looking for flexible study schedules.
  • GMAT Club: A community-driven website offering a wealth of free GMAT prep resources, including practice questions, tests, and tips from other test takers. It’s also a great place to discuss MBA admissions and network with fellow MBA applicants.
  • ETS GRE Prep Materials: Directly from the makers of the GRE, this page lists all the official prep materials available, including books, practice tests, and the free PowerPrep software. Essential for anyone wanting to use official materials to study for the GRE.

GMAT vs GRE for MBA Admission

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