Is the GRE Required for MBA Programs in the USA?

The question of whether or not the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test is required for admission into MBA programs in the United States is an important one for prospective business school applicants. With increasing acceptance of the GRE by business schools, there is growing debate around whether it provides the same level of rigor and relevance as the traditional Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in evaluating applicants. This article provides an in-depth examination of the key considerations around the GRE versus GMAT for MBA admissions.

Introduction: The GRE and GMAT Exams

First, let’s briefly overview these two common standardized tests:

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is a broad exam assessing verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills for admission into various graduate programs spanning multiple disciplines. The GRE aims to measure general cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking and vocabulary.

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is a standardized exam specifically focused on evaluating skills considered critical for business and management graduate programs, like MBAs. The GMAT tests more specialized business knowledge and quantitative abilities.

The GRE has a score range of 130-170 for both Verbal and Quantitative sections. The Analytical Writing section is scored from 0-6. The GMAT has score ranges of 200-800 overall and 0-60 for the Integrated Reasoning section. Both tests ultimately aim to assess an applicant’s readiness for the rigors of a graduate program with the GRE taking a broader approach and the GMAT tailored to business and management skills specifically.

Now that we’ve covered the basics on the GRE and GMAT exams, let’s dive deeper into the central question: whether the GRE is widely accepted and preferred compared to the GMAT for MBA program admissions.

Is the GRE Widely Accepted for MBA Programs?

According to the best available data, over 90% of business schools in the United States and Europe now accept GRE scores for admission into some or all of their MBA programs. This represents a sizable majority of institutions embracing GRE scores, signaling the growing prominence of the exam as an alternative or supplement to GMAT test scores for MBA applicants.

However, acceptance rates alone do not indicate whether schools have an outright preference between the GRE or GMAT. There is conflicting evidence when it comes to whether business schools prefer one exam over the other when making MBA admission decisions:

  • A 2016 survey found that 26% of business schools indicated they prefer the GMAT compared to the GRE for their MBA admissions. Reasons cited include the test being more tailored to business-specific skills and showing stronger intent from applicants.
  • However, a more recent 2020 survey showed 86% of MBA programs treat both exams equally in their decision process while 13% prefer GMAT scores versus just 1% favoring GRE scores.

So while the large majority of U.S. business schools allow GRE scores for their MBA applicants, preference between the two exams is mixed. Some programs admit a preference for GMAT but most claim to view both tests as generally equal.

It is also worth noting that while some business schools accept GRE scores outright, others take a conversion approach – converting submitted GRE scores into equivalent GMAT scores using ETS’s GRE® Comparison Tool and then evaluating the converted GMAT score rather than the original GRE score. So acceptance does not always equate to weighing the GRE evenly.

Why Might Business Schools Prefer the GMAT Over the GRE?

With acceptance rates being mostly comparable between the GRE and GMAT, why might some business schools still show a preference for the GMAT in their MBA admissions decisions? There are a few commonly cited reasons:

1. GMAT Tests Specialized Business and Quantitative Skills

Since the GMAT contains content specifically built to test math and reasoning skills applicable to management roles and business school curriculum, admissions committees may view it as better indicator of success in an MBA program.

For example, the Integrated Reasoning section includes interpretation of charts, tables, graphics and other business data formats. And the Quantitative section emphasizes sophisticated math logic and reasoning. These elements help assess competence in skills directly used in MBA academics and jobs.

So some admissions teams feel the business-tailored structure of GMAT questions provides more relevant insights into applicants’ capabilities so they prefer it over the more generalized GRE.

2. GMAT Scores Signal Stronger Intent for MBA Programs

Another reason some business schools favor GMAT scores is that taking the specialized management exam demonstrates sincere interest and commitment to an MBA specifically, rather than broader graduate study intent signaled by those who take the more widely applicable GRE.

Since the GMAT test is explicitly built for evaluating MBA applicants while the GRE is appropriate for nearly any graduate-level program, admissions committees may view submitting GMAT scores as an indication that candidates have thoroughly researched prerequisites and requirements for business schools and crafted preparation accordingly around the skills needed to excel in the program.

3. GMAT Aligns with Rigorous MBA Academics

Finally, the argument is also made that the heavy quantitative and advanced analytical focus of the GMAT better represents the reality of rigorous MBA academics and best predicts student performance.

With curriculum emphasizing complex numerical analysis and reasoning around business datasets, strong skills in these areas reflected by high GMAT quantitative scores suggest applicants are equipped to handle the intensity of an MBA program.

So preferences for GMAT stem from the perception that it better screens candidates for the challenge of high-level business school curriculum ahead.

Notable Schools Accepting the GRE for MBA Admissions

While a subset of business schools may favor the GMAT, an examination of top MBA programs shows the vast majority of leading institutions embrace GRE scores from applicants. This indicates students can rely on strong GRE performance for admission into elite business schools, rather than feeling pressured to also take the GMAT.

Here is a sampling of prominent U.S. business schools accepting the GRE for admission into their MBA programs:

  • Harvard Business School
  • The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Sloan School of Management, MIT
  • Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
  • Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Columbia Business School

As you can see from this list, the most elite business schools ranked highest for their MBA programs clearly accept the GRE from applicants. So while you should always verify requirements for your particular target schools, strong GRE scores can certainly open the door to admission at renowned institutions.

Key Differences Between the GMAT and GRE

Now that we’ve covered the landscape of MBA GRE acceptance overall and factors around certain business schools preferring GMAT scores, it’s important to understand key structural and content differences between the two exams that contribute to ongoing debate around which better evaluates MBA applicants:

Content Focus

As mentioned earlier, a core distinction is that the GMAT emphasizes business contexts through data interpretation, reasoning challenges, and quantitative questions framed within scenarios like company management, financial analysis, accounting, economics, and business operations.

The GRE maintains broader focus across verbal, quantitative, and analytical domains applicable to graduate studies spanning various disciplines and career paths.

Skill Sets Assessed

Related to their content differences, the two exams assess slightly varied skillsets:

  • The GMAT tests higher-order analytical reasoning aligned with decision making, management leadership, and business analytics roles. Questions require identifying connections and inferences from incomplete information, evaluating arguments, and drawing strategic conclusions.
  • The GRE targets a wider range of cognitive and intellectual abilities like vocabulary knowledge, arithmetic skills, algebra logic, spatial thinking, and written argument analysis.

So the GMAT hones in on specialized business acumen while the GRE measures broader academic aptitude.

Question Types

The two tests utilize different question formats and structures:

  • The GRE poses traditional multiple choice questions as well as unique types like Numeric Entry fill-in-the-blank quantitative questions and Select-in-Passage questions.
  • The GMAT utilizes conventional multiple choice alongside innovative question types like Multi-Source Reasoning incorporating charts/tables and Two-Part Analysis problems with nested answer requirements.

Adaptive Format

The tests also differ in their adaptive approach:

  • The GMAT utilizes Computer Adaptive Testing where difficulty adjusts continuously based on correct and incorrect answers as you progress from question to question.
  • The GRE platform does not adapt during individual sections so question difficulty does not fluctuate throughout each Verbal and Quant section, only between sections.

Scoring Scale

Finally, the score range, intervals, and means vary between the two:

  • GRE Verbal and Quant sections are scored from 130 to 170 in one-point increments. Analytical Writing scores range from 0 to 6 in half point increments.
  • Total GMAT scores encompass a 200 to 800 point range with subsection scores from 0 to 60 for Integrated Reasoning specifically.

Understanding, these key contrasts in focus, skills measured question styles, adaptivity, and scoring helps clarify why certain programs may favor one test over

the other depending on the specific student traits and academic qualities they aim to evaluate and cultivate through their MBA curriculum.

When Should You Take the GMAT vs GRE for MBA Admissions?

So when should MBA applicants opt for the GRE over GMAT or vice versa? With most institutions accepting either exam, it often comes down to a combination of personal factors:

1. Target School Preferences

The first consideration is verifying your target business schools’ specific test requirements and recommendations. Check websites and connect with admissions offices to learn:

  • If they have an expressly stated preference for GMAT scores
  • If they accept GRE but convert scores to GMAT equivalents
  • If they weight the exams fully equally

This insight will help determine if taking only the GRE limits your chances compared to also submitting GMAT scores for any particular programs.

2. Personal Strengths & Preferences

If your target schools accept both exams on equal footing, the choice may come down to playing to your personal strengths with the exam that caters best to your individual talents and test-taking preferences:

  • Those strong in vocabulary and writing may favor the GRE Verbal section while those better with numbers may appreciate the GMAT Quant.
  • The pressure of the GMAT’s computer adaptive format may sway some test takers towards the fixed-difficulty GRE.
  • Preferring traditional or innovative question types may also dictate which exam aligns better.

So weighing personal factors around optimal structure and content can help determine if the GRE or GMAT is the better personal fit as an MBA admissions exam option.

3. Preparation Requirements

It is also critical to recognize that substantial preparation time is required to excel on both GMAT and GRE – at least 8-12 weeks recommended for either test.

The right exam choice may factor prep time if you have already devoted months towards one test or the other through a previous graduate school application or if a looming application deadline adds urgency.

Building skills in time to peak performance is essential for both exiting so prep schedule is a practical consideration as well in choosing the GRE or GMAT.

Conclusion: Key Takeaways on the GRE & MBA Admissions

In closing, here are the key conclusions from our extensive examination of whether the GRE exam is required and preferred for MBA admissions:

  • Over 90% of MBA programs in the U.S. and internationally now accept GRE scores though some supplement with GMAT conversions
  • About 25% of schools still express preference for the business-specialized GMAT as a stronger indicator of MBA success
  • Leading elite programs like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton treat GRE and GMAT equally based on recent admissions surveys
  • Subtle differences in exam structures and content lend to preferences but both require extensive prep and can demonstrate MBA readiness
  • Verifying target school preferences and catering to personal strengths should drive whether to take the GRE, GMAT or both when applying

In today’s admissions landscape, prospects can feel confident relying on stellar GRE performance to gain entrance into top MBA programs across the country. While debate continues around the exams and a subset of business schools still show partiality to the GMAT, dramatic growth in GRE acceptance confirms its legitimacy and value for MBA applicants.

By understanding key trade-offs between exam formats, preparation requirements, target school policies and personal propensities, prospective MBA students can determine if the GRE independently meets their admissions needs or should be supplemented by GMAT testing as well. With proper strategic planning, either exam can effectively showcase credentials and launch students towards further business education success.