Study: Few MBA Applicants Consider Taking the GRE

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Even though most top business schools now give applicants the option of submitting the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admissions, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) still reigns as king for the vast majority of aspiring MBAs, according to a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep. The test-prep giant surveyed 314 future business school applicants taking a GMAT prep course over the past five months and asked them if they had ever considered taking the GRE, the graduate school admissions exam administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Only 16 percent said they had contemplated doing so, while the remaining 84 percent said it had never occurred to them to submit the GRE to business schools in lieu of the GMAT, the survey showed.

The reasons applicants gave for brushing aside the GRE varied. Roughly 60 percent said they believed the business programs they applied to would allow students to submit only the GMAT, the exam administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Another 19 percent said they felt applicants who submitted the GMAT would have an admissions advantage over those who submitted the GRE, while some 8 percent believed they’d perform better on the GMAT.

These findings come as both ETS and GMAC are pushing to make their exams more relevant to business schools and simultaneously are competing with each other for potential applicants’ attention. This summer GMAC will release an updated version of the GMAT, which will include a new integrated reasoning section emphasizing problem solving and critical thinking.

Meanwhile, ETS is taking steps to ensure its test doesn’t get overlooked. Just this week, the Princeton (N.J.) testing outfit announced it plans to introduce a new feature to the GRE this summer called “ScoreSelect,” which will allow test takers to select which set of test scores they want send to institutions. The new feature will “help people feel good about making a move toward graduate and business schools,” said David Payne, vice president and chief operating officer of ETS’s Higher Education Division, in a release. This change comes on the heels of a new version of the GRE introduced last summer, which included a number of modifications that made the test more friendly to B-schools, including a new scoring scale, a more difficult quantitative section, and an on-screen calculator for complex math problems.

ETS has been aggressively pushing the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT for the past few years, and more than 800 business schools around the world accept the exam today, including many of the leading MBA programs. The message does not appear, however, to have gotten through to many of today’s B-school applicants, said Lee Weiss, the director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep, in a press release. “Many of them would be surprised to know that most, if not all of the business schools they plan on applying to accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT,” Weiss said. He conceded, however, that in some circumstances applicants may be better off taking the GMAT instead of the GRE. A 2010 Kaplan survey of B-school admissions officers showed that those applicants who submit a GMAT score may have a slight advantage over those who take the GRE.

“It’s still a smart business school admissions strategy to take the GMAT if you are only applying to business school and not considering applying to graduate school, too,” Weiss said.

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