Few MBA Applicants Submitting GRE Scores

Posted by: Geoff Gloeckler on June 10, 2010

It’s been widely reported that more top business schools are accepting the GRE exam in place of the GMAT for admission into their full-time MBA programs. The list includes Harvard Business School, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. To schools, accepting the GRE for admissions broadens the applicant pool to include dual-degree students, younger applicants, and international applicants without easy GMAT access, individuals who otherwise may have been left out of the mix. It also benefits prospective students who aren’t as strong in the quantitative areas that aren’t focused on as heavily on the GRE exam as they are on the GMAT.

But how many prospective students are taking advantage of the option for admittance into the MBA Class of 2012? Not many. At eight prominent business schools that accept the GRE for entry into their full-time MBA programs, only four percent of applicants actually submitted the test.

Washington University’s Olin Business School received the highest percentage of GRE scores, accounting for seven percent of the total applications submitted. On the other hand, at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, only one percent of applications included the GRE. Similarly, at Stanford, while an exact percentage couldn’t be calculated, Derrick Bolton, MBA admissions director, said that the number of individuals submitting the GRE was “not a statistically significant group.” At Harvard, 468 applicants submitted GRE scores, which equaled about five percent of the total. Yale School of Management received a similar percentage of GRE scores as Harvard.

Based on the small number of scores being submitted, it’s not a surprise that very few GRE applicants are gaining admittance at these programs. At the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, for instance, where less than two percent of applicants submitted GRE scores, only two or three were admitted, according to Sara Neher, director of admissions at Darden.

True, the GRE is a new option for MBA-wannabes, which may explain the low numbers, but I think submitting GRE scores in place of the GMAT is still somewhat risky. My guess is that it will take a few years for admissions officers to feel completely comfortable with the test as an alternative to the old, reliable GMAT, and, until then, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable letting my application ride on such an unknown.

Am I off base here? Any prospective MBAs (or current MBAs) who have, or are considering, submitting a GRE score, feel free to sound off.

Reader Comments

Hong Mun Tong

June 10, 2010 11:20 PM

My sentiments Geoff.

I'm an MBA applicant and yea I chose the GMAT over the GRE because I had the feeling the GRE wouldn't be as accepted and also because I think the GMAT is likely to be harder for various reasons (more competitive/driven test takers, intelligent exam etc).


June 11, 2010 11:39 AM

GRE is def a harder test.


June 11, 2010 9:31 PM

To gain any clarity to this issue, we need to see percent of applicants admitted using the GRE vs. percent of applicants admitted using the GMAT. Also, the percentiles seem like they are very different for the GRE. I'm curious if adcoms are looking at the same type of 80/80 split for the GRE as they do for the GMAT.


June 15, 2010 7:55 PM

I just finished my third year of college and and am trying to decide what to do next. Since I am majoring in the natural sciences, the GRE would be the test for me to take if I could only take one since I plan on applying to MBA programs as well as PhD programs. Granted, I will likely end up taking the GMAT as well, but I believe that business schools accepting the GRE may see an influx of applicants from other fields of study when prospective students realize that they do not have to endure any extra standardized testing in order to diversify their potential future paths.

Geoff Gloeckler

June 17, 2010 10:04 AM

I was speaking to Sara Neher about this topic yesterday. She's the director of admissions at Virginia Darden. If you're debating between the two tests, she recommends that applicants not take both. If you've already taken the GRE, stick with that, and if you haven't taken either test, take the GMAT. Pretty interesting.

Sarah Timmel

June 21, 2010 10:40 AM

But the rankings don't take into account the GRE, only the GMAT. So if a school accepts the GRE for a candidate, does that mean they don't have to report their score to the rankings?

Geoff Gloeckler

June 21, 2010 11:25 AM

Sarah: To answer your question, I'm not sure how schools will handle applicants who submit both scores when it comes to calculating test averages. I would guess that both scores would be factored into a school's overall average, but I haven't seen any schools actually address this question as of yet so I can't say for certain.

While the Businessweek rankings don't use test scores in the MBA ranking methodology, other rankings that do use such scores will have to figure out how they're going to handle the GRE. Bob Morse, the rankings guru at US News, said in a blog post a few weeks ago that USN was considering a change to the MBA rankings methodology to account for the GRE.

Neel Kanak

July 2, 2010 12:51 AM

It may be a positive factor for those students who are mainly applying for M.S but as well as MBA in their mind as their reserve opinion.
Though in contrast to GMAT, students usually score higher in GRE.

pharmacy tech

July 9, 2010 6:52 PM

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

Michael Bernstein

July 12, 2010 10:33 AM


Students do not generally score higher on the GRE. The GRE and GMAT math sections are both extraordinarily easy (and extremely similar). The differentiator is the verbal section. The GRE has a much tougher verbal section, as it incorporates 2 direct tests of vocabulaty that the GMAT does not. The GRE has 'antonyms' and 'analogies' sections that seriously depress scores on the GRE verbal in a way not accounted for in the GMAT.

I have taken both tests, got perfect scores on the mathematics and writing sections on both tests, but saw a noticeable difference in verbal marks. If you have strong reading comprehension and sentence completion skills, the GMAT will offer you a better mark. If you have an exceptional lexicon, it may not make a difference which test you take.

Regardless, if you have a source for your claim that, "students usually score higher [on] the GRE," please post it.


August 1, 2010 3:48 PM

Have you also considered the fact that students taking GRE are from more professional backgrounds and are in general smarter than students taking the GMAT (No offense to anyone)

James Chung

August 29, 2010 7:43 AM

I took both GRE and GMAT. Got into 99-percentile for GRE, but only 97-percentile for GMAT.. I am applying for a doctoral in business, so definitely recommend GRE - math is easier.


September 1, 2010 8:17 PM

Maybe a lot of students are taking both, but only reporting their GMAT scores because they perceive their GRE scores to be worse. It doesn't really matter if one test is harder or easier, ultimately schools are just going to look at how a given student did relative to other applicants.

Students may look at their GRE scores and see that they're at a lower percentile for that test than on the GMAT, but the GRE percentile figures mostly include non-business majors. Generally speaking, MBA candidates are not as intelligent as other types of graduate students. Accoriding to ETS, the company that administers the GRE, the average scores for Business Administration and Management majors are 440 Verbal, 566 Quantitative, and 4.0 Writing. The average scores for all candidates regardless of major are 457 Verbal, 586 Quantitative, and 3.9 Writing - so on the whole, MBA candidates are in fact worse than average at the GRE. Of course, because the GMAT only tests MBA candidates, MBA candidates are exactly average at that test. This means their perceived percentile scores will be higher on the GMAT than on the GRE; of course, relative to other MBA applicants, their percentiles will still be equivalent. Under this theory, it's not so much that the GMAT is easier, it's that MBA kids are, generally speaking, too stupid to understand percentiles.


February 28, 2011 7:41 AM

I am cuurently applying to business schools with my 4 year old GRE scores. I scored a perfect 800 in math and an akward 400 in english, which actually wasn't english for me at all. But given that I'm an international student and that english isn't my first language I've seen alot of people with less scores. Does anyone know if they put that into consideration while reviewing GRE scores in business schools?

Movin' on Up

May 18, 2011 11:06 AM

I need to decide between the GRE or GMAT for an MBA application. My main goal is to get the highest score I can for scholarships. I'm strong in verbal/writing, not so much in math. For that reason I registered for the GRE (actually, mainly because my friend said it was easier in terms of math). Sounds like it's not that much of a difference from reading all the comments so far...rather subjective, especially considering the fact the percentile seems to be calculated in regards to the other test takers in a particular batch with yourself.


July 17, 2011 8:57 PM

Atef: I am also in the same boat and going to use my 4 years old GRE score and not sure what is the success rate of getting admission in MBA with GRE score. if you have any information available on the web, could you please share it ?


August 7, 2011 1:28 PM

I am from India doing my graduation in Instrumentation engineering from University of Mumbai.I am keen to do full time MBA from a decent institute in USA with good placement record,I am ON for MS too(if i don't make to MBA college), is work experience necessary for MBA??I came to know that few MBA institutes entertain GRE scores
P.S. I ain't planning on givin' GMAT
Few of my friends went for MS after graduation and i want to do my PG right after graduation without taking leave for job.Please enlighten me ASAP.ciao

Jaishree Viswanathan

October 16, 2011 11:48 PM

It is interesting how the focus is on aptitude tests and not capability: if you aren't good enough, you aren't, whether you stick to the GRE or GMAT. Doesn't make a difference.


January 9, 2012 11:50 PM

I have an interesting story on the GRE and GMAT. I took both. I banged my head against the wall taking the gmat, getting scores of 650, 630, 610, and 620 all within a 6 month period. I was actually encouraged by Darden Admissions to take the GRE and see if I did better. They were straightforward with me and told me that, despite my service as a nuclear submarine officer, a 650 wouldn't cut it in the competitive applicant pool of Darden. I then took their advice, signed up for the Kaplan GRE Course (after taking 4 GMATS in the same year and the Knewton GMAT course) and scored a 160 on Quant and 160 on Verbal this past week. Needless to say, I finally found my form on the fifth standardized test. Still in the 2nd round application process...but it's looking up from here

Bottom Line: I finally got to a combined 90th percentile effective level on the GRE after months of setbacks with the GMAT. Maybe one important factor is that I was better at Verbal all along the GMAT. Everybody is different and the Kaplan GRE course was key after I had already been studying GMAT material for half a year.

That's my story so far! Good luck to all and don't give up.


January 13, 2012 1:04 AM

i have done my mba in finance no want to do phd from usa any one tel me which exam would be good for me GMAT or GRE???


January 22, 2012 12:11 PM


Very interesting post regarding you experience with Darden. I have a similar back ground and I would like to discuss it with you further. I too am on the fence with the GMAT/GRE so your insight would be great. I have an email I can give you.


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