Getting into the top business schools is difficult. Your GPA and academic record are important, but so are your scores on admissions testing. Unlike some other graduate programs, if you are planning to apply for business school, you may have a couple of options for your admissions-testing requirements. Depending on the school to which you plan to apply, you may be able to take the traditional B-school favorite, the Graduate Management Admissions Test, or the preferred test for general graduate programs, the Graduate Record Exam.
Business School Admissions
Harvard Business School announced that it would start allowing students to submit GRE scores in place of the GMAT in 2009, and many other prestigious business schools began following suit, including The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Several hundred business schools around the country now allow students to submit their GRE scores instead of GMAT scores, if they so choose.
GMAT vs. GRE
Business schools made the shift to allowing GRE scores as a means of expanding their applicant pool. Many students had already taken the GRE, and allowing them to apply without having to study for and take another test encouraged more applicants. In addition, allowing GRE scores opened up the field to more international applicants, as the GMAT is not offered in some countries.
The two tests are similar in what they measure. The GMAT includes quantitative, verbal, analytical-writing assessment and integrated reasoning sections. The GRE includes verbal, quantitative, analytical writing and experimental sections. The quantitative section, which measures math skills, is more advanced in the GMAT. It goes beyond high-school-level math skills -- tested in the GRE -- and test takers must do all their work by hand without the assistance of a calculator.
Choosing a Test
You only need to take one test to submit your business school application. If both tests are accepted at the school to which you plan to apply, make a personal choice based on where you feel your skills are strongest. For example, do you have the math chops to take the GMAT? Other factors that could influence your decision include locations for each test, when the tests are offered near you and how much each test costs.
If you choose to take the GMAT, you will need to do more preparation for the math section, which will involve more theory. If you can afford it, and if one is offered near you, it is worth your while to sign up for an official prep course offered by the testing company. You can get insider tips and practice test-taking under test-day conditions. If you take the GRE, you may also choose a test-prep course, but you are more likely to be able to study for the test on your own and still be successful. Brush up on your basic math skills and then focus on sharpening your analytical and writing skills -- two areas that are featured prominently on the GRE.
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.