Now that top b-schools (including HBS, Stanford, Wharton, and MIT Sloan, among others) are acknowledging either GMAT or GRE scores, MBA applicants are a bit at a loss as to which test might improve their chances of acceptance.

BusinessWeek calls the recent GMAT-GRE showdown the “business school version of the Coke-or-Pepsi debate.” Obviously deciding on between taking the GMAT or even the GRE is a lot less trivial than finding between two soft drinks. You need to think carefully about your testing choices.

BWexplores different factors and offers tips to b-school applicants:

  1. Take the GMAT if you’re applying to any MBA programs that don’t accept the GRE (like Chicago Booth).
  2. Take the GMAT iif you are planning a post-MBA career in an investment bank or management consulting firm—recruiters from such places use GMAT scores as a screening tool.
  3. Take the GMAT if you intend on applying to b-school this year or next year. For now at least, the GMAT is more highly regarded test among b-school adcoms (though they tend to claim the tests are on similar footing).
  4. Take the GRE iif you’re fresh out of college, aren’t quite sure what you anticipate to do next, ffeel pumped and ready to take one final exam while you’re still in a testing-mode, and are available to the chance of applying to b-school in the next five years. (The GRE scores can be submitted within five years.) Based on BW article, this younger crowd (particularly the females) is an attractive demographic to b-schools who are trying to diversify their applicant pools.
  5. Take the GRE if your schools accept the scores and when you consistently score higher on the GRE on practice tests.BW quotes me and my suggestion is to practice tests and find out where you earn the higher scores. Your goal is to achieve the 80th percentile or higher on every segment of the exam.
  6. Take the GRE if you want to save about $100 and have a hard time getting a GMAT testing center. GREs are cheaper and are administered in more geographic locations.

I actually disagree with BW’s take on #3.

Even if you are applying this year or next to schools that accept the GRE and GMAT, if your GMAT is low and your GRE is high, then apply with using GRE—especially if you are otherwise a tough candidate. Why? Because of the one element this otherwise fantastic article did not address: the role of the school’s average GMAT score in rankings and in the perception of potential applicants and alumni donors.

A higher average GMAT means the school will rank better in US News and attract more applications, which will further raise its standing. Furthermore, impending applicants (and alumni donors) look at the incoming class’ average GMAT as an indication of class “quality.” The GRE isn’t utilized by US News in its highly influential rankings. There is no (at least not yet) published average GRE score for incoming MBA classes. If an applicant has good grades and working experience, but bombs the GMAT, submitting a GRE is a choice that permits the school to admit him or her without taking even a slight hit to its average GMAT.

Assuming your target schools accept the GRE and you are not commencing into a field that may use the GMAT as a screening mechanism(#2 above), the GRE is a viable option. The GMAT probably remains the gold standard even at those schools that say that they evaluate both scores equally.

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