GRE as an alternative to GMAT has become more common in admission to business schools, as more and more MBA programs have begun accepting GRE scores as well as GMAT scores from applicants to the programs. As a result, more candidates are indeed taking the GRE and using their GRE score to apply to MBA programs. Around 85 % of the top MBA programs allow GRE score submission today, and this is a significant increase since 2009, when only 24 % of the programs accepted the GRE.

Why do applicants prefer GRE?

From the applicant’s point of view the GRE exam has some advantages as it is more flexible than the GMAT. Among other things, test takers can skip questions during the GRE test, return to questions, change the response chosen and so on. Taking the GRE is also significantly cheaper as taking the GRE will cost you $195, while taking the GMAT will set you back $250. Since many applicants take the test more than once, opting for the more expensive option could cost you quite a bit more.

The top MBA programs are also less wary of accepting a candidate with a low GRE score than accepting a candidate with a low GMAT score, as each admitted candidate with a low GMAT score can affect the program’s ranking negatively.

As an example, one only needs to look at Yale, where the average GRE score for accepted candidates was 160 verbal and 162 quantitative and 4.7 for analytic writing. That is a score that equals 660 in the GMAT, but Yale’s average GMAT score is 714!

What should applicants who cannot decide what test suits them better do?

In that case, we suggest you take both a GRE and a GMAT practice test, as that will enable you to see which one you prefer. You will be able to find practice tests for both easily online.

Good to know about the two tests

The GMAT is a test developed strictly for business related graduated programs while GRE is a more general test required for many graduate programs that are heavy in math or science, such as informatics, economics, engineering and so on. Many top ranked schools worldwide require a GRE score for all their graduate programs while a GMAT score is generally not required for most non-business related graduate programs, even in top schools.

Both tests are taken on computers, are structured in the same way and the time applicants have to take the tests are around 3.5 hours in both cases. The GRE however differs from the GMAT since the performance on the first section of the test will determine the difficulty in the second section and this is not the case in the GMAT, where the questions get more difficult, the more questions you get right.

How the scores are calculated

The GRE will give you a score based on your essay: 0-6, on your verbal section: 130-170 as well as your math section: 130-170.

The GMAT, on the other hand, will give you a score based on your essay: 0/6, an Integrated Reasoning subscore: 1-8, a math subscore: 0-60, a verbal subscore: 0-60 and a total score: 200-800, based on the subscores for math and verbal.

How difficult a test taker will find the two tests depends largely on their own personal skill sets. In the verbal part, the GRE is generally more focused on vocabulary and a lot of advanced academic sayings, words and phrases are used. The verbal part of the GMAT, on the other hand, consists of more commonly used, non-academic vocabulary. However, the GMAT will be stricter on grammar-related issues and checks grammatical knowledge on a higher level than the GRE.

The math part is similar in both tests as both feature arithmetic, algebra, data interpretation and word problems, but the GMAT tests all this in a more sophisticated way and the data used is usually tied to real world business issues in some way. Therefore, both test takers and prep experts agree on the statement that the math part is more difficult in the GMAT than in the GRE.

The GRE is said, however, to have a more difficult essay part, as two essays need to be written instead of one in the GMAT. The reason is that the GRE requires both an argument analysis essay and an issue analysis essay, but the GMAT only requires an argument analysis essay.

Other things to keep in mind

The admissions committees in the top business schools generally expect to see GRE scores from less traditional applicants to business schools, such as younger applicants and applicants from less common backgrounds. Therefore, “mainstream” MBA applicants such as bankers, corporate workers, consultants and others may raise some eyebrows if they submit a GRE score instead of a GMAT score. In some cases, adcoms have even interpreted this as the applicant trying to get a better score by taking an easier quantitative test. Therefore, if you belong to the more “mainstream” and traditional business school applicant pool, you may want to take the GMAT over the GRE just in order for there not to be a question about there being an issue with your quantitative skills.

What the business schools themselves say about the matter

Kaplan surveyed the issue in 2015 and at that time, 78 % of the adcoms (from 204 different MBA programs) said that their view on the two scores are identical. 18 % did, however, admit that candidates applying with GMAT scores are preferred over applicants with GRE scores. Their reasoning for that was that they were more experienced with GMAT scores themselves and that they believe that the quantitative section of the GMAT would better predict the abilities of the test taker to cope with the quantitative demands of their studies at the MBA program.

More than half of the schools that participating in the survey said that no more than 1/10 of applicants submitted GRE scores over GMAT scores with their application.

List with average GRE scores from the top business schools

The table below lists the average GRE scores in some of the most sought after business schools. It is noteworthy that Stanford has the highest average GRE scores, just as it does when it comes to GMAT scores.


School Average Verbal Average Quant Average GMAT
Stanford GSB 165 165 732
Harvard 163 163 730
Wharton 162 162 732
MIT Sloan 162 162 728
Berkeley Haas 162 161 726
Yale SOM 165 164 730
Duke (Fuqua) 160 159 702
Michigan (Ross) 160 159 720
Cornell (Johnson) 160 160 699
UCLA (Anderson) 163 163 719
UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 158 158 701
Texas (McCombs) 159 159 703
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 159 164 690
Washington (Olin) 159 156 694
Georgetown (McDonough) 159 160 692
Indiana (Kelley) 161 156 678
Vanderbilt (Owen) 158 156 680
Notre Dame (Mendoza) 158 156 674
Ohio State (Fisher) 155 156 670
Minnesota (Carlson) 161 156 695
Washington (Foster) 160 159 693
Wisconsin 162 160 669
Texas A&M (Mays) 157 157 643
Georgia Tech (Scheller) 160 159 NA
Arizona State (Carey) 153 153 682
Illinois 158 154 656
Rochester (Simon) 158 157 NA
Boston (Questrom) NA 158 682
Penn State (Smeal) 156 159 659
Maryland (Smith) 155 154 660
UC-Davis 158 158 683
Iowa (Tippie) 161 158 676
UC-Irvine (Merage) 156 155 659