Sunday, November 15, 2009


By Zeke Lee

News has been spreading that may change the landscape of the test taking industry for admissions to our nation's MBA programs.

ETS's GRE exam vs GMAC's GMAT Exam

Traditionally, business schools only accepted the GMAT exam for admissions consideration. The GRE exam was out of the picture as it was used by universities for consideration in graduate programs, not including the MBA.

In an effort to expand their reach of potential applicants, some top business schools are accepting GRE scores in addition to GMAT scores. The scope of GRE test takers includes more English majors, artists, and females than the current pool of GMAT test takers. GRE test takers could contribute to the diversity of business schools.

How do they compare?

There's two things going on here: 1) ETS is claiming their GRE test is almost the same as the GMAT--when it comes to the content that is being tested. 2) GMAC is claiming that their GMAT test is superior to GRE. Stanford, University of Chicago, MIT, Instituto De Empresa in Madrid, and John Hopkins are all jumping on the GRE + GMAT bandwagon, as opposed to the GMAT-ONLY wagon.

And now, a portion of Harvard called the 2+2 program is allowing both GMAT and GRE results beginning with the class of 2012. On their blog, Harvard announced: "Beginning with the class of 2012, HBS will accept both GMAT and GRE results. We think that both tests will provide adequate metrics of what a standardized test can tell us about a candidate. It will take a while for us to do a complete update of every reference to these tests on our website. In the meantime, please accept this as official notification of this change."

No wonder why the GMAT stated they are changing up the exam come 2013!

So how will this change the game? Well, here are a few topics and my predictions of what will happen.

In terms of who applies to business school, what will happen? Well, there are two trends that could take place.

1) A portion of those who originally were considering a master's degree in subjects like psychology, English, sociology, mathematics, and chemistry will now also consider business school.

2) Those who were going to take the GMAT, might consider taking the GRE instead.

So now, will competition to enter Americas top business schools become even more intense in coming years?

Admissions committees will allocate a smaller percentage dedicated to those who came from backgrounds such as investment banking and consulting. And a larger percentage will be allocated for less quantitatively intensive, but more creatively focused fields.

What about admissions acceptance rates?

The admissions acceptance rate will also go down as the number of spots stays the same but the number of applications go up. But if we subdivide applicants into sections of what their previous background is, I would say the competition will get tougher for those already in business and finance while those in less traditional business fields will have a slight leg up over time.

Is the GMAC just going to sit there and let ETS enter their business school turf without doing anything?

Of course not! The GMAC has already announced they will be launching a next generation GMAT in 2013.

Personally, I believe business schools are starting to realize the value of the GMAT is diminishing over the years for several reasons. One, recent cheating scandals involving websites posting live GMAT questions several years ago as well as news of professional GMAT test takers bypassing security to sit in on the test for several students have triggered alarm among business schools' perception of the GMAT test.

Also, the average GMAT test score has been going up and up-perhaps because of good prep programs ranging from Kaplan to The GMAT Pill Study Method as well as the availability of free prep material on the internet.

With these trends of average test scores going up and increasing security issues with GMAT questions, no wonder why business schools are hunting elsewhere-and for good reason. The GRE will increase the number of female applicants (almost all business schools have a 2:1 ratio of males to females) and help business schools better balance a diverse class. Moreover, the GRE arguably tests very similar concepts and may be a decent substitute.

There is still much to be decided in coming years. But a trend is happening. And there may be some significant changes to business school policies in coming years as a result.

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