GMAT Or GRE For Foreign MBA

If you are at an early stage in career and not sure about whether you would pursue core discipline or management education for your masters, read the article to know the best option for foreign MBA.

GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test and is conducted by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), a non-profit council of leading business schools. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination and is conducted by ETS (Education Testing Services), the world's largest private nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization. Until 2011, the distinction between the two exams was very clear- GMAT was the test for master degrees is management (MBA, MiM, MSF etc) whereas GRE was the test for master degree in core disciplines (MS in a range of science, arts, and humanities subjects). This distinction was blurred in 2011 when GRE underwent a major change in format and gained acceptability from almost all the major business schools worldwide. Since then, the “GMAT or GRE” question has gained prominence.

Format of the two Exams

Essentially, GMAT as well as GRE tests a candidate’s verbal, quantitative, and writing aptitude. While the types of questions differ significantly, the skill tested has a serious overlap. The purists believe that GRE is bent on testing one’s memory (with the verbal questions bent a lot on vocabulary and the quant questions often bent on almost a direct application of formulae and concepts) whereas GMAT is a more matured test, bent on testing one’s logical ability (with the verbal questions requiring a more nuanced reasoning and the quant questions more often requiring an extended application of concepts). Hence, preparing for one test may ‘supplement’ preparation for the other but doesn’t ‘suffice’.

Scoring in the two Exams

On GMAT, a candidate is scored on a total scale of 200 to 800, with 700 being roughly the 90th percentile. On GRE, a candidate is scored on a total scale of 260 to 340, with 327 being roughly the 90th percentile. While GMAT has maintained scoring out of a total 800 for decades, GRE has undergone multiple changes. Prior to 2002, the GRE score was out of maximum 2400, then, it was out of 1600, and now, it is out of 340. Both the tests have an analytical writing assessment section in which a candidate, on the basis of one’s written essay response, gets a separate score, on a scale of 6, that doesn’t contribute to one’s total GMAT or GRE score. GMAT has an additional Integrated Reasoning section in which a student gets a separate score on a scale of 8 not contributing to the total score.

How Business Schools Interpret the Scores

GMAT has been consistent in its core format as well as total score for decades. The business schools have been using the GMAT scores for admissions for long and are seemingly more comfortable in interpreting the wider range of 200 to 800 than in interpreting the frequently changing, and relatively newly acceptable GRE with a relatively compact range of 260 to 340. One may perceive a 310 out of 340 as a good score (sounds like a 90% score!) but the fact is that 310 is a very weak score (converts to ~580- the 49th percentile) whereas on the GMAT, the 90% sounding 720/800 is a robust 94th percentile. That you get a GRE to GMAT conversion tool on the ETS website but no GMAT to GRE conversion tool on the GMAC website suggests a thing about who may encroaching whose territory!

9 out of 10 Admissions in US top 50 Schools Happen Through GMAT!

As per the GMAC’s official website, ~90% of the enrollments in the US top 50 business schools happened through GMAT. Technically, almost all the prominent global business schools accept the GRE score and only a few schools have voiced their preference for GMAT. However, the ground reality is that most serious of the MBA applicants take the GMAT and the schools, thus, are bound to be at a relative ease in interpreting GMAT scores- a tool that they have been long using (and still continue to use) for making admission decisions. 


While ETS has made things a bit complicated in its battle to capture both core as well as management admissions, GMAC has stuck to its core- ‘management’ admissions, the ‘M’ in GMAT. There is no ‘correct’ test between the two; technically, both the scores are accepted by all prominent business schools worldwide and if you are scoring a high enough percentile, the format of the test doesn’t make a significant difference. However, numbers don’t lie and as ~90% of the top-notch admissions happen through GMAT, it remains a preferred test by business schools as well as aspirants. 

Tip: If you are at an early stage in career and not sure about whether you would pursue core discipline or management education for your masters, you may consider GRE as it will serve both the options. However, if you are clear about pursuing management education, GMAT remains a ‘safer’ option!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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