It’s become increasingly clear that the continued increase in MBA applicants since the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially increased competition, and it’s no secret that a solid GRE or GMAT score can benefit your application.
But what counts as a good score, and how do you compare scores from the two exams?
With different MBA programs providing applicants with eligibility requirements in terms of specific GMAT scores, GRE scores, or neither, it can be tough to establish the exact score that you need. Read on to learn more about GRE to GMAT score conversions, and how to establish which examination to sit.
Should I take the GRE or the GMAT for MBA admission?
The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) are both forms of standardized testing for US universities and a common prerequisite for MBA applications.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) owns and administers the GMAT, while the Educational Testing Service (ETS) owns and administers the GRE.
Both are excellent tests, and universities worldwide accept them both. The GMAT is more analytical and traditionally the business school test. It is still the one more commonly used by MBA applicants, however, the GRE is becoming increasingly common, and may even be better suited to academically-minded students.
Today, about 96% of business schools allow MBA applicants to choose between the GRE and GMAT test, although many schools then proceed to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores. Some schools warn candidates that they may prefer the GMAT over the GRE.
While similar in many ways, the GRE and GMAT have different focuses. For example, many students who have taken both exams say the GMAT math section is more difficult, while the verbal section of the GRE is regarded as being more difficult, with more obscure words included than within the GMAT verbal test.
So, if you have a choice between the GRE or GMAT, you may want to choose the one that plays to your strengths.
The test structure of the GRE and GMAT exams vary, as does the time allotted to each exam. The GRE has three categories, each with two tasks or sections. The total time allowed is about 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The GMAT, on the other hand, has four sections, one with a two-part analysis. The time allowed is 3 hours 23 minutes including two short optional breaks. The online exam is 3 hours 7 minutes long.
Taking the GRE for an MBA application
The GRE is a general test that is accepted by most business schools for admission to at least some of their MBA programs. Many law schools and doctoral programs also accept GRE scores. It is designed to test certain important reasoning and analytical skills.
The verbal and quantitative (quant) reasoning questions are section-level adaptive. So, the first section of each is of average difficulty. A good mark will result in more difficult questions in the second section – less difficult if the answers are below average. This has a direct impact on the scoring (see below).
A feature of the GRE general test is that candidates can skip questions and go back to them later if they still have time. They can also change or edit answers within the section.
There are time limits for each task or set of questions:
- Analytical writing: analyze an issue and an argument task (30 minutes per task). The focus here is on analytical writing and critical thinking skills, not English grammar.
- Verbal reasoning: 20 questions for each of the two sections (30 minutes per section).
- Quantitative reasoning: 20 questions for each of the two sections (35 minutes per section).
There is a 10-minute break after the third completed section.
Taking the GMAT for an MBA application
The GMAT is designed to assess skills that would benefit those in leadership and management positions.
There are four sections, and you have three options in terms of the order in which you answer them. You cannot skip answers or change them since the computer needs your response in order to select the next question. However, you can take the exam again after 16 days.
The exam is computer-adaptive. The way it works is that you start with a question of medium difficulty. If you answer correctly, the computer will then ask a harder question. If not, the following question will be easier.
Each of the four sections specified in the GMAT has a specific goal and a time limit:
- Analytical writing: this section aims to assess and measure your ability to think critically and communicate ideas. There is 1 question to analyze an argument (30 minutes).
- Integrated reasoning: this section aims to measure your ability to analyze data and evaluate the information provided in different formats. There are 12 questions with a 2-part analysis that includes interpretation of graphics, analysis of tables, and multi-source reasoning (30 minutes).
- Quantitative reasoning: this section aims to measure your ability to analyze data and use reasoning skills to draw conclusions. There are 31 questions relating to things like problem-solving and data sufficiency (62 minutes).
- Verbal reasoning: this section aims to measure your ability to read and understand written material and correct it to conform to correct English standards, in addition to s your ability to evaluate arguments. There are 36 questions to evaluate reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning (65 minutes).
Students may take two eight-minute breaks during the exam if they wish.
Do I have to take the GRE or the GMAT?
Not all business schools expect applicants to sit the GRE or the GMAT.
Additionally, many business schools have relaxed their rules regarding GRE and GMAT in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic. For instance, many of them currently allow remote testing, and a large number currently waive the exams altogether.
If you need to provide test results but can’t access a test, you may be able to ask for a waiver, even if the school hasn’t officially made the test optional.
GRE and GMAT scoring
The scoring for the GRE and GMAT differs quite considerably. While the average GMAT score at Stanford is 733, the average GRE verbal score is 165, and the quantitative, 164.
This is why GRE to GMAT score conversion can be a useful tool in order to establish the strength of your application.
However, GRE to GMAT conversion comes with a caveat. Not all calculators that offer score conversions may be accurate, and the GMAC itself warns that even the official ETS tool may not be precise.
With that in mind, you may want to use calculators with caution, as one tool amongst many with which to assess the strength of your MBA application.
GMAT scores are reported on a fixed scale that provides insight into applicants’ strengths and weaknesses.
Total scores based on performance are calculated before scores for quantitative and verbal reasoning. They then convert the raw calculation to a number in the total score range of 200-800, in intervals of 10. Scores are calculated according to the number of questions answered, and if sections are left incomplete there are penalties.
- Analytical writing: scored from 0-6 in half-point increments
- Integrated reasoning: scored from 1-8 in 1-point increments
- Quantitative reasoning: scored from 6-51 in 1-point increments
- Verbal reasoning: scored from 6-51 in 1-point increments
So what GMAT score should you be aiming for?
As a rough guideline, the average total for students who apply to the M7 MBA programs ranges from 720 to 737. According to the GMAC, two-thirds of those who take the test score between 400 and 600.
Analytical writing has an incremental point scoring system that uses a six-point holistic scale. It is rated by a trained analyst and e-rater, a computer program developed by ETS.
The scores for the other two sections are cumulative and based on correct answers. These are scored in single-point increments.
- Analytical writing: scored from 0-6 in half-point increments
- Verbal reasoning: scored from 130-170
- Quantitative reasoning: scored from 130-170
To be in the 90th percentile-plus bracket you’ll need to score at least 162 for verbal reasoning and at least 164 for the quantitative section. This is in keeping with the average GRE scores at top US business schools.
Raw scores vs percentile scores
Raw scores reflect the total values of all the correct answers. So, for GRE verbal and quantitative reasoning, the raw scores are simply the number of correct answers added together.
As mentioned above, GMAT results also include raw scores.
Percentile scores indicate the performance of an applicant vs that of other applicants taking the same test. This is not the same as a percentage. Rather, if your percentile score is 89 it means that your score is 89% better than other students who did the test.
Both the GRE and GMAT exam results include percentile scores that correspond to raw scores also shown in the results.
Both the ETS and GMAC recalculate the percentile ranking of tests using data from the previous three years. So even though your score won’t change over time, your percentile score might.
GRE to GMAT score conversion for MBA programs 2021
GRE to GMAT score conversion using the ETS comparison tool for business schools provides “predicted” GMAT scores based on applicants’ scores for verbal and quantitative reasoning.
Its purpose is to allow universities and business schools to compare the results from the two exams in an appropriate way.
All you do is key in your GRE verbal and quantitative reasoning scores and you’ll get a predicted GMAT total score as well as predicted GMAT verbal and quantitative reasoning scores.
We have used the ETS GRE to GMAT conversion tool to compare the quantitative and verbal test sections. The ETS tool cannot convert analytical writing skills.
Comparing the quantitative and verbal sections
A good score of 164 in GRE quantitative reasoning produces a predicted GMAT quantitative reasoning score of 45 (51 being the highest score possible).
A good score of 162 in GRE verbal reasoning produces a predicted GMAT verbal score of 38 (the highest being 51).
The GMAT total predicted score is 700.
Results of the GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools.
Various websites feature GRE to GMAT conversion charts taken from the ETS comparison tool page to make it quick and easy to compare results.
Other factors in GRE to GMAT score conversion
The GMAC believes the GRE conversion tool is misleading. The problem is that the two tests are very different and they measure different content. So, arguably, no conversion table can make them equivalent.
The ETS acknowledges that the scores from the two tests are not perfectly interchangeable, which is why they have used a “prediction model”. Certainly, the ways they have predicted the GMAT scores are complicated. Also, the way the tests have been formulated may make it inappropriate to compare percentiles.
The ETS also acknowledges that the standard error of the predicted GMAT total score is 54.8. The GMAC perception is that this means a large percentage of predicted scores will be a lot higher or lower than they would be for GMAT tests.
Need a hand with your MBA application for 2021?
Knowing exactly what to include in your 2021 MBA application can be difficult. GMAT or GRE? A converted GRE score? Maybe the business school you’re applying to has waived the tests altogether – will including test results make a difference to your application?
The Admissions Roadmap team knows what it takes to get into top MBA programs. We can help you make these decisions as well as the many others you will have to make when you compile your MBA application.
Whether it’s the first time you are applying or whether you’ve been rejected and don’t know what to do, reach out to Admissions Roadmap today to get started!