The majority of business schools throughout the world require applicants to submit the scores of some standardized test in order to be considered. The Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT®, is the traditional examination for business school admissions. Some schools will accept the scores of other tests as well, particularly the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE®. Still other schools do not require admissions tests at all. Depending on where you plan to apply, it can in fact be possible to get an MBA without a GMAT® score.
When the GMAT® was first designed, it was uniformly required for admission to the top business schools in the United States. Soon thereafter, lower-tiered U.S. business schools began requiring it as well, along with some schools abroad. Before long, the GMAT® was seen as the gold standard of business school admissions. Every candidate for the Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree sat for the test without thinking twice, and it was all but impossible to be so much as considered for an MBA without a GMAT® file.
The landscape has changed slightly, though not without controversy. It is increasingly possible to gain admission to programs offering the MBA without a GMAT® score, so long as another exam score takes the GMAT®'s place. In the early 2000s, a handful of U.S. business schools began accepting scores from the general GRE® in lieu of GMAT® scores. The GRE® is a similar exam to the GMAT®, but is targeted to a wider audience of test-takers.
Business schools with MBA programs are the only institutions that accept GMAT® scores. Accordingly, the test is nuanced, and the questions it asks are designed specifically to gauge the skill set of students seeking graduate admissions in business. Students only take the GMAT® if they are planning to pursue an MBA or other related degree, and schools know it.
The GRE®, on the other hand, is a requirement of a broad range of graduate programs. Anything from PhD in molecular biology tracks to master’s in English literature programs require it. Many graduate schools will also require applicants to sit for more specialized “subject matter” GRE® tests, but the general GRE® is often viewed to be something of a baseline.
In many ways, the general GRE® resembles the format, length, and question style of the GMAT®. Not all sections are identical, and the exams place different emphases on different areas, but the fact remains that they are comparable. Both exams are also widely taken by prospective graduate students all over the world. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that many business schools have elected to accept the scores from either exam. This it possible to successfully pursue an MBA without a GMAT®, score, so long as one has a GRE® score in hand.
Not all schools have made the transition, and not all will. Some institutions and critics claim that allowing general GRE® scores to supplement an application blurs the pool, allowing students who are interested in any graduate program — not specifically a graduate program in business — to be on equal footing for admission. Many of the more staunch admission committees believe that applicants should be focused solely on obtaining the MBA degree, and accordingly should not be admitted to study for the MBA without a GMAT® score near the top of the range.
Noting the steep admission curve at many business schools, however, many others believe that allowing students to sit for an exam with more flexibility and a wider range of potential applications promotes efficiency. If not admitted to an MBA program, a student with a GRE® score can explore other graduate programs. A student with a GMAT® score, however, is relegated to the business school space.
There are many things to consider when trying to decide whether to take the GRE® or the GMAT®. A school that says it accepts both should not make any distinction or question your reasoning in choosing one over the other. Before beginning your course of study, though, it is a good idea to be sure that you understand the policies of the schools on your list with respect to earning an MBA without a GMAT® record.