10-GMAT-GREIn Part 1 of this little series we talked about the ApplyTexas website, transcripts and how the Graduate College is the central intake point for all your materials when apply to grad school at Texas State. In this post we will discuss the GMAT and GRE. I had originally planned to include a discussion of your resume but this post is long as it is. We’ll save your resume for the next one.

While the application process as a whole is pretty straightforward, the biggest hurdle–for most students–is the GMAT or GRE. Is it easy? No, and it’s not designed to be. But it’s completely manageable and we see fantastic scores quite often (but we also see a lot of bad ones!). Lets talk about the GMAT first.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a proprietary exam owned and administered by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC- just not the GMAC you usually hear about!). It’s a computer-based exam that tests your verbal, quantitative, writing, reading and analytical skills. There’s a great Wikipedia article on it here that I won’t attempt to replicate. In a nutshell: the GMAT is  a standardized test that has long been the gold standard for graduate business schools, much like the LSAT is used for law school and the MCAT is used for medical school. The test is about three hours in duration and costs $250 (as of this writing). It must be taken at an approved GMAT testing center and your scores are automatically reported to the school(s) that you specify.

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is also a proprietary exam which is owned and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is also a computer-based exam that tests essentially the same things that the GMAT does. You can find the Wikipedia article here and it’s chock-full of good information. For many years the GRE was used as the admissions test for non-professional graduate programs, however, in the past few years the GRE has been modified so that it’s very similar in content to the GMAT. As such, many business schools have begun to accept either GMAT or the GRE. In February 2013 we completed our own evaluation of the exam and began accepting the GRE in addition to the GMAT.

The GRE exam is approximately four hours in duration and costs $180 (as of this writing). Like the GMAT, scores are reported electronically to the schools you specify.

“Great, great, that’s nice. Which one should I take?!”  🙂  That seems to be the $10,000 question that we get quite often and the answer is: It depends. Keep in mind that that tests have become very similar which is why we now accept either one. So it’s not as if you are going to make a wrong choice. Based on our experience and in talking to people who have taken both exams it seems that if you are stronger quantitatively you might do better on the GMAT, and if you are stronger verbally/analytically you might do better on the GRE (better relative to the other exam).

There is no preference given to the GMAT or GRE, so whichever one you choose is equally fine.

One thing the MBA program will instill in you is the importance of asking the right question. “Which test should I take?” really isn’t the right question (the answer is, “Either one is fine.”). The correct question, in my opinion is: “How should I prepare?” The answer to that question is: Diligently!

The system you choose is not as important as your commitment to serious preparation. The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Manhattan consistently get good reviews from MBA students. You might choose a class, a tutor, an online course or a book. While a self-paced book is the most cost-effective prep method–and consistently yields great scores–the important thing is that you take your preparation for the test seriously. If you do, you are likely to get a really good score. If you do not, you are likely to score poorly.

The last point I’ll cover is the test score, because ultimately that’s what matters. Our average GMAT score for an admitted McCoy MBA student is 540. Because the GRE is new to us we don’t have any historical data, but using this tool from ETS we have calculated that a comparable GRE score is approximately 151 on each of the two sections. These are the baseline scores you should shoot for. If you score above that- awesome! If you score a little under, that’s ok- you should still apply. But your score needs to be competitive. Generally speaking, a GMAT score in the 500’s is competitive. A score in the 600’s is considered very good, and a score in the mid- to high-400s can still be competitive PROVIDED you have other attributes that make you a great candidate. For more information please give us a call.

Whew! That’s a lot of information! I hope this has been helpful. In the next installment we’ll talk about your resume, letters of recommendation and essays (all of those are far less involved than these two exams). In the fourth installment we’ll sum up by discussing the optional cover letter and the review/notification process. Stay tuned!