Edited by Laura Morrison, for GradSchools.com, February 2014
So you've decided to apply to graduate programs. Before you begin the next phase of your academic career, be sure to see if you're required to submit scores from one of the graduate school admissions exams.
Do you want to go to medical school? Then you're likely to take the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT. Is law school in your future? Then you'll probably end up preparing for the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT. In recent years, more and more programs have begun to accept either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
If you find yourself faced with the option of taking either the GRE or the GMAT, here are a few things you should know:
Know the tests - the GRE
Before you take either the GRE or the GMAT, you need to know what they have in common and what separates them.
The GRE's up first. If you plan to apply to graduate school, you're likely to take the GRE. In addition, many business schools now accept GRE scores, so if you want to pursue a Master of Business Administration, you could find yourself taking the GRE.
According to the website of the Educational Testing Service, the company that makes the GRE, the exam features verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing sections. The questions you encounter in these parts of the GRE will assess the skills you need to do work at the graduate level.
Know the tests - the GMAT
Then, there's the GMAT, which is designed to test your level of preparedness for business school. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council's website, the GMAT has sections similar to those on the GRE, as it features verbal and quantitative questions, as well as an analytical writing assessment.
The latest edition of the GMAT also features the Integrated Reasoning section, which asks you 12 questions based on data provided through multiple sources and formats. This portion of the exam tests your ability to analyze and synthesize different types of information.
Which test is best?
So let's say you're applying to business school and a potential programs accepts scores from either test. Which one do you choose?
The ETS website states that the GRE measures the types of skills business schools place an importance on, such as critical thinking and quantitative reasoning. It's hard to question this claim based on the facts. According to a list on the website, schools across the nation and around the world now allow business school applicants to submit scores from the GRE instead of the GMAT.
As Veritas Prep is a provider of test preparation and admissions consulting services, Travis Morgan, its director of admissions consulting, knows a thing or two about the two graduate exams. In a post on the company's website, Morgan shared his thoughts on choosing between the tests.
"Schools that accept both exams are very adamant about the fact that they have no preference for the GRE or GMAT," Morgan wrote. "Because some schools still do not accept the GRE, we generally feel that the GMAT is a 'safer' choice if you know you're aiming for an MBA and not another graduate degree, as it keeps all of your options open."
Ultimately, an essential part of the graduate school admissions process is following directions and knowing exactly which test scores programs want to see. You could do well on the GRE, but if the MBA program you're applying to only wants to see GMAT results, you're unlikely to be accepted.
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About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.