GMAT or GRE ? My case for the GRE right now

A lot of my prospective clients are now facing a big choice: take the online GMAT, wait for the offline GMAT to be back in action, or switch to the GRE.


When I suggest they switch to the GRE, these are the things I hear.




1.)    “I will be at a disadvantage if I take the GRE.” There is no real validity to this. Granted, the GMAT is the traditional standard. However, things are shifting. They have been shifting. MBB and other employers are now looking at the GRE as well. Also, if you are underrepresented the GRE actually works to your advantage, especially if your tests score is the less stellar part of your application, and GRE stats are unpublished for the schools you are applying to.


2.)    I have already purchased all the test prep materials for the GMAT. OK this is honestly a non-argument. Please consider the long-range implications of this decision. If taking and succeeding on the GRE allows you to get into a top business school, win scholarships and move into the next phase of your career, an investment of a few hundred dollars is a paltry sum.


3.)    I have already studied for the GMAT for XYZ length of time. Yes. I know it’s not easy to pivot from the GMAT to the GRE. But for a lot of you, I urge you to give this your consideration. I realize. You have studied for this for (fill in the blank real long time). And this is something you now feel so driven to crack. However, being inflexible right now will cost you dearly.


Here is the thing. We all must adjust to the new normal. We cannot stick our heads in the sand. Before COVID-19, I did not Lysol the crap out of my groceries or treat them as biohazardous material. But now I must, as a matter of personal survival.


This blog might be quickly outdated but for the time being, as of April 28th, 2020, the GMAT is only administered online. And they do not allow you to use an external whiteboard. You are forced to use a mouse or your finger on a cursor pad, working out equations on your screen with an online blackboard.


This is obviously presents a major impediment. Now you have 2 objectives: improve your tes score and also learn how to master the GMAC online blackboard tool. It’s hard for me to see how anyone would be a natural mousing out equations. All of this is adding time to the process. And ideally, you would have this test bit sorted out so you can spend 3 solid months on your applications if you are targeting Round 1 and I advise you target Round 1 this year, more than ever.


I realize that maybe you have been making steady progress on the GMAT in your mock exams, but please consider that when you are using scratch paper for those mock tests, those tests have limited predictive value in terms of how things will turn out with the online test. Another crappy thing is that we can’t test out the waters with the online exam, you can only take it once.


Here is my case. The GRE allows for you to use a whiteboard. So you don’t have to take on some seriously unnatural process while working out equations. Also, it’s a known fact that the math is easier, especially if you struggle with data sufficiency. Yes, the verbal part is a little weird. Some of you find the vocabulary situation especially tough.


That said, the math part is the most important: schools like to see you can navigate the quant because it gives them reasonable assurance that you will be able to handle the work. If you can handle the work, you won’t fail or drop out.  They have an unsatisfied customer on their hands if you fail. They lose money on tuition if you drop out.


If you have terrific math grades there is a bit less pressure on your test score. However still, there is a certain security you can offer adcom by having a good quant score. So, I am saying, the verbal part is worth sacrificing the verbal little bit. Let’s not make perfection the enemy of good. You can submit a strong language score, TOEFL, etc., to allay any concerns on the verbal.


To summarize, the GRE section is more straightforward, you have a better chance of doing well because you can use a whiteboard.  The verbal part is less straightforward, but the quant is more important, and you can prove your verbal abilities through your TOEFL. Or video essays.


Some of you plan to wait and see, or ride it out. Maybe apply Round 2. However I do think that puts you at a disadvantage in the wake of COVID, where we will be facing a recession, and there is likely to be more applicants – strong applicants who have lost their jobs – you will have to compete against. There is usually nothing wrong with Round 2, but the situation is a bit unpredictable right now. You want to be the early bird who gets the worm. I do not think there is any payoff in waiting, in fact I see it might put you at a distinct disadvantage.


Even before Covid-19, I sometimes urged clients who tried and tried but could not make it happen with the GMAT to pivot to the GRE. Boy did it took a lot of convincing. No one wants to give up on something they have worked so hard for. However these same candidates finally caved and then did exceedingly well on the GRE, WITH NO GRE-specific PREPARATION, and go on to ivy league business schools.


Sometimes you need to switch strategies and keep on trying. But sometimes you need to just pivot even if you have a lot of time invested. Get out of a bad relationship that does not seem to be going anywhere.


We don’t know when the GMAT will be available offline again. Some test centers have opened in South America, and maybe elsewhere, but offer no guarantees on whether they will be open at any point in the future. Here in California, I don’t see a test date available until July.


In my eyes, at this point, taking the GMAT online seems to akin to “a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.” Waiting is what a lot of people will be doing. But the schools want business continuity and it will pay off to act counterintuitively here.


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