The Old Knewton Blog

The GMAT or the GRE?

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joseinclass225pxJose Ferreira is the Founder and CEO of Knewton.

You may have heard that some business schools* have started accepting GRE scores in place of GMAT scores. And you may be thinking: “Awesome! I hear the GRE is easier. I’m taking that!”

After all—there’s no Data Sufficiency on the GRE. Sounds great, right?

The problem is: There’s no Data Sufficiency on the GRE.

The GMAT has been designed and perfected for business school students. GMAT questions mirror the tasks you will perform every day in business school. Reading Comprehension—because you’ll be reading 50 -100 pages in case studies every day. And Data Sufficiency—because you’ll be skimming each case’s exhibits and financials to determine which numbers are key to cracking the case and which are irrelevant. What about Critical Reasoning? Well, every day in class you will comment on other students’ arguments. And they will comment on yours, sometimes in pretty snarky ways. So you need some facility in arguments, if only to protect yourself from that loudmouth ex-banker in the Skydeck.

In fact, the GMAT is a great test. By that I don’t mean that it will bring peace to the world, or spiritual enlightenment, or that a good time will be had by all. I mean it’s extremely well-constructed, with very high scoring consistency. In short, the GMAT does an excellent job of testing the skills you need to excel in business school.

In contrast, the GRE General Test is, well, general. It is designed to provide a sense of the fitness of a student for graduate-level work, whether one is interested in pursuing a PhD in English or a Masters in Psych. But the aptitudes needed to succeed in one discipline are very different from those of other disciplines, and no single test can measure them all well. Success in business, and success in business school, requires very specific skills that the GRE measures poorly, and the GMAT measures very well.

Furthermore, the GRE has been a rather troubled test. (ETS might claim that I’m the one who caused their troubles; in fact, I merely shed light on them.) In the 1990s, I developed a strategy for one question type called Pattern Identification that was so devastating that ETS had to discard hundreds of thousands of printed test booklets, admitting that I “broke the code, so we are removing the questions from the test.” Later on, I reverse-engineered the security protocols and scoring algorithm of the early GRE computerized test, forcing them to pull the exam for months to fix problems I uncovered. They sued us, and took to calling me the “antichrist.” (Umm, do I at least get Connie Nielsen with that?) Later still, they had serious scoring problems with the GRE analytical section, and consequently did away with that section entirely.

So then why do any business schools accept the GRE? Ok, well for one thing the GRE is slowly but surely getting better, and it’s about to be significantly revised so it will probably improve still further. But mostly, it’s about access, especially internationally. The GMAT isn’t available in as many locations, especially overseas. So business schools figure, “Hey, if we accept the GRE, we’ll find some great candidates who might not have been able to apply to business school, or who might add an MBA application or two along with their Masters applications.”

Bottom line: if you can take the GMAT, you should. The GMAT tests skills specific to business school. While admissions officers at schools accepting the GRE will accept a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score, they doesn’t mean that they’ll will trust GRE scores.  And if you give them a GRE score when it’s clear you could just as easily have taken the GMAT, it could hurt your application.

Besides, Data Sufficiency is fun! Well, here at Knewton we think it’s fun. (Though we also think puns about transfinite cardinality** are hilarious.) More importantly for you, Data Sufficiency is equally hard for everybody. It is also highly coachable, and Knewton’s Test Experts have developed the most powerful Data Sufficiency strategies there are. Stay tuned and maybe I’ll blog about them…

*MBA programs accepting GRE scores include Harvard, MIT, NYU, Stanford, Virginia, Yale, U Penn, and Berkeley.

**One of our math guys’ last name is Naul. And his middle name is Alan. Like I said—hilarious!


Written by Knewton

October 7, 2009 at 6:11 PM

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