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Is the GRE gaining ground on the GMAT? That’s the question on many business school applicants’ minds, following a recent report by John A. Byrne on Poets&Quants. The report reveals that despite the GMAT’s long-standing dominance, the GRE has tripled its share of the business school market since 2017. Amid shrinking test markets and changing preferences, this article explores the shifts and implications for both test administrators and prospective students.

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Key Takeaways

  • The GRE’s share of the business school market has tripled since 2017, despite GMAT still maintaining a commanding lead.
  • A large number of MBA students at prestigious schools are now submitting GRE scores with their applications.
  • ETS, the administrator of the GRE, has been aggressively marketing its test as an alternative to the GMAT.
  • The new streamlined versions of both tests may influence the future preference between GMAT and GRE.

GMAT versus GRE: The Changing Landscape

Over the past few years, the landscape of entrance exams for business schools has undergone a significant transformation. As per the report by Poets&Quants, the GRE has been steadily chipping away at the dominance of the GMAT in the business school market. Since 2016, the GRE has impressively tripled its market share from 7.6% to 22.9%.

A multitude of factors have contributed to this shift. For one, the ETS, the administrator of the GRE, has been aggressively marketing its exam as a legitimate alternative to the GMAT. Their efforts have paid off as more and more business schools now accept the GRE, recognizing its credibility and reliability.

Another factor that has added to the GRE’s allure is the perception that its quantitative section is relatively easier than that of the GMAT. This aspect is particularly appealing to applicants who might struggle with quant-heavy sections.

The COVID-19 pandemic further influenced this dynamic. As education systems worldwide scrambled to adapt to remote learning and testing, the GRE responded quickly. The ETS swiftly introduced an online version of the GRE, further establishing its presence and solidifying its position as a viable alternative to the GMAT.

On the other hand, the GMAT, while still holding a commanding lead, has been experiencing a gradual loss of market share. The reasons are varied, including the rising popularity of the GRE and the shrinking of the overall market. However, industry experts argue that introducing a more streamlined version of the GMAT might be the game-changer needed to reclaim some lost ground.

While the GMAT’s stronghold is undeniable, the evolving landscape suggests that the competition between these two prominent exams is far from over. It’s a trend that warrants attention from applicants, test administrators, and business schools.

Why GRE’s Popularity is Rising

ETS has been aggressively marketing the GRE to business schools, which have increasingly accepted it as an equal alternative to the GMAT. Jeremy Shinewald, president of mbaMission, likened the rivalry to “Coke vs. Pepsi” for most applicants.

In the aughts, most programs started accepting both and now they are ‘Coke vs. Pepsi’ for most applicants. It took years for the adcoms and ETS to destigmatize the GRE and now we are there.

Adding to GRE’s growing popularity is the perception among many prospective students that its quantitative section is easier than that of the GMAT. This perception is buoyed by analysis showing that business schools enroll students with lower GRE scores than GMAT scores.

Exam PatternAnalytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, VerbalAnalytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning

SyllabusAnalytical Writing Assessment, Quantitative reasoning, Verbal reasoning, Integrated ReasoningAnalytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning (includes vocabulary), Quantitative Reasoning

Difficulty LevelKnown for a challenging Quantitative sectionConsidered to have a challenging Verbal section
Time Duration3.5 hours (including breaks)3 hours 45 minutes (including breaks)
Cost$250 USD$205 USD
Score Validity Period5 years
5 years
Side-by-side comparison of GMAT and GRE and their key parameters

ETS has also introduced user-friendly features that have put the GRE ahead of the GMAT, particularly during the pandemic when ETS responded swiftly to the need for an online test.

The Future of Business Schools Admission Tests

Despite the gains made by GRE, experts caution against discounting the GMAT. Hailey Cusimano, director of tutoring at Menlo Coaching, believes that the decision for students will be more about which test best reflects their potential. The newly streamlined versions of both tests, which now make the GRE shorter than the GMAT, might not significantly tilt the balance, according to Cusimano.

Conversely, Scott Woodbury-Stewart, founder and CEO of Target Test Prep, speculates that the new versions of the tests favor the GMAT due to their more focused approach to business-related skills. He anticipates a return to GMAT preference among business school applicants in the next decade.


1. Why is the GRE gaining popularity among business school applicants?

The GRE has gained traction due to its acceptance by an increasing number of business schools. Many students also perceive the quant section of the GRE as somewhat easier than that of the GMAT. Moreover, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, has been proactive in marketing the test as a viable alternative to the GMAT.

2. Does the GMAT still have advantages over the GRE?

Yes, despite the GRE’s growing share, the GMAT still holds a commanding lead in the business school market. Some believe that with its new streamlined version, the GMAT could regain some of its lost market share as it is more focused on testing skills directly related to business.

3. Are there differences in the acceptance of GMAT and GRE scores among business schools?

The majority of business schools now accept both GMAT and GRE scores and state no preference for either test. The choice between the two exams often comes down to which test a student feels best reflects their potential.

4. Is the quant section of the GRE easier than the GMAT?

There’s a general perception among students that the GRE’s quant section is somewhat easier than that of the GMAT. However, the difficulty can be subjective and depends on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

5. Will the rise in GRE test-takers impact GMAT’s market share significantly?

While the GRE has seen a substantial rise in its market share, it’s yet to be seen how this will impact the GMAT in the long term. Some experts predict that the GMAT might still remain the test of choice for many business school applicants over the next decade.

6. How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact the GMAT and GRE dynamic?

The onset of the pandemic influenced the test-taking landscape. Notably, ETS quickly introduced an online version of the GRE, which further increased its appeal among test-takers.

7. Does one test have a cost advantage over the other?

As of the last data update in 2021, the GMAT is priced at $250 while the GRE is slightly cheaper at $205. However, pricing can change and may vary by region, so it’s recommended to check the official websites for the most current information.

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