Covid has changed the MBA admissions landscape in many ways, including altering standardized testing requirements and options. Here is what business school applicants need to know about the GMAT and GRE.

  • Which test should I take?

Candidates have been wondering which test to take for years, since business schools began accepting either the GMAT or the GRE, instead of just the GMAT. Generally speaking, business schools don’t have a preference for one exam over the other. Before deciding which one to study for, I suggest taking a full-length, practice version of each. Try to replicate the actual exam conditions as closely as possible. When assessing your results, look beyond the actual scores to think about which exam feels most intuitive. Also, look for patterns in your answers. What would it take to improve your score on either exam? (The GRE, for instance, has more vocabulary questions, so your score might improve dramatically with targeted study of the most common words.)

  • Does it matter if I take the test at home or in-person?

Nope. Choose whichever format works best for you. The at-home exams tend to be more widely available, but you do need to have reliable internet and a test-approved whiteboard. Also, some people find the proctor interactions to be stressful, while others don’t mind them and much prefer to test in familiar surroundings. Whichever format you choose, there is no demonstrable difference in people’s scores, or in the difficulty or type of questions. It really comes down to personal preference, and test access.

  • Should I ask for a waiver?

Since Covid made it hard for many people to test, especially in person, schools began allowing applicants to apply for waivers. However, there are a few important factors to weigh before asking for one. First, if you do try to opt out of the exam, make sure that your undergraduate record, work experience and/or previous licensing exams (like the CPA), demonstrate strong quantitative aptitude. If the Committee is going to have any concerns about your ability to handle the work, especially the quantitative courses, it might not be in your best interest to apply without a test score. Second, especially if your transcript isn’t the strongest part of your candidacy, consider whether or not you want the Committee’s first impression to be a waiver request, since they will start by assessing your grades. It is important to note, though, that a waiver denial doesn’t doom your candidacy – I have worked with many clients who have been admitted after their waiver requests were turned down.

  • Do I need to retake the test?

This is another calculation that candidates have always had to make. The answer still depends on an honest assessment of your application, especially relative to the pool. Is your GPA below the average for your target schools? If so, it’s potentially not a good idea to submit without a strong test score. If it can be avoided, you don’t want to apply with both a GPA and a test score that will hurt the school’s rankings.

The numbers show us that applications to business school have recently declined. The current MBA admissions landscape is favorable for candidates, and the fact that you have more control over the testing aspect of the process is additional welcome news.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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