Test wars – GRE vs. GMAT – Making changes for victory

Test Wars – The GMAT vs. The GRE – Making Changes For  Victory

It’s a great time to be a test taker. The GMAT and GRE are fighting it to be the test of choice for MBA and other graduate programs.

If you don’t know “GMAT” is an acronym for “Graduate Management Admission Test” and “GRE” is an acronym for “Graduate Record Exam”. The GMAT is the admissions test for most MBA programs. The GRE is a required admissions test for many graduate programs. They are both multiple-choice tests which are administered on computer and are computer adaptive.  Up until a few years ago, both tests were developed by “ETS” better known as the “Educational Testing Service”. This changed when “GMAC” (Graduate Management Admission Council – sounds important doesn’t it) fired ETS and transferred responsibility for the design and administration of  the GMAT to Pearson Education.

Because of a common ancestry, the GMAT and GRE had (and continue to have) overlapping question types. In fact, (at least in terms of question format) approximately 50% of the GMAT and GRE overlap. Examples of overlapping question types include: Problem Solving, Reading Comprehension and Analytical Writing. That said, all question types on each of the GMAT and GRE are (whether quantitative or not) designed to test reading and reasoning skills.

Because (in large part) of a common ancestry and overlapping question types, GRE has started to market itself to MBA programs as an alternative to the GMAT. The number of MBA programs that will accept the GMAT is large, increasing and prestigious. The GMAT is starting to experience competitive pressure. The willingness to “take the GMAT to the people” is evidence of this.

Given a choice, why would a business school applicant take the GRE instead of the GMAT? When comparing the GMAT and GRE an applicant would perceive that:

– the GRE is less expensive
GMAT quantitative is perceived to be more difficult than GRE quantitative
GRE verbal (largely because of the “antonyms and analogies” sections) is perceived to be more difficult than GMAT verbal

In addition, applicants may express a preference based on the convenience of appointments.

Both the GMAT and GRE have been part of the admissions process since at least the 1950s. There has been no significant change in the content of the multiple-choice portion  of either test for at least 30 years. During this period, both tests were developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The GRE announced significant changes in 2005 to take effect in 2006. The 2006 changes were delayed until 2007. The 2007 changes were ultimately canceled.

In 2010 both the GMAT and GRE announced major format changes. GMAT announced the “Next Generation GMAT” to take effect in 2013. GMAT has provided no indication whatsoever of  what the content of the “Next Generation GMAT” will be. GRE announced the “Revised GRE” to take effect in 2011. The “Revised GRE” appears to incorporate most of the changes that were to take effect in 2007.

In general the changes to the GRE will be:

– the scoring scale  will change from a 200 – 800 scale to a 130 – 170 scale
– the quantitative will more  to a more “mathematical reasoning” test and question types that are dependent on knowledge of specific formulas (example geometry) will be minimized

– the GRE verbal questions that are heavily vocabulary dependent (antonyms and analogies) will be eliminated

– a calculator will be allowed

The elimination of the antonyms and analogies from the GRE should  make  the GRE much more attractive to test takers who can choose  either the GMAT or GRE for  admission to an MBA program.

It is very likely that the upcoming changes  to the GMAT and GRE are motivated by competitive pressures.