While the GMAT is the traditional business school admissions exam, a growing number of programs now accept the GRE as well. The test you need to prepare for depends on the schools to which you plan to apply.

What the Tests Measure

Your test scores are an important part of your application package. We encourage you to visit the GMAC and ETS sites for complete details and a selection of free test preparation materials to get you started.


The Graduate Management School Admissions Test (GMAT), produced by GMAC, takes three-and-a-half hours, and includes four main sections:

  • Analytical writing: Analysis of an argument
  • Integrated reasoning: Multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis and table analysis
  • Quantitative: Data sufficiency and problem solving
  • Verbal: Reading comprehension, critical reading and sentence correction

The GMAT is adaptive. Scores are calculated based on the number of questions you answered, whether you answered correctly or incorrectly, the level of difficulty and other question statistics. The makers of the GMAT note that questions in an adaptive test are weighted according to their difficulty and other statistical properties, not according to their position in the test. Visit the GMAC site to learn more.


The GRE, produced by ETS, is offered in both computer-adaptive and paper-and-pencil formats. The exam is three-plus hours and includes:

  • Analytical writing (2 essays): Articulate complex ideas, support arguments, examine claims, sustain an argument  
  • Verbal reasoning: Measures your ability to examine written material and apply reasoning skills
  • Quantitative reasoning: Understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems with mathematical models and skills

GRE scores are calculated slightly differently depending on if you are taking the paper-based or computer adaptive exam. Visit the ETS website to learn more.

Test Preparation & Timing

When it comes to test prep, you should begin studying as early as possible. If you are applying to programs that accept both exams, you may want to take a practice exam for each to see which test you are more comfortable with.


If you are sure that you will be applying for an MBA in the near future, you may want to consider taking the GMAT and/or GRE in your senior year. You should further consider taking the test between mid-summer and early fall (June – September) if you plan to apply for an MBA in the upcoming year. This will allow you plenty of time for preparation in the event you wish to take it again. It will also enable you to get applications in early rather than near the deadlines.


Your scores are generally valid for five years.