Taking the GRE® General Test for MBA admissions

The GRE® General Test is the world’s most widely accepted admissions test for graduate school. We spoke to Maria Kirilova, Client Relations Specialist at ETS, who supports business schools in the EMEA region that use the GRE Test as a way to attract top talent to their programs. Maria told us about the benefits of taking the GRE General Test for MBA admissions, the differences between the GMAT® and the GRE test, and advice on how to prepare for the GRE General Test.

In short

What is the GRE General Test?

In a nutshell, “the GRE General Test is the world’s most widely accepted admissions test for graduate school, including business and law,” Maria explains. (00:36)

While your personality and experience will shine in your application interviews and letters of recommendation, your GRE scores will highlight your academic skills. “Graduate schools often require admissions test scores because they rely on the scores as one of the only common objective measures to compare applicants from varied educational backgrounds,” Maria says. (03:04)

The GRE General Test is accepted at more than 1,300 business schools around the world, including most top-ranked MBA programs, such as INSEADEsade Business School, the University of Hong Kong, and Hult International Business School.

The GRE test measures “the skills that are proven to be important for success in graduate-level programs: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing.” (00:45) Visit ETS’s website to learn more about the structure and content of the GRE General Test.

Benefits of taking the GRE General Test for MBA admissions

As the world’s most widely accepted admissions test for graduate school, the GRE General Test provides several benefits to prospective MBA students.

First, “the GRE test is the only graduate admissions test that can be used to apply to a range of graduate, business, and law programs,” Maria says. (03:39) This means that “prospective applicants only need to take one test to have the most options for applying to graduate programs.” (0349)

Second, GRE test scores are valid for five years, so test takers have the time to decide which program is the best fit for them.

Third, the testing experience of the GRE General Test is “more personalized,” says Maria. “While other business admissions tests require test takers to answer each question in order and do not allow them to see what is ahead or to go back, the GRE General Test gives test takers the option to use more of their own test-taking strategies within each section because one can change answers, mark or review questions, skip questions and return to them, and navigate freely within the section.” (04:04) You can also choose to take the GRE test at home or in a test center, depending on your needs.

Lastly, “if a test taker decides to try and beat their score on their first test, they have the option to take the test again and send only the scores that they want schools to see,” Maria says. “Test takers do not have to send their scores if they feel they didn’t do their best. This is made possible with the ScoreSelect® service, a feature unique to the GRE General Test.” (04:37)

GMAT vs. GRE General Test

The GMAT exam is one of the most widely used exams for MBA admissions. When it comes down to it, the GMAT and the GRE tests measure the same skills – verbal, quantitative, analytical writing, and critical thinking – in different ways.

The main differences between the GMAT and the GRE are format and cost-related.

While the GRE costs USD$205, the GMAT exam fee is USD$250.

The GMAT is a question-level adaptive test, which means that “the difficulty level of a question depends on the test-taker’s performance on the prior question.” (16:26) The GRE General Test, on the other hand, is a section-level adaptive test, which means that “the second section of each measure is determined by the test-taker’s performance on the first section.” (17:12)

“Both tests are offered in test centers and at home,” Maria tells us. “Test takers can take the GMAT at home no more than two times, while the GRE test can be taken at home up to five times in a rolling 12-month period. My hope is that anyone hearing this interview is amazing on their first attempt, but things happen and having a flexible retake option is important.” (18:11)

How to prepare for the GRE General Test

Everyone will prepare and study for the GRE test differently. However, Maria suggests, “at a minimum, before taking the GRE General Test, test takers should know what to expect from the test, including the administrative procedures, types of questions, approximate number of questions, and the amount of time for each section.” (11:24) All of this information can be found on the GRE website.

After familiarizing yourself with the test’s structure and content, Maria recommends test takers take a free POWERPREP® Online practice test. “The POWERPREP Online practice test simulates the actual test and allows users to get accustomed to the pace of the test using the test taker-friendly design features like mark, review, and the on-screen calculator,” Maria explains. “After taking the practice test, developing a test plan should follow.” (12:14)

For non-native English speakers, Maria also recommends finding reading material at the GRE test level – that is, reading material “in which there is an argument being presented: an argument that is supported by reasoning and/or evidence of some kind.” (12:59) You can find this type of writing in specialized academic journals and publications like The New York Times, The Economist, and Scientific American.

Don’t worry too much if you’re a non-native English speaker. Maria ensures, “Fairness reviews occur for all prompts to ensure that the content and tasks are clear and accessible for all groups of test-takers, including students whose native language is not English. Scorers are trained to focus on the analytical logic of the essay more than on spelling, grammar, and syntax.” (14:49)

To help test takers feel confident on test day, Maria is also excited to share that ETS offers monthly test prep sessions for free. “During the sessions, participants will learn about question types, sample questions, and test-taking strategies from test developers.” (20:11) Announcements about upcoming prep sessions are shared on the official GRE® General Test page on Facebook and can also be found on the GRE website.

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