After graduating from Emory University with a joint degree in linguistics and psychology, Kendrick Woolford began working as an intern in information technology at T-Mobile USA, Inc. in Atlanta. She had hoped to be offered a full-time position at the end of the internship, but when the company instituted a hiring freeze, she was left without a job.
With her future uncertain, Woolford considered returning to school, so she took the Graduate Record Exam (commonly known as the GRE). Two years and two jobs later, when she had narrowed her options to business school, she found that her first-choice school—Emory's Goizueta Business School—would allow students to submit the GRE as part of their applications.
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"I knew that some business schools were accepting it and some were not," said Woolford, who will start her MBA program in August. "I was just lucky that Emory was one of the schools that had just accepted it." (Emory started accepting the GRE for business school applications in September 2011.)
Now most business school applicants won't have to worry about whether their GRE scores will be considered at their top schools. More than 800 MBA programs worldwide now accept the revised GRE as an alternative to the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the creator and administrator of the GRE.
Since the GRE was revised in August 2011, the number of business schools in the United States that take the exam as part of the admissions process has accelerated. One reason for the change is that allowing the GRE as an option will help MBA programs attract a broader applicant pool, said Nikhil Varaiya, director of graduate programs at San Diego State University.
"With more and more employers saying, 'We want students from diverse backgrounds,' it was sort of difficult to argue that the GMAT was the only measure to use," Varaiya said.
Employers in particular are seeking MBAs who have science and engineering backgrounds, disciplines in which students have traditionally taken the GRE for admission to graduate programs, he added.
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The revised GRE expanded from three to four hours and incorporated new types of questions in the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections. For example, students may be asked the following fill-in-the-blank question, as listed on the ETS website, on the verbal reasoning section:
From the outset, the concept of freedom of the seas from the proprietary claims of nations was challenged by a contrary notion — that of the _______ of the oceans for reasons of national security and profit.
Choices: promotion, exploration, surveying, conservation, appropriation. (Correct answer: appropriation.)
An analysis of whether the GRE predicts student performance in business school as well as the GMAT will take at least two years, the length of the traditional M.B.A. program, said Julie Barefoot, associate dean of MBA admissions at Emory's Goizueta School. In the meantime, Barefoot is advising applicants to take the test on which they believe they will perform the best.
One exception: If the applicant wants to pursue a career in management strategy consulting, Barefoot advises that student to take the GMAT because top firms in that field, such as McKinsey & Co. or Bain & Co., look at a candidate's GMAT scores during the hiring process.
"They use the GMAT as a way to get a sense of a candidate's raw quantitative abilities," Barefoot said. "Sometimes candidates on the front end aren't aware of that, and it's our job to tell them."
Since the revised GRE was introduced last summer, only a small percentage of students have requested permission to submit it instead of the GMAT, several business school admissions directors said.
At Loyola University Maryland's Sellinger School of Business and Management, the figure is less than 5 percent, which is similar to the amount reported at other business schools. "It's going to take some time before people start thinking about the GRE the way they think about the GMAT," said Karyl Leggio, dean of the Sellinger School.