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report on business education, spring 2012

An increasing number of schools in Canada and around the world have begun accepting results from the Graduate Records Examination (GRE).

When applying for a graduate degree in business, one of the first things to do – after checking your bank account to see whether you can afford it – is to understand the required standard aptitude test.

For students interested in a masters of business administration, the go-to test has long been the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). This four-hour exam assesses verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills.

But an increasing number of schools in Canada and around the world have begun accepting results from the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), which has long been the standard test for graduate schools offering degrees in other disciplines. It takes about the same amount of time and assesses similar skills.

The highest-profile school in Canada to accept both tests for its MBA is the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The school is now accepting its second incoming class under this new admissions policy.

"We heard that other business schools had started accepting it and it seemed like a great idea," says Bailey Daniels, assistant director of recruitment and admissions. "We're not looking for one type of person and this would allow us to broaden our applicant pool."

Since the GRE is accepted by numerous programs, more people have taken the test. It's also slightly cheaper: $190 (U.S.) compared with $250 for the GMAT. And since the GRE is offered in more locations around the world, it's more accessible. For instance, in Alberta, the GMAT can be taken in Calgary or Edmonton, while the GRE can be taken in those major centres along with Grand Prairie and Fort McMurray.

The University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business began considering GRE scores in 2011 to attract more diverse students – from other countries and disciplines outside of business. "You don't want to have 'group think' in your program. You want your students to have good debates with each other," says David Stangeland, associate dean of the school.

Educational Testing Service (ETS), the New Jersey-based company that runs the GRE, has been actively recruiting new schools. That, plus a 2011 revision that made the test more up to date, has brought the GRE to 800 business schools around the world, up from just 450 in 2010.

Which test is right for you?

Take the GRE if you:

• Are considering a range of graduate programs, some business, some not

• Find it a problem to take a GMAT geographically or financially

• Are applying for schools that accept the GRE (check the school's website and call to make sure)

• Worry your math skills could drag down your GMAT score

Start studying for the GMAT if you:

• Are applying mainly for traditional MBA programs that list the GMAT as a requirement

• Can access a GMAT test centre

• Know your math skills are strong

Special to The Globe and Mail