Executive Education

Do You Need the GMAT to Apply for an EMBA?

gmat emba

Standardized tests can be a barrier to entry for executives considering a return to the classroom.

Preparations can be extensive and expensive and, at the end of the day, as a leader in your corporation, you may wonder how the test demonstrates your skills at all. While the GMAT is most typically associated with business schools, some programs are also willing to accept the more general GRE in its place. Others may even be willing to waive these scores entirely.

With an increasing number of business schools accepting either test, what is the difference between them and how can you pick which one to take strategically?


Clocking in at around three-and-a-half hours, the GRE is generally seen as the test that plays to the strength of aspiring graduates students who are not as comfortable with their math skills. You’ll face two essays, a verbal reasoning section, two quantitative reasoning section and an experimental section that might test either math or verbal skills.


Also three-and-a-half hours long, the GMAT includes one essay, an integrated reasoning section, a quantitative section and a verbal section. This test is specifically geared toward the skills expected of business school applicants.

The Good News

More than 1,200 MBA programs today are willing to accept either the GRE or the GMAT with your application. ETS, the service that administers the GRE, has now made a tool available online to help business schools interpret these scores and roughly translate them into an equivalent GMAT score (you can check it out here).

But whichever test you chose, either score is good for about five years. While no applicant particularly enjoys standardized tests, this flexibility gives prospective students the chance to pick the one where he feels best suited to succeed.

It’s also worth noting that for EMBA candidates, some programs will waive the need for either test. This is often done on a case-by-case basis and involves an interview. So while this waiver may provide some hope for a seasoned business leader seeking an EMBA, it is not a guarantee until he speaks to the programs he is targeting with his application.

We’ve highlighted a few examples of different programs and their application requirements to give you an idea of what to expect as you choose the program that’s right for you.

VillanovaThe Villanova Executive MBA

Villanova takes a more holistic approach to selecting its EMBA students than most business schools where your GMAT or GRE score is one of the first ways that the admissions committee narrows down the field of applicants. Neither score is included with your application and, instead, you must demonstrate that you belong in the program based on two letters of recommendation, official transcripts from any universities you’ve attended, a resume, and a short essay between 250 and 500 words. If your application impresses the admissions committee, you will be invited to an interview.


While the top-ranking INSEAD program does require the GMAT and does not accept the GRE, there is some minor flexibility for applicants. INSEAD offers its own entrance exam that can be taken in lieu of the GMAT. It’s a four-part exam that tests your skills in data analysis, data interpretation, communication analysis and critical thinking and it includes both a written and an oral section. But the test is offered only once a month on INSEAD campuses—which could be problematic if you are based in the US and are not willing to cross an ocean for an exam.

Alberta HaskayneThe Alberta Haskayne Executive MBA

This top-notch, Canadian joint EMBA program accepts both GRE and GMAT scores from prospective students. However, some applicants are eligible for a waiver. If you achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher in a four-year accredited undergraduate degree, graduate degree or professional degree in the final two years of study, you might be able to skip the standardized testing at Alberta Haskayne.

GeorgiaUniversity of Georgia Executive MBA

At the University of Georgia, applicants can submit either a GMAT or a GRE with their application. However, in recognition of the fact that a business school cohort is not one-size-fits-all, the admissions committee is willing to weigh individual candidates’ eligibility for a GMAT or GRE waiver. Students who feel they have a compelling reason why they should not have to undergo the standardized testing gauntlet are encouraged to contact the school’s admissions department for a preliminary assessment of their eligibility.

Increasingly, the GMAT is becoming less of a reason to miss out on a business degree. More schools are now offering a flexible application process that either accepts the GRE or waives the need for either test score.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.