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Is the MBA Entrance Exam Difficult? Here Are the Facts

As an MBA graduate, I took GMAT as an entrance exam into the MBA program. However, besides GMAT, there are other types of entrance exams or tests accepted by MBA programs, depending on the country. In this article, I will give a general overview of their difficulty. 

As a rule, such MBA entrance exams like GMAT are difficult. Their difficulty depends on the aptitude of test-takers and the length of preparation. Most other MBA entrance exams are more manageable. Overall, none of the MBA entrance exams are easy because their purpose is to eliminate MBA applicants.

Let us indulge and figure out which MBA entrance exam is more complicated.

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test )

GMAT is the most common exam accepted by MBA programs in North America and Europe and administered in those respective regions.

As a result, the GMAT is probably the most well-established aptitude test for incoming MBA business students. As a standard test, it measures both quantitative and reading, and analytical abilities. 

GMAT has quite a bit of math in it. Depending on the applicant, this can be a plus or minus. Test-takers with a STEM background will find the math portion of GMAT relatively easy to master. Thus, they may say GMAT was not too difficult. 

On the other opposite, test-takers without a math background more clearly will face certain hurdles working through math problems during the GMAT exam. But the verbal section of the GMAT will be relatively easy for many. 

The good thing about GMAT is that it has well known established structure and topics. There plenty of GMAT study materials and excellent GMAT preparation courses that applicants can take to master GMAT-taking skills. 

The average GMAT score across the USA and Europe is around 650-700. Therefore, to beat most of the competition, one should strive to achieve a score above 700.

GMAT score higher than 700 potentially opens doors to some of the elite MBA programs. And GMAT score of 720+ opens doors to the top 10 MBA programs. 

If you like certain business schools for your potential MBA, then you should look at their average GMAT scores and obtain a score at least 10-20 higher than average. Such a score will boost your application and chances of admission. 

As an experienced test taker (I took TOEFL, GMAT, LSAT, couple of bar exams), I seriously recommend not being too cheap and spending money on GMAT preparation costs. Or any standard test prep course in are taking one. 

I am not kidding – the difference in score between those who took prep courses and those who did not can be pretty substantial. So do yourself a service and prepare right. 

GRE (Graduate Record Examination) 

GRE is another widespread test accepted by MBA programs in the USA, North American generally, and Europe. Even some elite business schools like Stanford take GRE for the MBA program.

While GRE caters to more minor quantitative types of educational programs (like masters journalism, for example), many business schools recognize its results and accept them instead of a GMAT score. 

Some people consider a verbal section on GRE more complicated than the verbal section on GMAT. Therefore, you can choose GRE or GMAT, depending on your strength. For foreign test-takers, the GMAT may be more accessible due to math skills. 

That said, about a quarter of business schools indicate that they still prefer the GMAT score over the GRE score for MBA admission purposes.

So first, check the requirement of particular MBA programs you intend to apply to. And then decide for which test you should prepare. 

CAT (Common Admission test)

CAT exam is administered primarily in India for Indian MBA programs. But a few European business schools accept CAT as an MBA entrance exam. According to information, CAT is also quite difficult.

Some consider CAT to be more complicated than GMAT because CAT has a severe emphasis on analytics, and CAT structure and test-taking techniques are not as well researched. 

This makes CAT one of the most difficult MBA entrance exams. 

XAT is another type of exam accepted by a few MBA programs in Europe.  

CMAT (Common Management Admission Test) and MAT (Management Aptitude Test ) – two other MBA entrance exams administered in India are considered easier than CAT.

XAT (Xavier Aptitude Test ) is also easier than CAT, according to test-takers, but XAT is probably more difficult to take than CMAT or MAT. 

Other MBA entrance exams

Other exams accepted by a limited number of European and Canadian business schools are the TAGE MAGE test, ESCP Europe test. 

TAGE MAGE is a French version of the GMAT of comparable difficulty. TAGE MAGE is entirely administered in the French language. 

Unlike GMAT, TAGE MAGE has only multiple-choice questions. As a result, TAGE MAGE is accepted by 50+ business schools in North America and Europe, in which teaching in French is predominant.

Which MBA entrance exam is most useful?

Depending on location, GMAT is probably the most useful for MBA aspirants located in Europe or North America. The majority of MBA programs prefer GMAT scores in their admissions process.

Taking on GMAT means that many more business schools can become targets for your applications, especially if you want to study MBA in North America.

GMAT is also great because there is just so much information about it to help you study. And do not forget about superb GMAT preparation courses. GMAT is so well established that GMAT instructors are usually extremely good at teaching how to take it. 

The second best I would say is GRE. Pretty much for the same reasons. Because GRE is so widely taken accepted around the world, you still have plenty of MBA programs to choose from while enjoying plenty of study aids and GRE prep courses to take your score level to new highs. 

 One other benefit of GRE is that it shall be applied to many other programs shall you decide not to pursue MBA. Thus, with GRE, you have the flexibility to use it for several quite different graduate programs.

But if you set your mind on MBA, then the GMAT exam is the way to go. 

For disclosure, I am not familiar with other tests like CAT or MAGE. This is because I had to perform research for this article. 

How I prepared for GMAT (and how you should do it)

When I had to prepare for GMAT, I was abroad. We had limited internet there and exactly zero GMAT preparation courses. So I had t obtain books through third parties who would send them to me from the USA. And I self-studied.

I achieved an average score, but not having access to the GMAT test prep course was my significant disadvantage at the time. I guarantee that had I taken the course, my score would be much better.

The other thing to consider is that I am not a native English speaker, and thus GNAT was more difficult for me to take than the average American applicant. 

So I took GMAT, passed it with an average score, and went through my MBA program just fine. I even some top grades in a few classes like economics and finance. 

Therefore if you are a foreign applicant, then you can do pass it well too. On the other hand, if you are an English native speaker, you pretty much have no excuses for preparing well for GMAT or GRE tests. 

Because in the modern world, you have access to a wealth of GMAT and GRE preparation avenues and many great prep courses.

I usually recommend the Magoosh MBA preparation course because it is quite an interactive and easy-going course. Yet you can boost your test score by going through the course at your pace. 

Hopefully, I laid out a good general overview of test options for the MBA program. Now it is up to you to decide which one you should take. Just focus on learning one thing at a time, step by step, no steps skipped.

With the proper amount of energy multiplied by the time spent on preparation, you should be able to succeed on any of the tests I mentioned above. 

Do not forget that taking on graduate education is a more important step than taking on undergrad. Everyone understands that young students in undergrad may make mistakes by selecting the wrong major or going for an inadequate education. 

As for graduate students, there is no such excuse. Once you have graduate school on your resume, then employers and others will assume you knew what you were doing when you chose MBA, for example. You cannot say that you were wrong because you were an adult when making a choice. 

I always say I went through MBA for practical knowledge, which is true. This is what I took GMAT and got my MBA. I wanted to know how economics, finance, and business generally work. I loved it, and I think it was not a waste of time.

I found MBA to be an exciting program, at least because the MBA program glanced at how things work in real life. Although, most of the knowledge was polished and neutral. 

Hopefully, your MBA will work out very well for your career or business. In any case, make the most out of the knowledge you get while in the MBA program. And try to make friends there to build a future network of connections.

 Good luck.