INSEAD GRE vs GMAT : Know Which One Works Better

Nestled in the heart of Europe, INSEAD stands as a beacon of excellence in the realm of business education. Renowned for its diverse student body and global perspective, INSEAD attracts aspiring business leaders from across the globe, eager to embark on a transformative journey. A pivotal step in this journey involves navigating the admissions process, at the heart of which lie two standardized tests: the GRE and the GMAT. These tests are more than mere academic hurdles; they are a window into an applicant’s analytical prowess and critical thinking capabilities, traits held in high esteem at INSEAD.

The decision between the GRE and GMAT is more than a choice between two exams; it’s a strategic consideration that can influence the trajectory of an applicant’s INSEAD application. This blog post aims to demystify the GRE and GMAT within the context of INSEAD’s admissions, helping study abroad aspirants make an informed decision that aligns with their academic strengths and career aspirations.

Section 1: Understanding the GRE and GMAT

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) The GRE, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), is a standardized test that assesses verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. The exam is structured into three main sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning: This section evaluates your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse, understand multiple levels of meaning, and identify the relationships among component parts of sentences.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Here, your mathematical skills are tested, including your understanding of basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
  • Analytical Writing: This section measures your critical thinking and analytical writing skills, particularly your ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively.

The GRE is known for its versatile question format, which includes multiple-choice, numeric entry, and others, allowing test-takers to demonstrate a wide range of skills.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) The GMAT, administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), is specifically designed for admission to graduate business and management programs. It comprises four sections:

  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section tests your ability to analyze data and draw conclusions using reasoning skills. The focus is on problem-solving and data sufficiency.
  • Verbal Reasoning: This section assesses your ability to read and understand written material, evaluate arguments, and correct written material to conform to standard written English.
  • Integrated Reasoning: Unique to the GMAT, this section tests your ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources.
  • Analytical Writing Assessment: Similar to the GRE, this section evaluates your critical thinking and communication skills through essay writing.

The GMAT is highly regarded for its emphasis on analytical skills and integrated reasoning, making it a popular choice among business school aspirants.

Key Differences While both tests serve as a measure of your academic capabilities, the GRE’s broader application scope and the GMAT’s business-centric focus present a fundamental choice for INSEAD applicants. Understanding these differences is crucial in determining which test aligns best with your strengths and INSEAD’s expectations.

Section 2: INSEAD’s Admissions Criteria

INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools, has a comprehensive and rigorous admissions process aimed at identifying candidates who will not only excel academically but also contribute significantly to the INSEAD experience and community. The admissions criteria focus on several key areas:

  • Ability to Contribute: INSEAD looks for candidates who can enrich the learning experience both inside and outside the classroom, leveraging their unique backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.
  • Academic Capacity: This is assessed through a combination of GMAT/GRE scores and previous academic performance. INSEAD does not have a minimum required GMAT score, but they do look for strong performance in the Verbal, Quantitative, and Integrated Reasoning sections of these tests. For GRE takers, the Admissions Committee expects percentiles around 80% in both the Verbal and Quantitative sections. It’s important to note that while high test scores can strengthen an application, they are just one aspect of the admissions process and not the sole determinant of admission​​​​.
  • International Motivation: Given INSEAD’s global orientation, candidates must demonstrate adaptability and flexibility in multicultural environments, showcasing their readiness to thrive in the diverse INSEAD community.
  • Leadership Potential: Applicants are evaluated on their work experience, including the quality and impact of their achievements. Leadership potential is a critical aspect, as INSEAD seeks individuals who show promise for leading and managing in a complex global environment.

The admissions process is staged, with four deadlines for each intake. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis within each round, ensuring each candidate’s application is given thorough consideration. The process includes an online application and video interview, followed by pre-selection decisions and interviews with alumni. The Admissions Committee then makes the final decisions​​.

INSEAD’s holistic approach to admissions ensures that each aspect of a candidate’s profile is considered, from academic achievements and test scores to professional experiences and personal qualities. This comprehensive evaluation helps INSEAD maintain a dynamic and diverse cohort, fostering a rich learning environment that prepares students for global leadership roles.

Section 3: Pros and Cons of GRE for INSEAD Aspirants

Pros of Choosing GRE:

  1. Wider Application: The GRE is accepted not only by business schools but also by a vast array of graduate programs. This makes it a versatile choice if you’re considering multiple types of graduate education.
  2. Test Structure: Some students find the GRE’s structure and question types, especially in the verbal section, to be more straightforward than those of the GMAT. This could be beneficial if your strengths align more with reading comprehension and vocabulary.
  3. Personal Strengths: The GRE may be a better fit if your strengths lie in verbal and analytical writing skills, as these areas are heavily emphasized in the GRE.

Cons of Choosing GRE:

  1. Perception Issues: While many business schools, including INSEAD, officially state that they have no preference between the GMAT and GRE, some candidates feel that the GMAT might be viewed as more traditional for MBA applications.
  2. Quantitative Comparisons: For some, the GRE’s quantitative section might seem less challenging than the GMAT’s. However, this could be a disadvantage if you’re looking to showcase strong quantitative skills, as the GMAT might provide a better platform for this.

Section 4: Pros and Cons of GMAT for INSEAD Aspirants

Pros of Choosing GMAT:

  1. Business School Focus: The GMAT is designed specifically for business school admissions, with a strong emphasis on quantitative and integrated reasoning skills that are crucial for business studies and careers.
  2. Score Signaling: A high GMAT score can be a powerful way to signal your commitment and readiness for the rigors of an MBA program, particularly in quantitative areas.
  3. Alumni Success Metrics: Business schools often use average GMAT scores as a benchmark for the quality of their incoming class, which can influence rankings and perceptions.

Cons of Choosing GMAT:

  1. Test Anxiety: Some candidates find the GMAT’s question types, particularly in the verbal and integrated reasoning sections, to be more challenging and stressful.
  2. Narrower Scope: Unlike the GRE, the GMAT is almost exclusively used for business school admissions. If you’re considering a broader range of graduate programs, the GRE might offer more flexibility.

When choosing between the GRE and GMAT for your INSEAD application, consider your personal strengths, academic and career goals, and the specific requirements and preferences of the programs you’re interested in. Both tests are rigorous assessments that can play a pivotal role in your application, but the best choice depends on your individual profile and aspirations.

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Section 5: Making Your Choice: GRE or GMAT for INSEAD?

Deciding whether to submit GRE or GMAT scores with your INSEAD application is a strategic decision that can influence your admissions outcome. Consider the following factors:

  1. Personal Strengths and Weaknesses:
    • Evaluate your strengths in quantitative and verbal areas. If you excel in verbal and analytical writing, the GRE might play to your strengths. Conversely, if you have strong quantitative and integrated reasoning skills, the GMAT could be more advantageous.
  2. Career Goals:
    • Consider your post-MBA career path. For careers in investment banking, private equity, or management consulting, a high GMAT score might be more favorable due to its quantitative rigor and business focus.
  3. Program Preferences:
    • While INSEAD does not explicitly state a preference for either test, some MBA programs have subtle leanings towards the GMAT. Research and networking with alumni or admissions officers may provide insights into the prevailing preferences.
  4. Test Availability and Preparation:
    • Availability of test centers, test dates, and your preparation timeline can also influence your choice. Ensure you choose the test that fits your schedule and allows ample preparation time.
  5. Future Academic Plans:
    • If you’re considering a dual degree or have plans for further academic pursuits outside of business, the GRE’s broader acceptance across graduate programs may offer more flexibility.


Navigating the GRE vs. GMAT dilemma for your INSEAD application involves a careful assessment of your academic strengths, career aspirations, and the specific nuances of INSEAD’s admissions process. Both tests are rigorous and can significantly impact your application, but the right choice depends on which exam best aligns with your profile and goals.

Remember, the standardized test is just one component of your application. INSEAD evaluates candidates holistically, considering professional achievements, leadership potential, and international exposure alongside test scores.

As you prepare your application, focus on presenting a well-rounded profile that showcases your readiness to contribute to and benefit from the unique INSEAD experience. Whichever test you choose, ensure your scores reflect your best abilities and complement the other elements of your application to make a compelling case for your admission.

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