Earning an HBS GRE 163

Earning an HBS GRE Score from 155 to GRE 163!

Already a test prep veteran, Jason had been through countless hours of GRE tutoring and self-study; He'd trucked through a whopping five official GRE tests. Still, with scores in the mid 150s he was far short of his goal of scoring a 163 on both the verbal and quant sections of his GRE, something of a requirement for a competitive application to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, or any other top MBA program Jason was targeting (for 2019 the HBS GRE median score was 163Q 163V).

HBS GRE Median Scores Chart
Harvard MBA GRE Scores

To make matters worse, since his first GRE practice test he'd done a ton of studying and on his subsequent 5 official GRE's his score had gone down. That said, he did have a solid set of fundamental GRE skills. With a foundation in place, we planned to optimize his skills and to keep him working a notch above GRE for the majority of the preparation so there would be no surprises on test day and a clear path to GRE 163.

For verbal we piled on LSAT critical reasoning and reading comprehension while for quant we worked on GMAT questions. Here’s a guide on using LSAT to improve GMAT verbal. Some of the suggestions also apply to using LSAT for GRE.

GRE Quant = Critical Thinking not Memorization (for the most part)

Jason was set on a Harvard MBA and dedicated to earning an HBS GRE score. He proved early on that he was indeed well-equipped with the fundamental GRE knowledge and solid critical reasoning skills he needed as he blazed through many of the early quant sets. His commitment never wavered (see earning a Harvard GMAT Score for a much less disciplined preparation). As difficulty increased though he sometimes struggled. Often, Jason was looking for a cookie-cutter approach to every solution, a common mistake that can smother your progress.

The key: get Jason to approach GRE quant questions with a mind to solve for the answers rather than to know the answers. To let the inferences come from basic organizing rather than from thin air. Yes, certain GRE question types have a very specific setup (overlapping sets) but, for the most part, the GRE, like the GMAT, is about critical thinking.

On the verbal, Jason had good instincts, but needed help on confidence and strategy. Effective time management and a swagger derived from hours of practice and review on grueling LSAT RC/CR worked wonders. There aren’t many critical reasoning questions on the GRE, but, still, practicing challenging LSAT CR can help you improve your RC as well.

GRE 163 achieved on Quant and Verbal but not simultaneously

After weathering the storm of the double threat GMAT/LSAT work we switched over to Official GRE sets and practice tests. It was clear Jason had improved significantly on both sections and was, at least on individual sections, hitting Harvard GRE scores even surpassing his GRE 163 goal. Most of his practice test results were coming out weighted heavily toward either quant or verbal. Frustratingly, he didn’t have a single practice test on which he was in scoring 163+ on both sections.

Since he had proven himself on difficult LSAT verbal and GMAT quant, I suspected the issue was more one of confidence than of content. In sessions I kept reminding him that he knew his stuff!

Effort, quality, and a willingness to change = Harvard GRE score

Jason was willing to change from a somewhat rigid framework to a more fluid “critical thinking approach” supported by an organized set of principles letting the inferences come from an organized setup. He also put in a ton of effort rarely missing a HW assignment and always putting in thorough review consistently bringing in challenging questions to our sessions. Test day results aren’t guaranteed but Jason put himself in a very high percentage position to achieve his HBS GRE score. 

On test day, Jason finally put it all together (tutor sigh of relief). He didn't hit the magic GRE 163 but sailed to a 164Q 164V score, equivalent to a 710 on the GMAT, and good enough for his Harvard MBA application. 

Earning an HBS GRE Score FAQ

Is there any disadvantage to using a GRE for MBA programs?

As of 2014 some admissions people still preferred the GMAT over the GRE for MBA. However, since then the GRE has gained a lot of traction. It really depends on the score. If you're going to excel on the GRE, even though the GMAT is the king of MBA, you're probably better off using the GRE.

Keep in mind that using the GRE for MBA isn't a way to avoid studying. For most people an HBS level GRE score will still require a solid effort and is far from guaranteed. If you're trying to decide between the GMAT and GRE take a look out our massively in depth GMAT vs GRE for MBA comparison which covers pros and cons of taking one test over the other.

What are Harvard MBA GRE Scores? 

HBS GRE median is 163q 163v.

Are there any Harvard MBA GRE Requirements?

There are no listed GRE score cut-offs for HBS admission. However, use the HBS GRE median, 163q 163v, as a guide.

What's a Harvard Business School GRE?

See above. For Harvard Business School you should be targeting GRE scores around 163q 163v.

What are HBS GRE scores?

In 2019 HBS accepted a range of GRE scores from 147-170 on Quant and 145-170 in Verbal. The HBS GRE median was 163q 163v.

Does Harvard accept GRE for MBA?
Yes, Harvard does accept the GRE for MBA. That said, only about 20% of HBS candidates are admitted with GRE scores.


GMAT Functions Made Simple (Examples Included)

GMAT Functions Explained (with worked through example questions)

You guessed it, we're going to dive into GMAT functions, a quant question type that comes up on just about every GMAT. Good news: there's nothing inherently difficult about GMAT functions. Bad news: GMAT students tend to get hung up on them. Why? Often GMAT function questions look strange or have a dense set of instructions that can distract from the basic premise of the questions. We're going to break down what a function is and then work through some GMAT examples so, hopefully, by then end of this article you'll feel confident on the majority of GMAT function questions.

What is a function?

What is a function? A rule that defines a relationship between one variable and another. That's it. So function questions relate one variable to another. Figuring out that relationship and applying it is the key to success. There are two main types of GMAT functions. Ones with symbols that represent a set of instructions that you need to apply and ones using f(x) to define an equation (or sometimes also a set of instructions) that you apply to whatever is in the parentheses (where x is). Let's look at an example of a symbol function from the GMAT Official Guide:

GMAT Functions: Symbol Questions

GMAT Functions Example

For symbol questions take your time reading. Really slow down. It's not unlikely that you'll start off feeling a little confused. That's OK. It's fine if it takes a second to understand the system. And that's true for all GMAT questions. Don't feel pressured to understand everything right away. Let the inferences develop.

For this function, the circle indicates that the product of the two variables needs to be placed under a square root. So whatever numbers replace the variables X and Y need to do the same thing. It's not uncommon to have a nested function or a function within a function so that you need to apply the rule multiple times. Not a problem. Start from the innermost parenthesis and work out. Again, take your time.

In this case do the 5 and 45 first and then take that result and put it through the function again with 60 as the second number. Zip, Zap, Zop and you're done!


Let's go ahead and factor these so we can pull out any perfect squares.


So we have two 3's and two 5's (9 and 25). They're both perfect squares. We can get rid of the root and we're just left with 15 (3*5).

Now apply the function again and we've got √(15)(60). Let's factor to find perfect squares.

3*5*3*2*2*5. We can partner up the numbers, 2*2*3*3*5*5. Three sets of perfect squares (4, 9, 25). So we can get rid of the root and we're left with 2*3*5 or 30. A.

Once again, GMAT functions are just a set of rules either given as a set of instructions represented by a symbol or as defined in an equation with f(x). Here's one with the f(x) format:

GMAT Functions: f(x)/Equation Questions

GMAT Function Question Example

Instead of f(x) we have f(m). Same thing. You could have f(h) or f(d) or any variable. Let's figure out the function or instructions. It's basically a factorial but with only the even numbers. So f(4) would be 2*4. f(6) would be 2*4*6. And so on. It's often a great strategy to give yourself a few simple examples of the function before tackling the question itself.

So now we need f(24), 2*4*6*8*10*12*14*16*18*20*22*24. And we need to determine the greatest prime factor (GCF). There are two ways to do this:

  1. Work from the answers
  2. Work from the function

I think it's probably a bit faster to work from the answers. Since we're looking for the GCF start with the largest number.

(A) 23 doesn't fit into any of our numbers or put another way isn't a factor of f(24).

(B) 19 Same thing.

(C) 17 Same thing.

(D) 13 Same thing.

(E) 11*2 is 22 so that's in there. Must be E.

If working form the numbers, again, start with the largest and find the primes.

24 only has 2's and 3's.

22 is 11*2 so that looks good. No positive even number less than 22 can have 11 or any prime greater than 11 as a factor. In order to be even a number must have 2 as a factor. So 2*11 is the least EVEN number with 11 as a factor. So 11 is the GCF of f(24).

Here's another "f(x)" type function but this one has an equation instead of a set of instructions.

GMAT Functions Example f(x)

This question takes things in a slightly different direction in that we're told the outcome but not the "x" value. We need to solve for the "x". All you have to do is set the equation 2^x - 3 equal to 31 and solve. We don't need the exact number just a range.

2^x = 34

Now list out the powers of two and find the range. Looks like 34 is between 2^5 (32) and 2^6 (64). E.

2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64

Hopefully GMAT functions are feeling more approachable. Just remember (broken record alert): functions are just a set of instructions. So, read carefully and focus on getting those instructions defined. Again, it can be helpful in some cases to give yourself simple examples of what the function does before approaching the main question. If you feel a bit lost after the first read: that's OK! That doesn't mean that the question is difficult or that you won't solve it correctly. It's totally normal to not know everything right away. Part of being a GMAT master is building the confidence to stick with a question. To give yourself the space the succeed. And, remember, if things get heavy: skip! No single question is worth it.

OK, let's explore more examples of GMAT functions!

GMAT Function Question Examples

Here's a symbol question. Let's go ahead and figure out the instructions: greatest integer less than or equal to x. I've seen several examples of this very specific GMAT function question on actual GMATs I've taken. This is a great candidate for giving yourself examples before answering the questions just to make sure you've got your head wrapped around the function.

What happens if the number is an integer, say 5? It stay at 5.(greatest integer less than or EQUAL)

What happens if the number is a positive non-integer, say 1.5? It goes down to 1. (greatest integer less than or EQUAL)

What happens if the number is a negative non-integer, say -1.5? If goes down to -2.  (greatest integer less than or EQUAL. The negative numbers make things a little tricker because though -2 is smaller is has a greater magnitude).

OK, now let's approach the question.

-1.6 becomes -2

3.4 becomes 3

2.7 becomes 2

-2 + 3 + 2 = 3.


If you'd like more GMAT function examples you can take a look at these three posts. They each go into depth on a challenging GMAT function question:

For which of the following functions is f(a+b) = f(b) + f(a) for all positive numbers a and b?

For every positive even integer n, the function h(n) is defined to be the product of all the even integers from 2 to n, inclusive.

For which of the following functions f is f(x) = f(1-x) for all x?

Hope that is helpful. Follow up with any comments or questions. Happy studies!


The Executive Assessment is a relatively new test for admission to Executive MBA programs worldwide. Because it is so fresh there are a lot of questions out there regarding the test format, questions, scoring, difficulty level, how it compares to the GMAT and GRE, and many others. We're starting an Executive Assessment FAQ right here

A quick comparison of the new Executive Assessment and the GMAT updated for 2020

The title says it all. GMAC has blindsided us with a fresh set of tough GMAT questions. Though they are a great study resource, the official guides have always been a bit tight with the top shelf questions. And with every new GMAT official guide the new questions have tended to be heavily tilted towards easy/medium. Well. 300 new challenging questions! Nothing to complain about here...Yet. We've put our order in and will be reviewing the GMAT Official Advanced Questions shortly. If you're taking your GMAT soon I'd just go ahead and order it. It's highly likely that this guide will be a helpful resource. Here's a link to the new advanced official guide. Here's the official advanced questions ebook in case you were looking.



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