Most graduate schools require students to take an entrance exam as part of the application. The GRE and GMAT are considered good predictors of an individual’s performance in graduate school, and many admissions committees weigh these scores heavily when making their decisions.
In the past, the GMAT was required for business school, much like the MCAT is required for medical school and the LSAT is required for law school admissions. The GRE was required for most other graduate programs in the arts and sciences.
Recently, many business schools have begun to accept the GRE or GMAT, giving students the freedom to choose which test to take. If you are planning to apply to business school in addition to other graduate programs (such as economics or political science, for example), or if you are interested in a joint-degree program, it might make more sense to take the GRE (especially if you would only have to study for and take one exam).
On the other hand, if you are really only interested in attending business school, it might be better to take the GMAT, because that sends a clear signal to admissions committees that you are committed to getting an MBA. Many schools claim that they have no preference – if that is the case for your desired school, you should take the test on which you think you will score the highest.
GRE Versus GMAT – Which Test Should You Take?
You should always contact the admissions department of any graduate school to which you are applying to get the latest information about their admissions process. If you are not applying to business school, your answer is simple: take the GRE. If you are considering an MBA, the answer is more complicated and you may have a choice.
According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that develops, administers and scores the GRE, more than 900 MBA programs in the USA and several hundred programs all over the world now accept both the GRE and the GMAT. If you are planning to apply to business school, you should find out directly from the schools you hope to attend which exam they accept.
In addition to asking whether or not they accept the GRE and the GMAT, you should ask if they prefer one exam over the other, and which scores they consider to be equivalent when comparing the two tests. You should also find out if either exam qualifies students for scholarships or other benefits before you make your decision.
The Case for Taking the GMAT
Signing up for the GMAT indicates that you are serious about attending business school. This is because only business schools accept the GMAT, whereas students who take the GRE can also apply to graduate programs in other fields. If you take a practice GMAT and a practice GRE and discover that you are better at the GMAT, you should definitely stick with that test (unless you are applying to dual degree programs and the GRE is accepted by both programs). Taking only one exam is a more efficient use of your time and more cost effective than studying for and taking both exams.
The Case for Taking the GRE
If you haven’t decided whether to go to business school or a different type of graduate program (or if you want to keep your options open until you find out where you’ve been accepted), it is probably better to take the GRE, as long as it is accepted by the business schools to which you are applying. This is particularly true if you have taken a practice exam for each test and scored higher on the GRE.
Which is Harder, GRE or GMAT?
When you apply to graduate school, your test scores should be as competitive as possible to give you the best chance of getting into your first choice school. Most experts agree that neither test is harder than the other, but that does not mean that you won’t perform better on one of them, given your particular skill set.
If your math skills are strong and you have little trouble with word problems, the GMAT may be slightly easier for you. Likewise, if you struggle with the finer points of vocabulary and language usage, the GMAT may be the better choice, given that the GRE contains reading comprehension passages, text completion, and sentence equivalence questions that can be trickier and more nuanced than the more straightforward Verbal questions on the GMAT.
On the other hand, if your math skills are weak in comparison to your verbal skills, you should consider taking the GRE because many students find the GRE Quantitative sections to be somewhat easier than the Quant sections on the GMAT.
A good way to determine which test you should take is to attempt a free practice exam of each. Two full-length GRE practice tests are available on the ETS website, and there are two full-length GMAT practice tests at www.mba.com, the official website of the GMAT.
How is the GRE different from the GMAT?
Although both tests share a number of similarities, there are a few important differences in their format, content, and scoring. The GRE and GMAT are both computer-adaptive tests, however, on the GMAT, the level of difficulty for each question you receive is based on whether or not you answered the previous question correctly. As a result, you cannot skip a question or come back to a question and change your answer later on.
By contrast, the GRE revised General Test is adaptive at the section level (as opposed to adapting to each individual question you answer). So, the difficulty of the second Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning section on your GRE will depend on how well you performed on the first section of that type. This also means that you can skip or go back to questions and change your answers within the same section.
The GRE revised General Test is designed to measure your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to determine your suitability for graduate study.
There are three parts to the GRE: A Verbal Reasoning section, a Quantitative Reasoning section, and an Analytical Writing section. (There is also an unidentifiable unscored section to test questions that may be used on future exams).
Analytical Writing Section: You are given two essay topics, including an “Analyze an Issue” task, and an “Analyze an Argument” task.
- The Analyze an Issue task evaluates your ability to think critically about claims made about a general topic and requires that you write a clear response according to specific instructions. You are typically asked to agree or disagree with the claim or statements and explain why.
- The Analyze an Argument essay task measures your ability to understand, analyze and evaluate an argument or line of reasoning and express your evaluation in writing. You must analyze and discuss the logical soundness of the argument that is given and determine if there is enough evidence in the text to support that argument.
Verbal Section: This section measures your ability to interpret and evaluate written material and understand the information contained within it, demands that you analyze relationships among the various parts of sentences, and requires you to identify relationships among words and concepts. There are three types of questions in this section:
- Reading Comprehension: You must read the passage and answer the questions that follow or click on a sentence in the passage that meets a certain description.
- Text Completion: You must fill in the blanks in sentences (you are given various options for each blank).
- Sentence Equivalence: You are asked to select two answers that complete a sentence that simultaneously fit the meaning as a whole and produce a sentence that is similar in meaning.
Quantitative Section: This section measures your ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems by using mathematical models, and apply basic mathematical concepts and skills based on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The revised GRE now includes an on-screen calculator for test-takers.
- Quantitative Comparison Questions: You must compare two quantities and determine the relationship between them.
- Problem Solving Questions: These involve basic math skills and concepts.
- Some PS questions are based on information provided a set of charts or graphs. These are called Data Interpretation Questions.
On the day of the exam, you will have slightly less than 4 hours (plus a 10 minute break) to complete the exam. The sections are timed as follows:
- Analytic Writing: 2 essay questions, 30 minutes for each section
- Verbal Reasoning: 2 sections of approximately 20 questions each, 30 minutes for each section
- Quantitative Reasoning: 2 sections of approximately 20 questions each, 35 minutes for each section
- Unscored Experimental section: either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative.
The GMAT aims to measure various analytical and problem solving skills along with other abilities that are considered critical in business and management.
There are four parts to the GMAT: the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay, an Integrated Reasoning (IR) section, a Quantitative section, and a Verbal section.
Each section of the GMAT contains specific types of questions.
AWA Section: Requires an analysis and critique of the reasoning behind a specific argument that is provided. This section measures critical thinking skills and your ability to communicate those in writing.
IR Section: Questions include graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, table analysis, and multi-source reasoning. This section measures your ability to integrate data to solve complex problems.
Quant Section: There are two types of questions, Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving. Data Sufficiency questions typically consist of a question and 2 statements of data, and you must decide if those statements provide enough data to answer the question. Problem solving questions require knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The Quant section attempts to test your content knowledge of essential math skills and measures how well you analyze data and use reasoning to draw conclusions.
Verbal Section: Consists of Reading Comprehension (RC) questions, Critical Reasoning (CR) questions, and Sentence Correction (SC) questions. RC questions evaluate how well you understand, analyze, and apply information and concepts based on reading a text. CR questions involve using reasoning skills to formulate and evaluate arguments and plans of action. For SC questions, you must determine which version of 5 possible sentences is the most grammatically correct.
On the day of the exam, you are given 3 1/2 hours to complete four sections of the exam:
- AWA: 30 minutes to write an essay on one topic.
- IR section: 30 minutes to answer 12 questions.
- Quant Section: 75 minutes to complete 37 questions.
- Verbal Section: 75 minutes to answer 41 questions.
How Long Should You Study?
As with any type of test, the amount of time students must study to achieve a good score varies widely among individuals. Those with a natural proclivity for taking standardized tests probably won’t have to study as much as those who are less adept at taking tests or not as confident in their mathematical or grammatical abilities. In addition, non-native speakers of English may need to study much longer than native speakers of English to perform well on the Verbal sections.
GMAT Study Hours
According to GMAC, just over half of all GMAT test takers in a 2013 prospective student survey studied at least 51 hours before they took the exam. The survey found that, on average, those who spent more time studying for the GMAT tended to perform better on the exam. The best gmat review courses offer hundreds of hours of study material for students to choose from, so prioritizing study schedules is a must!
GRE Study Hours
Most prep course companies recommend that you begin to study several weeks to a few months before taking the GRE to familiarize yourself with the different sections of the exam, take practice tests, and study those areas that need improvement. If you are still in school or a recent graduate and your math skills are decent, you may only need a few weeks of practice. If you struggle with the Verbal or Math sections in a free GRE practice test, you will want to study up to a few months to achieve your best score.
The quality of your study hours matters as much, if not more, than the number of hours you study. Targeted and consistent study for a specific amount of time each day over several weeks or months with quality materials will probably lead to greater success than studying too much in too little time right before you take the GRE.
How are the Exams Scored?
The GRE reports three different scores, one for each of the sections described above.
Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. Quantitative Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing score is reported on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments (for example, it is possible to get a 4.5 on the essay).
For more information about GRE scoring and reporting, click here.
The GMAT has a more complex scoring system than many other standardized tests.
The Quantitative and Verbal Sections are scored on a scale of 0-60. The Verbal and Quantitative scores are then combined into a total score on a scale of 200-800. These two sections are part of the computer adaptive test.
As you answer questions in one of these sections, computer software evaluates each answer, updates your score, and chooses the next question from a question bank by adapting to your apparent skill level. You may not skip or return to questions.
The AWA and IR Sections are not computer adaptive and are scored on a scale of 0-6 and 1-8, respectively. These two sections are scored separately, and are not included as a part of the 200-800 score for the combined Quant and Verbal sections.
GRE to GMAT Conversion
ETS provides a tool to help institutions (such as business schools) interpret GRE scores in comparison to GMAT scores more or less reliably. The GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools helps predict GMAT scores for applicants based on their GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Scores and is available on the ETS website. (ETS provides a predicted score range rather than specific scores because GRE scores may not be precisely equivalent to scores test-takers would achieve on the GMAT due to the measurement of error in both tests.)
There is no GMAT to GRE Conversion tool, but you can work your way backwards when you use the tool on the ETS website to approximate the scores you might receive on the GRE based on your specific GMAT scores.
Cost and Location
The GRE is less expensive than the GMAT, and it may be easier to find a testing center that administers the GRE. The computerized GRE is offered at Prometric test centers.
GRE Cost: The standard fee for an on-time registration for the GRE is $195.
GMAT Cost: The standard fee for scheduling the GMAT is $250.
The GRE is more widely available in cities and countries around the world than the GMAT, so, depending on your location, it may be more convenient to take the GRE.
Taking the GRE or GMAT is a key element of the graduate school application process. Admissions committees carefully consider test scores when they decide which candidates to accept to their programs.
Our advice is to do your homework and find out if the programs that interest you most prefer one test over the other. If they will accept either test, you should choose the test that most closely matches your plans for graduate school and your skill set. Once you decide on the test, consider enrolling in one of the many excellent online prep courses for the GRE or GMAT to maximize your score on either exam. We have done the research for you, all you have to do is pick the course that best suits your needs.
What are the differences between the GMAT and GRE?
|Best For||Applying To Business Schools||Applying To Graduate Schools|
|Length||3.5 hours||4 hours|