GRE vs. GMAT: the question is, which route will you take—graduate school or business school? The GRE is the primary test required for admission for most MA/PhD programs, but if you are applying to business school, you likely have the choice between taking the GMAT or the GRE as many schools accept both. As you decide which test to take—GMAT or GRE—here’s what you need to know:
Deciding between the GMAT and GRE
Of course, the ultimate determinant is whether the MBA programs to which you’re applying accept both tests or indicate a preference for one.
The GMAT and GRE are, in many ways, nearly identical:
- Both involve early high school-level math.
- Both rely heavily on reading comprehension.
- Both require essay-writing at the beginning of the test.
But there are notable differences between the GMAT and GRE:
|Where is it Accepted?||Accepted at 1200+ business schools worldwide||Accepted by all business schools|
|Unique Quantitative Section||Quantitative Comparisons||Data Sufficiency|
|Unique Verbal Section||Sentence Equivalence & Text Completion||Sentence Correction & Critical Reasoning|
|Better for Which Test-Takers?||Better for “number-crunching” thinkers. Also, the GRE relies heavily on testing vocabulary in context. If that’s your strength, consider taking the GRE to show off your skills.||Better for “creative/flexible” thinkers. Many test-takers find the GMAT Quantitative section more challenging.|
|Test Structure||Analytical Writing sections: two 30-minute essays; Verbal Reasoning: two 30-minute sections; Quantitative Reasoning: two 35-minute sections (if taking computer-based GRE); one 30 or 35-minute experimental section||Analytical Writing (1 essay): 30 minutes; Integrated Reasoning section: 30 minutes; Quantitative: 62 minutes; Verbal: 65 minutes|
|Test Format||Computer-based Multi-Stage Test (MST) for most test-takers (can be taken on paper in some locations).||Computer-adaptive test (CAT)|
|Total Testing Time||3 hours 45 minutes||3 hours 7 minutes plus two optional 8-minute breaks|
|Scoring||Scores for each section range from 130-170 in 1 point increments for verbal and quantitative reasoning. The Analytical Writing section is scored separately.||Total score ranges from 200-800. Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing are scored separately.|
|Cost||$205 USD||$275 USD|
|How Long is Your Score Good For?||5 years||5 years|
If you don’t know what you’d like to pursue today, but are fairly confident you’ll take that next step in the next five years, consider taking your standardized test while you’re still in school or shortly after. Your GMAT and GRE scores are both good for five years and the best time to take either test is while your basic math is still fresh and you are already in the habit of studying every day.
GMAT vs. GRE: Make Your Choice
Consider the following while deciding which test to take:
- If you’re unsure which path you’ll pursue, take the GRE. It will keep all your doors open, as many business schools accept both the GRE and GMAT.
- While many business schools will accept both the GRE and GMAT, the admissions committee may prefer that applicants take the GMAT. Do your research and ask around.
- If you don’t have a strong track record of working with numbers and quantitative analysis, consider taking the GMAT. Although both the GRE and GMAT rely on the same basic high school-level math, the GMAT’s Quantitative section is more focused on word problems, rather than straightforward math, and the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section will test your data interpretation skills. Also, GMAT questions typically have easier numbers to work with than those on the GRE. The GMAT is also more forgiving in the way it is scored—to get a high score on the GRE, you need to get practically every question right, whereas you can get many high difficulty GMAT questions wrong, and still get a comparably high score.
- Take the test you’re most comfortable with and on which you’ll perform the best. To gain admission to competitive MBA and graduate programs, you’ll want to apply with the highest percentile score you can. The easiest way to see which test you like best is to take a practice or a diagnostic exam. You’ll get a good feel for each exam’s structure, content, and timing.
Even though many business schools accept both the GMAT and GRE for admission, think about your post-MBA plans. If you’re looking to get into finance or consulting, beware that some of the top firms will look at your GMAT score as an element of your recruitment.
Retaking or Cancelling the GMAT vs. GRE
In an ideal world, you’ll take the test you feel best about, hit your target score, and apply to the graduate programs of your dreams with confidence. But things can happen and you may not get the score you want on your first try. Luckily, both the GMAT and GRE test makers make it possible to repeat the exams if needed without jeopardizing your application. Get familiar with the GMAT’s score cancellation policy and the GRE’s ScoreSelect option.
When you complete your GMAT, you will see your unofficial GMAT scores–Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Total. You will then have two minutes to decide whether to cancel or accept your score. Before you sit for your exam, set a goal score for yourself. If you score below your goal, you can cancel your score and retest in as little as 16 days.
If you’re taking the GRE, the ScoreSelect option allows you to send your best “day” to schools, meaning you can take the test multiple times and send your best performance. You won’t be able to “split” or “superscore” your exam. Unlike the GMAT, if you cancel your test at the testing center, you won’t see how you did. You can test again in 21 days. It’s important to note that every time you take the GMAT or GRE, you will need to pay the exam fee again (which can really add up!), so don’t use the real thing as practice.