GMAT vs. GRE: Which Test Helps You the Most with Your University Admissions

by Daniela Dandes

If you plan to go to graduate school and follow programmes such as an MBA, then you already know that you will need to add a standardised test to your application arsenal. One of the most frequently asked questions regarding this part of the application process is: what kind of standardised test should I add to my portfolio? Should I study for the GMAT or the GRE? If I want to truly stand out from the crowd with my MBA application, which is the best option for me? 

Don’t worry, we have got you covered! We did the groundwork and gathered the most important facts about the GMAT and GRE tests, so you don’t have to. Let’s firstly learn more about what the GMAT and GRE tests are all about.

What is the GMAT?

According to The Economist, the Graduate Management Admissions Test or GMAT is a “standardized computer adaptive test (CAT), required as part of the application process to many MBA programs around the world. Officially, the GMAT measures skills in the fields of English, Mathematics, and analytical writing.”

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What is the GRE?

The Economist also defines the GRE or Graduate Record Examination as “a computer-administered test used by many graduate programs to assess potential applicants. The test is adaptive by section, meaning that your score in previous sections influences the difficulty of upcoming sections.”

GRE versus GMAT

GMAT vs. GRE at a glance

The reason why so many future students ask about the GMAT versus the GRE test is that, at first glance, they look very similar. Both are computer-administered, both can be used in the university admissions process, the prices to take the tests are similar, and the tested subjects are almost the same. So what are the main differences between the two types of standardised tests?

GMAT in a nutshell

Who is more likely to take this test: Students who want to apply to business school.

Cost: $250 (the price is the same for all GMAT test centres)

Is it globally available and recognised? Yes.

Tested areas:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Data interpretation
  • Word problems

A detailed overview of the tested content:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment—measures the ability to think critically and to communicate ideas
  • Integrated Reasoning—measures the ability to analyse data and evaluate information presented in multiple formats
  • Quantitative Reasoning—measures the ability to analyse data and draw conclusions using reasoning skills
  • Verbal Reasoning—measures the ability to read and understand written material, to evaluate arguments and to correct written material to conform to standard written English

Questions type:

  • Argument analysis
  • Graphics interpretation
  • Table analysis
  • Multi-source reasoning
  • Two-part analysis
  • Data sufficiency
  • Problem-solving

Can I use a calculator during the test? No calculator allowed.

Time per tested section:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 30 minutes for 1 question
  • Integrated Reasoning: 30 minutes for 12 questions
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 62 minutes for 31 questions
  • Verbal Reasoning: 65 minutes for 36 questions
  • Total time to take the test: 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Score range: 200 (low) - 800 (high).

The test results are valid for 5 years after taking the GMAT.

If you want to read more in-depth information about the GMAT and its different sections, check out our article on “Why accept the GMAT exam?

GRE vs. GMAT

GRE in a nutshell

Who is more likely to take this test: Students who want to apply for a Master’s degree, a PhD, or want to opt for a business school.

Cost: $205 (the price applies to test centres worldwide); there are certain countries that have their own price policy, different from the global one. Please check the official GRE website for more information on the test cost for your specific region.

Is it globally available and recognised? Yes.

Tested areas:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Data analysis
  • Word problems

A detailed overview of the tested content:

  • Verbal Reasoning - measures the ability to analyse and evaluate written material and synthesise information obtained from it, analyse relationships among component parts of sentences and recognise relationships among words and concepts;
  • Quantitative Reasoning - measures your basic mathematical skills, assesses your understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, together with the ability to reason quantitatively and to model and solve problems via quantitative methods;
  • Analytical Writing - assesses the ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion.

The GRE may include modified versions of verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning questions throughout the test.

  • Questions type:
  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Select-in-passage
  • Quantitative comparison questions
  • Numeric entry questions
  • Argument analysis
  • Issue analysis

Can I use a calculator during the test? Yes, a basic calculator is provided; you can use the calculator only during designated times throughout the test.

Time per tested section:

  • Verbal Reasoning: there are two 30-minute sections, each containing 20 questions
  • Quantitative Reasoning: There are two 35-minute sections, each containing 20 questions;
  • Analytical Writing: there are two 30-minute sections, one that contains the "Analyse an Issue" task and one that contains the "Analyse an Argument" task.
  • Total time to take the test: 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Score range: 260 (low) - 340 (high).

The test results are valid for 5 years after taking the GRE.

There are certain GRE test centres that offer the paper-delivered test instead of the computer-based version. The grading on both tests is the same.

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The GMAT advantage

If your goal is to get into a business school or apply for an MBA, then you can’t go wrong with the GMAT. As the test organisers have put it on the official GMAT website, this exam is known as “the most globally recognized indicator of your readiness for business school.” The test sections and the questions are specifically designed to suit business school programmes. That means that the skills that you are training when preparing for this test are the ones that you will eventually use during your future business and/or management courses.  

Wondering which business schools accept GMAT? Here are a few examples of business schools to which you can apply via our portal, free of cost:

The GRE advantage

In case you want to give yourself more options regarding your academic pursuits, then taking the GRE might be a better option for you. The GRE is more flexible when it comes to the circusmnstances in which you can use it. Some students use it during their university admission’s period, others use their GRE score for scholarships decisions. The GRE can also serve as a needed extra to prove your strong academic abilities, in case your other scores, such as the GPA, are not the highest.

Here are some universities where you can use your GRE scores to get into a Master’s programme:

Tips that help you ace the standardised test section of your MBA or graduate application process:

  1. Always check with your institution which tests they recommend you to take. Some graduate and business schools have clearly defined preferences for either the GMAT or the GRE.
  2. Understand what subjects you can pass with flying colours and which you would rather avoid. In the end, the whole purpose of the MBA or graduate programme application process is to put you in the spotlight and show your best self to the admissions’ board.
  3. Check which test is available in your area (where are the test centres). This can already help you when making the decision between the GRE and the GMAT tests.
  4. You’ll have to put in the hard work for both exams, no matter what test you end up taking.
  5. Practice both tests and see which one feels more comfortable according to your skills and competencies.

The most important takeaway is that you need to do some personal research to see what you truly want to do regarding your study direction and what suits you best. Whether you end up going for the GRE or GMAT, you will need to study smartly, to get the score that will allow you to live our your academic dreams.

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