GRE vs GMAT

Getting into graduate school is tough and confusing, not the least because there are several different tests you might need to take in order to qualify for a given program. Further compounding the difficulty is the lack of clear distinctions between the GRE and the GMAT. Oftentimes, graduate students wonder which of these tests they should take and what separates them in the first place.

Today, let’s go over both of these advanced tests and explore what they are, how you can take them, which one you should take, and any practice resources that might exist.

GRE vs GMAT: Highlights

 In the table below we highlight the differences between the GRE and GMAT. For more in-depth discussion, read the details below the table.

   GRE  GMAT
Who Accepts It? Most Grad School Programs
Some MBA Programs (950+ in US)
All MBA Programs (3,000+)
Some Grad School Programs 
Cost $205 $275
Test Sections Analytical Writing: 1 section/60 minutes
Verbal Reasoning: 40 questions/60 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning: 40 questions/70 minutes 
Analytical Writing Assessment: 1 question/30 minutes
Integrated Reasoning: 12 questions/30 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning: 31 questions/62 minutes
Verbal Reasoning: 36 questions/65 minutes
Test Length 3 hours 45 minutes 3 hours 30 minutes
Scoring Section scores (verbal and quant) range from 130 to 170 in 1 point increments. Writing is scored separately. Total scores range from 200 to 800 in 10 point increments. Writing and Integrated Reasoning are scored separately. 
Score Percentiles Top 10%: 162 verbal/167 quant
Median (50%): 151 verbal/153 quant
Top 10%: 710
Median (50%): 590
How Long Scores are Good For?  5 years  5 years
Difficulty Verbal, vocabulary and writing are more challenging. Generally easier than the GMAT. Math is extremely challenging for most.  Emphasis on grammar.
Who Should Take It? If you are applying to both grad school and MBA programs and have strong verbal skills. If you are applying only to MBA programs and are strong quantitatively.  Top business programs, investment banks and recruiters may place more weight on GMAT scores.
Best Ways to Prepare Free GRE Practice Tests
Best GRE Prep Courses
Free GMAT Practice Tests
Best GMAT Prep Courses

What is the GRE?

The GRE (which stands for Graduate Record Examinations) is a common graduate school requirement examination that has three major sections. These sections cover Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The test as a whole measures your critical thinking and ability to apply your knowledge in situations other than rote memorization tests.

The analytical writing section has two essays and the test provides you with 30 minutes to write each one. Both of the other two sections are comprised of two 20 question sections for 80 multiple-choice questions in total. You get 35 minutes each for the quantitative reasoning sections and 30 minutes each for the verbal reasoning sections.

An additional 20 question research section is included in either the verbal or quantitative sections, so you get another block of either 30 or 35 minutes to complete it. These questions aren’t added to your score and are used to improve the GRE for the future.

The GRE is scored in different ways depending on the section. The analytical writing section is scored from 0 to 6 and includes half-point increments (i.e. you can get a 4.5 or similar). The other two sections are scored from 130 to 170. Importantly, your GRE scores are not combined into a single total score but are saved separately on your record. Because of this, schools may require certain GRE scores in certain parts of the test depending on their subject or priority.

The GRE is normally taken on a computer and adapts to your answers so that it’s never too easy. For instance, if you do well during the first section of the verbal reasoning stage, the second section will be harder or challenge you with different information on the same subject.

Thus, the GRE in total has:

  • two essays and around 100 multiple-choice questions (80 scored and 20 unscored)
  • six sections in total
  • three hours and 45 minutes required for completion
  • separate scoring for each section

Who Looks for GRE Scores?

The GRE is a standard advanced test looked for by the majority of graduate-level programs in universities regardless of major. While it's true that some graduate programs don't require GRE scores, most graduate applications will benefit from high scores from this test.

The GRE is accepted at many (950+) business schools and is usually required for any STEM degree.

What is the GMAT?

The GMAT (which stands for Graduate Management Admission Test) is another type of advanced test designed for those who plan to attend business school or an MBA program. It’s used almost exclusively for admission into these programs, although a few other STEM programs are starting to incorporate the GMAT into their admission requirements.

The GMAT is separated into four sections: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. The analytical writing portion consists of a single 30-minute essay. The following sections are comprised of 12, 31 and 36 questions each. You get one hour for each of those sections, totaling 3.5 hours for the entire test.

The GMAT is also an adaptive exam taken over the computer, meaning that it will adapt to your answers and become more challenging or relevant as you move from section to section.

Unlike the GRE, the GMAT does have a composite (total) score. This score can range from 200-800, and it takes your scores from the verbal and quantitative sections into account. These sections have score ranges of 0 to 60.

The analytical writing and integrated reasoning scores are not included in the composite total. These have score ranges from 0 to 6 (which allows for half-point increments) and 1 to 8 (which does not allow for half-point increments).

In total, the GMAT has:

  • 80 multiple-choice questions and one essay
  • 3.5 hours total for completion
  • composite scoring for two sections
  • four sections in total

Who Looks for GMAT Scores?

The GMAT is primarily used for business school applications and MBA programs. Thus, the majority of universities that will ask for GMAT scores are those well-known for their business programs or may simply prefer this exam over the GRE. It may also be accepted by other universities for other programs but will not affect an applicant’s chances for acceptance.

How to Take the GRE

The GRE costs $205 to take the standard test spread, with additional fees and costs for other services or if you take the test in a country other than the US. Once taken, you can take the GRE an additional five times every 21 days over a continuous 12 month period. This allows students to improve upon their scores and study for particular sections if they aren’t pleased with their initial results.

The GRE is taken on the computer and you can return to questions that you’ve already answered within a section, although you cannot go back to previous sections you’ve completed.

How to Take the GMAT

The GMAT costs $275 for US students and costs more for international students. You can take the GMAT once every 16 calendar days and five times total over a rolling 12 month period. Additionally, the GMAT has a lifetime limit that only allows you to take the test eight times in total. This means an individual can’t improve their score beyond what they get within the first eight attempts, making subsequent attempts extremely important.

The GMAT is also taken over the computer. Unlike the GRE, you can’t go back to previous questions after you’ve answered them. You also cannot return to previously completed sections.

Which Test is Easier, GRE or GMAT?

Both tests can be challenging based on how well you have prepared for them beforehand and your natural talent. Studying the right materials before attempting either exam will result in a better experience and higher score regardless.

In general, the GRE is considered easier than the GMAT. To determine which will be easier for you, you can look at the types of questions and knowledge that make up each exam. The GRE focuses on your critical thinking and primarily tests your vocabulary in context. 

On the flip side, the GMAT is a more flexible exam designed to bring up the creativity in its takers. It asks its takers to interpret data and solve complex problems and explain their reasoning more than the GRE does. The GRE incorporates a more straightforward math section and includes a calculator for its quantitative problems, while the GMAT does not. The GMAT's quant section is considered more challenging than the GRE's.

BEST GRE or GMAT Prep Resources

There are multiple online exam prep resources you can take advantage of to study for either exam:

GRE vs GMAT- Which One Should I Take?

Firstly, consider what type of graduate degree will be pursuing. If you are planning to apply to business school or an MBA program, you automatically must take the GMAT for the majority of top-level business programs. On the other hand, you can take the GRE if you aren’t taking a business program and think that you will be able to master its material more easily based on its design (described above).

If you have a choice between both, it may be wise to practice both the GRE and GMAT tests using the above materials and see which test you perform better with. You can then dedicate more efforts toward studying for the better test and use your time efficiently.

GRE vs GMAT infographic

Conclusion

All in all, both the GRE and the GMAT may be required material for you to complete and submit scores for over the course of your application. However, we’d recommend focusing on taking one or the other depending on the type of program you want to join and your skillset. This will allow you to focus your efforts on one test and do well instead of stretching yourself too thin. Good luck and remember to practice!