GMAT vs GRE: Which One Should You Take?

It’s a classic grad school matchup: the GMAT vs GRE. So, which one should you take?

There are several business schools that readily accept either. And, no matter whether you pick the GRE or the GMAT, they are the ideal platforms on which to showcase your academic potential. According to a survey done by Kaplan Test Prep in 2016, 73% of business school admissions officers said that both GMAT and GRE test-takers were treated equally when considering them for admission.

Therefore, it sounds like the choice is mostly up to you. To help you make that choice, we’ll explain the distinct features, pros, and cons of each exam.

GMAT vs GRE: Cost

Registration

The registration fee for the GMAT is $250, while the fee is $195 for the GRE. However, if you’re able to prove your financial inability to afford the GRE, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) might be more flexible about the test fee. And if you want to change a subject in the subject test, it will cost $50 extra.

Prep Cost

You can get away with paying nothing at all for your GMAT prep by using free online resources to study on your own. If you do choose to study with a few books, those will cost between $20 and $200. And if you decide to invest in an online course, that would set you back anywhere from $250 to $1,000 or more. A live course you attend in a classroom can cost upwards of $1,000-$2,000.

Study materials for the GRE will cost you $160-170.

GMAT vs GRE: Test Format

GMAT

The GMAT has 4 different sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning

GRE

The GRE consists of 6 sections:

  • Analytical Writing (1)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (2)
  • Verbal Reasoning (2)
  • Unscored or Research (1)

These additional details about the scoring, structure, and individual sections of the 2 exams can further aid your decision about which exam to take.

Scoring and Structure

GMAT GRE
Length 3 hours and 30 minutes 3 hours and 45 minutes
Number of Essays 1 2
Number of Multiple-Choice Questions 90 80 (+ questions in the unscored or research section)
Number of Sections 4 6
Composite Scoring Composite GMAT score ranges from 200-800 in 10-point increments The Analytical Writing section score scale is 0-6 in .5-point increments. The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections each have score ranges of 130-170 in 1-point increments. The total score ranges from 260-346.
Cost $250 $205
Validity Period 5 years 5 years

Verbal Section – GMAT vs GRE

GMAT GRE
Total Sections 1 2
Total Number of Verbal Questions 36 40 (20 questions in each section)
Duration 65 minutes 60 minutes (30 minutes per section)
Question Types Reading comprehension, critical reasoning, sentence correction Analyze and draw conclusions; select important points; understand the meaning of words, sentences, and entire texts
Score range 0-60 130-170

Quantitative Section – GMAT vs GRE

GMAT GRE
Number of sections 2 (Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning) 2
Number of questions 49 (31 for Quantitative section, 12 for Integrated Reasoning) 40 (20 questions in each section)
Duration 105 minutes total (62 minutes for Quantitative, 30 minutes for Integrated Reasoning) 60 minutes total (30 minutes per section)
Topics included Quantitative – Data sufficiency, problem solving
Integrated Reasoning – Multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, 2-part analysis, table analysis
Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Data Analysis
Score range Quantitative – 6-51 (1-point increments)
Integrated Reasoning – 1-8 (1-point increments)
130-170

Analytical Writing – GMAT vs GRE

GMAT GRE
Total number of writing sections 1 1
Total number of questions 1 2
Length 30 minutes Two 30-minute sections
Topics included Analysis of an argument Analyze an issue, analyze an argument
Score range 0-6 (in .5-point increments) 0-6 (in .5-point increments)

GMAT vs GRE: Additional Points to Consider

Now that you know about the cost and formats of these tests, you’ll want to consider a few other important factors before you decide which one to take.

Your Preferred Institution’s Preferences

You probably have one or two business schools that you prefer above all the others. These are the schools you’d really like to get in to. You know which schools you like best, but do you know which test these schools like best? Does the business school of your dreams favor one test over the other? Some business schools want to see a GMAT score on their applications, while some look for the GRE score specifically. But still others give both the GMAT and GRE scores equal weight. So, you just have to figure out what the school you want to go to wants. Once you’re aware of this information, you can make the right choice of tests.

Your Math Skills

The amount of math each test involves might be a deal breaker for some of us. If you’re not particularly capable with and/or fond of mathematics, you would probably prefer to take the GRE instead of the GMAT. The math questions are generally much easier on the GRE, so you don’t have to feel so intimidated. If you do possess strong math skills, you could choose to take both tests and thereby increase your chances of getting into any business school you want. Additionally, taking the GMAT would also be wise if you hope to enroll in a math-heavy program, as such a program will most likely be more impressed with a GMAT score than a GRE score.

Your English Abilities

Yet another way to break the tie between the GRE and the GMAT is to consider the amount of English ability they require. If you don’t know English very well, then the GMAT is the test for you. According to test experts, the GRE will probably overwhelm you with its obscenely challenging verbal section. On the other hand, the GMAT is not so difficult for non-native English speakers. The GRE really cracks the whip with its verbal reasoning section, whereas the GMAT’s verbal section is much easier to get through.

Your Career Goals

There are a few specific career paths you could pursue for which a GMAT score would be essential. For example, if you’re planning to become a management consultant. Or, if you aim to work for a consulting firm or an investment banking firm. But, for any other kind of job, a solid GRE score will suffice.

Your Ability to Deal with Test Anxiety

As with any big test, taking either the GRE or the GMAT will make you anxious, but one more so than the other. The GMAT will, in fact, make your palms sweat more than the GRE because the GMAT does not let test takers mark and return to questions in each section. Because you can mark and return to questions in the GRE, you experience less stress as you test, and you can submit your answers for each section with more confidence.

Furthermore, the GRE allows you to move back and forth between questions, skipping some if necessary, and this is also very effective in reducing anxiety and stress. On the other hand, the GMAT can leave you feeling stuck, as you’re not sure if you should move on or keep working on a tricky question, and in these moments, you may be tempted to panic. Doing so could, of course, negatively affect your test scores, so you must try to resist. Or, you could just take the GRE, as you can fix your mistakes on this test and have a more positive experience.

GMAT vs GRE: The Choice

Hopefully, you can use this information to determine who will win in your personal matchup of the GMAT vs GRE. There is a lot to consider, so give the decision some time and consideration. Otherwise, you may end up wasting money if you have to change your plans.

If you discover that the GMAT is best for you, give yourself the best chance to earn the score you want by using a GMAT prep course. 

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