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GRE vs GMAT: Which Test Should You Take?

If you’re planning to pursue a graduate degree in business or other fields, you’ll likely need to take a standardized test as part of your application process. The two most common options for graduate-level admissions are the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). But how do you choose between them? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the key differences between the GRE vs GMAT, considering various parameters, to help you make an informed decision.

Introduction to GRE and GMAT

Before diving into the comparison, let’s briefly introduce both tests.

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

The GRE is a standardized test widely accepted for admission into graduate programs in various fields, including business, social sciences, and the humanities. It measures your skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)

The GMAT is specifically designed for business school admissions. It assesses your skills in analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

GRE vs GMAT: Tabular Comparison

To decide which test is right for you, let’s analyze the key parameters and explore the differences between these two tests across various parameters:

PurposeAccepted by a wide range of graduate programs, including business schoolsPrimarily for MBA program admissions, but some business schools accept GRE
StructureAnalytical Writing Assessment, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative ReasoningAnalytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning
Scoring ScaleVerbal and Quantitative scores on a 130-170 scale (in one-point increments); Analytical Writing scored on a 0-6 scaleQuantitative and Verbal scores on a 0-60 scale (in one-point increments); Integrated Reasoning scored on a 1-8 scale; Analytical Writing scored on a 0-6 scale
Test DurationApproximately 3 hours and 45 minutes

The GRE consists of a 60-minute Analytical Writing section – with two essays at 30 minutes each. There are two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections. There are two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections. There’s also a 30-35 minute experimental section that can be either math or verbal.
Approximately 3 hours and 7 minutes

The GMAT consists of a 30-minute Analytical Writing section with one essay, a 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section, a 62-minute Quantitative section and a 65-minute Verbal section.
Test AvailabilityOffered throughout the year, with flexible schedulingAvailable year-round, but test dates may be less flexible
Score ValidityScores are valid for five yearsScores are valid for five years
Calculator UsageOn-screen calculator provided for Quantitative sectionNo calculator provided for Quantitative section
Content and DifficultyMore focused on vocabulary and reading comprehension; includes advanced math conceptsEmphasizes data analysis, critical reasoning, and business-related content
Score ReportingOption to send only preferred scores to schoolsSchools receive all scores from the last five years

GRE vs GMAT: Detailed Comparison

Now that we have a clear understanding of the parameters, let’s dive deeper into each aspect to help you decide which test aligns better with your goals.

Purpose of the Test

The first consideration when choosing between the GRE vs GMAT is your intended graduate program. If you’re applying to a business school, the GMAT is often the preferred choice. However, if your graduate program is not business-related, the GRE is more versatile and widely accepted across various disciplines. It’s important to check the specific requirements of the programs you’re interested in.

Suggestion: If you’re certain about pursuing a business-related graduate degree, opt for the GMAT. For other fields, consider the GRE for its broader acceptance.

GRE vs GMAT: Sections and Structure

Both the GRE and GMAT consist of multiple sections that assess different skills. Understanding the structure of each test can help you determine which one aligns better with your strengths and preferences.

GRE Structure:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Measures your ability to understand written material and evaluate arguments.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses your math skills and problem-solving abilities.
  • Analytical Writing: Requires you to analyze and evaluate complex issues and arguments.

GMAT Structure:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: Involves analyzing the reasoning behind a given argument and writing a critique.
  • Integrated Reasoning: Assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in different formats.
  • Quantitative: Measures your mathematical skills and problem-solving abilities.
  • Verbal: Evaluates your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction skills.
Analytical Writing0-6 in half-point increments0-6 in half-point increments
Quantitative Reasoning6-51 in 1-point increments130-170 in 1-point increments
Verbal Reasoning6-51 in 1-point increments130-170 in 1-point increments
Integrated Reasoning1-8 in 1-point incrementsN/A
TOTALScores range from 200-800Scores range from 260-340

Suggestion: If you have a strong preference for or excel in a particular type of section, consider which test aligns better with your strengths. For example, if you’re comfortable with complex math problems, the GMAT might be a good fit.


The content of the GRE vs GMAT differs significantly, reflecting their respective focuses. Understanding the content can help you assess your readiness for each test.

GRE Content:

  • Vocabulary: Requires a strong vocabulary for the Verbal Reasoning section.
  • Reading Comprehension: Tests your ability to understand and analyze written passages.
  • Math: Covers arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

GMAT Content:

  • Critical Reasoning: Involves analyzing and evaluating arguments.
  • Data Sufficiency: Assesses your ability to determine if given data is sufficient to answer a question.
  • Sentence Correction: Tests your grammar and language skills.
  • Integrated Reasoning: Requires interpreting and synthesizing information from various sources.

Suggestion: Assess your comfort level with the content of each test and choose the one that aligns with your strengths.

Math Complexity

If math isn’t your strong suit, you may want to consider the level of math complexity in each test. The GMAT is known for its challenging quantitative section, which includes data sufficiency questions that can be particularly tricky.

GRE Math:

  • Generally considered to have less complex math questions.
  • Emphasizes a broad range of math skills.

GMAT Math:

  • Includes challenging math questions, especially in the data sufficiency section.
  • Focuses on problem-solving skills relevant to business and management.

Suggestion: If you’re not confident in your math abilities, the GRE may be a more comfortable choice. However, if you’re applying to business school, be prepared to tackle the GMAT’s math challenges.

Admissions Requirement: GRE vs GMAT

Consider the specific admissions requirements of the programs you’re applying to. While some programs accept both the GRE and GMAT, others may have a preference for one test over the other.

Suggestion: Check the admissions requirements of your target programs and choose the test that aligns with their preferences. If they accept both, consider which test plays to your strengths.

Score Range

Both the GRE and GMAT use different scoring scales, and understanding the scoring system is crucial for interpreting your results accurately.

GRE Scoring:

  • Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 130-170 in one-point increments


  • Analytical Writing is scored on a scale of 0-6 in half-point increments.

GMAT Scoring:

  • Quantitative and Verbal sections are scored on a scale of 0-60 in one-point increments.
  • Integrated Reasoning is scored on a scale of 1-8 in one-point increments.
  • Analytical Writing Assessment is scored on a scale of 0-6 in half-point increments.

Suggestion: Compare your scores on practice tests for both exams to understand how they translate to each test’s scale. This will give you a better sense of your potential scores.

Time Allocation

Consider the time required for each test, including breaks, as well as the timing of your application deadlines.

GRE Time Allocation:

  • Approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes, including breaks.

GMAT Time Allocation:

  • Approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes, including breaks.

Suggestion: Ensure that you have ample time to prepare for the test before your application deadlines. Consider your own stamina for test-taking when evaluating the time allocation.

Score Validity

Both the GRE and GMAT scores are valid for five years. This means you can use your scores for graduate school applications for up to five years after taking the test.

Suggestion: If you plan to apply to graduate programs within the next five years, the score validity of either test should not be a deciding factor.


Cost can be a significant factor for many test-takers, especially considering the expenses associated with the application process.

Suggestion: Compare the registration fees for both tests and factor in any additional costs, such as study materials or retake fees, when making your decision.

Score Sending

Consider how the score sending process works for each test. The convenience of sending scores to multiple schools can be a deciding factor.

GRE Score Sending:

  • You can send scores to multiple schools for free on test day.

GMAT Score Sending:

  • You can send scores to up to five schools for free on test day.

Suggestion: If you plan to apply to multiple schools, the cost savings associated with score sending might influence your decision.

GRE vs GMAT: Recommendations

After considering all the parameters, which test should you choose—GRE or GMAT? Here are some recommendations based on different scenarios:

  1. Business School Bound: If you are certain about pursuing a business-related graduate degree and the majority of your target schools require the GMAT, it’s advisable to prepare for and take the GMAT.
  2. Non-Business Graduate Programs: If your aspirations lie in fields outside of business, the GRE offers greater flexibility and is widely accepted across various disciplines.
  3. Math Skills: If you have strong math skills and enjoy challenging math problems, you may excel in the GMAT’s quantitative section. However, if math is not your forte, the GRE’s math section is considered less complex.
  4. Content Preference: Consider your comfort level with the content of each test. If you have a preference for certain types of questions (e.g., data analysis or critical reasoning), choose the test that aligns with your strengths.
  5. Cost and Convenience: Factor in the cost of registration, study materials, and score sending. Additionally, consider the convenience of sending scores to multiple schools for free.
  6. Time Available: Ensure you have enough time to prepare for the test before your application deadlines.

Ultimately, the choice between the GRE vs GMAT should align with your career goals, strengths, and the requirements of your target graduate programs. Take the time to assess your readiness and explore practice materials for both tests before making your decision. Remember that thorough preparation is key to success on either exam. Good luck with your graduate school journey!

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