Deciding Between The GRE And GMAT For Business School

Time to make a decision about which test to take for your MBA application. The good news is you have options. But deciding whether to take the GRE or the GMAT requires research and self-reflection!

Time to make a decision about which test to take for your MBA application. And you, my friend, are quite lucky, because you have a choice. Not too long ago, the only option for aspiring MBAs was the GMAT. But now more and more schools are accepting GRE scores.

So how do you decide which one to take? First, you’ll need to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and then think about your schools.

Let’s take a look.            

Depends on your schools (Part 1)

At the risk of stating the obvious, don’t assume your programs will accept both GRE and GMAT scores. Although it’s becoming more and more common for b schools to accept the GRE, not all schools do. So take a moment to check.

Play to your strengths

If you have the opportunity to highlight your strengths, do it. The GRE and GMAT are similar. Both test math, verbal and writing skills. Both tests are hard, but questions like: how hard is the GRE? And, how hard is the GMAT? Shouldn’t really factor into your decision.

Rather, you should be asking: which test will highlight my strengths?

For instance, the GRE places more emphasis on academic vocabulary than the GMAT. The latter tests students’ knowledge of grammar and style, while the GRE does not.

The GRE has a few questions based on arguments, but the GMAT places greater emphasis on argument analysis with Critical Reasoning questions.

Also, the GMAT math tends to be harder than the GRE math. Scoring in the 90th percentile for quant on the GMAT is much harder than doing so on the GRE.

If you know that you struggle with math, but everyone comes to you when they need to know the definition of a word, you may want to take the GRE.

But if you are always calculating the bill for friends at dinner, and have a strong understanding of the subtleties of English grammar and style, you may want to take the GMAT.

Comparison conundrum

If you are unsure, take a practice exam for both tests. You can take a free GMAT and a free GRE test and compare how you do.

You’ll have a sense of what test was harder after finishing, but you don’t want to base your decision on a sense. Comparing scores for the two tests won’t work, though. The GMAT has its own scoring conventions and these are not the same as the GRE.

To properly compare the two, use a GRE to GMAT score conversion. This will take your GRE-scaled score and translate it into a GMAT-scaled score.

Perhaps even more informative than translating one score into another is comparing the percentile ranking for your practice tests. Look at the GMAT score percentiles for your scaled scores and do the same for your GRE scores. See what your percentile ranking is for Verbal and Quant on the GMAT and compare that to your percentile ranking for Verbal and Quant on the GRE.

This will tell you how you compare with other test takers – and give you a better sense of your level.

Depends on your schools (Part 2)

After taking a practice test, you’ll have a better sense of what test to take. But before you buy a test prep book, research your prospective programs to see how they handle the GRE and the GMAT.

Some schools are still trying to come up with a good way of comparing GRE and GMAT scores and others simply use the ETS Conversion Tool. Try to determine what the school feels more comfortable with. Figure out if they have a way of converting scores from the GRE to the GMAT. Use this information to make a decision.

A final consideration

Not vital to your decision, but something worth considering— price. The GMAT is a tad more expensive, at $250, than the GRE, at $185. This may seem negligible, but remember that you might have to re-take the test to raise your score.

Also, consider that the preparation material and classes for the GMAT tend to be more expensive than the GRE.


Deciding which test to take requires time and work. You’ll need to take a practice test for each test and compare the two. You’ll need to think about which test plays to your strengths and weaknesses. And you’ll need to do a little research to find out how your schools handle GRE scores.

By the end of all this, you’ll have a clear idea of which test you should take.

And that’s the easy part. Now, you have to prepare and take the test. Happy studying!

This post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

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