But what is the difference between the GRE and the GMAT Focus Edition? Which test is better for MBA candidates? And is the GRE easier than the GMAT Focus Edition?
The GMAT Focus Edition, owned and administrated by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), is designed specifically for business school candidates and is the most widely used exam for MBA admissions. More than 200,000 MBA and master’s candidates take the GMAT each year.
The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test, by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), can be used to apply to a variety of graduate degree programs, including business and law. The GRE General Test is available at more than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries.
Both the GMAT Focus Edition and the ETS GRE help business schools assess your suitability for MBA and master’s programs but do so in different ways.
In this BusinessBecause special feature, we give you a comprehensive breakdown of the differences between the GMAT Focus Edition and GRE, covering exam structure, cost, test prep, and more.
Read on or skip to your section of interest by clicking the links below:
GMAT Focus Edition vs GRE: Exam Structure
The GMAT Focus Edition is two hours, 15 minutes long, and you can take advantage of one optional 10-minute break.
The GRE General Test is one hour, 58 minutes in length. There is no break provided.
In terms of the exam structure, the two tests differ, with the GMAT Focus comprising three sections while the GRE test has five. Below is a breakdown of the two test structures.
GMAT Focus Edition structure
The GMAT Focus Edition Quantitative Reasoning section tests your ability to solve mathematical problems. You have to demonstrate your knowledge of arithmetic and algebra, though advanced math skills are not required.
GMAT Focus Edition Verbal Reasoning tests how you read and understand written material and evaluate arguments given in a passage.
GMAT Focus Edition Data Insights evaluates your data and information analysis skills across multiple formats. You have to demonstrate the ability to integrate data to solve complex problems.
You can choose to take the GMAT Focus Edition in any order you want. All three sections are computer-adaptive, meaning the test tailors the difficulty of each question based on your previous answers.
The first question will be medium difficulty, but from then on, the computer will score your answer and select the next question according to your scores.
At the end of each section, you can take advantage of the Question Review & Edit feature to review as many questions as you want and change up to three answers per question.
The GRE Analytical Writing section tests your critical thinking skills. You’re presented with an issue to analyze and asked to present your own analysis.
The two GRE Verbal Reasoning sections test your ability to analyze writing and understand the meaning of a text. You read passages and summarize the meaning of sections, sentences, and phrases. Words are omitted from passages and you have to make replacement suggestions that maintain the coherence of the sentence.
The two GRE Quantitative Reasoning sections consist of either independent, standalone questions or questions about a specific dataset, designed to test your ability to analyze quantitative information using arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and data analysis.
You are not allowed to use your own calculator for the GMAT Focus Edition or GRE math questions. You can however use a calculator provided to you throughout the GRE test.
For the GMAT Focus Edition, a calculator is provided for use during the Data Insights section only. For the GMAT Focus Edition Quantitative Reasoning section, you are provided with note boards and markers to work out your calculations.
GMAT Focus vs GRE Scoring
GMAT Focus Edition test-takers receive an overall score between 205 (the lowest possible score) and 805 (the highest possible score).
Your GMAT Focus Edition score is based on your scores for all three sections of the exam. These are graded between 60 and 90.
GRE test takers come away with three different scores, one for each section of the exam. Verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections are scored between 130 and 170, in 1-point increments. The analytical writing score is scored between 0 and 6, in 0.5-point increments.
The highest GRE score you can achieve is 340 for verbal and quant combined and 6 for analytical writing.
After your test, you also receive information about what percentile your score falls into, comparing your performance with recent test takers. If you fall in the 99th percentile on the GMAT Focus Edition, for example, you’ve typically performed better than 99% of test takers. GMAT Focus Edition and GRE percentiles data is recalculated each year using data from the previous three years.
Both GMAT Focus Edition and GRE scores are valid for five years. You’ll receive your official GRE score about eight to 10 days after your test date.
You'll receive your official GMAT Focus Edition score within three to five days although you can view your unofficial score immediately after finishing the exam.
What is a good GMAT Focus or GRE score?
Getting what the top business schools regard as a good GMAT Focus Edition score takes practice.
When deciding what GMAT Focus Edition score to aim for, it’s worth assessing the class average score and GMAT Focus Edition score range for your target schools.
Class average GMAT Focus Edition scores for the top MBA programs tend to be in the 86th percentile or higher, although scores submitted by accepted MBA students tend to range from around 44th to 99th percentiles.
This means a wide range of candidates with a GMAT Focus Edition score are often accepted into the same MBA class.
You should take the same approach with the GRE. For the Harvard MBA, for example, the median GRE score for both quant and verbal is 163.
Test-takers globally record average GRE scores of 150.37 on verbal reasoning, 153.39 on quantitative reasoning, and 3.58 on analytical writing.
GMAT Focus Edition vs GRE Cost
When delivered at a test center in the United States and Canada the GMAT Focus Edition costs $275.
The cost of the GMAT Focus Edition varies depending on your test location and local currency. The GMAT Focus Edition costs €275 in mainland Europe. In the UK, the GMAT Focus Edition costs £250. In India, the GMAT Focus Edition costs $275. You pay additional fees for rescheduling.
The GMAT Focus Edition delivered online costs $300 worldwide.
The GRE exam is priced slightly lower at $220 for most regions, including the US and Canada. The GRE is the same price whether you take the test in a test center or online.
You can take both the GMAT Focus Edition and GRE online from your home. These online versions of the traditional test center exams were launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The GMAT Focus Edition delivered online is available globally, excluding Mainland China, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea. The GRE online test, the GRE General Test at Home, is available in the same locations as the GRE General Test.
For both tests, a human proctor monitors you via a live video feed for the duration of the exam to ensure you can’t cheat. You can take the tests on a PC or Mac.
The GMAT Focus Edition and GRE online tests are identical to the test center versions in terms of exam structure and score scales.
The GRE at Home test is identical to the test center GRE, with the same section order and on-screen experience.
Taking the GMAT Focus Edition or GRE online gives you added flexibility if you don’t live close to a test center or simply prefer to sit an exam from the comfort of your home.
GMAT Focus Edition vs GRE Prep
Whichever test you decide to take, preparing for the GMAT Focus Edition or GRE can be a stressful experience. Luckily, there are plenty of test prep resources out there, and the more practice questions you complete the more confident you will feel on the day.
When starting your GMAT Focus Edition test prep, take advantage of the prep resources offered by GMAC. The annual GMAT Focus Edition Official Guide is the most comprehensive GMAT Focus Edition prep book around.
The GMAT Focus Edition Official Guide is also the only GMAT Focus Edition test prep guide that uses real questions. The guide is updated each year and includes an Online Diagnostic Evaluation that allows you to assess your strengths and weaknesses for a more strategic approach to prep.
If you want to focus on one particular area, GMAT Focus Edition prep books focused on each section of the GMAT exam are available from GMAC and test prep experts like Manhattan Prep.
For additional support, you could consider a GMAT Focus Edition prep course, get tips from GMAT Focus Edition prep experts, or get advice from MBA students who aced it or another standardized test.
The best GMAT Focus Edition prep strategies also include at least one full GMAT Focus Edition practice test. Taking a mock GMAT Focus Edition test will help you understand how you perform under pressure and give you a chance to practice your timing strategy.
You should follow a similar strategy for GRE test prep: identifying and working on your weak points, learning core concepts, and answering as many GRE practice questions as you can.
You can find plenty of free GRE sample questions online, and once you’ve established your strengths and weaknesses it could be worth investing in a GRE prep course tailored to your needs. There are plenty of affordable prep courses on the market, from providers like Magoosh.
If you want to learn from the people who created the GRE, an ETS GRE practice test is your best bet. ETS regularly updates its Official Guide to the GRE General Test, which includes four real practice tests along with online mock exams and hundreds of GRE sample questions.
GMAT Focus vs GRE for your MBA?
Should you take the GMAT Focus Edition or GRE for your MBA application? Does it matter?
While the GMAT Focus Edition was a preferred option in the past, almost all business schools now accept both the GMAT Focus Edition and the GRE, and most MBA admissions directors we’ve spoken to don’t favor one test over the other. Master in Management and Master in Finance programs don’t specify a GMAT Focus Edition vs GRE preference either.
There are also more practical considerations that may impact your choice. Sameer Kamat, admissions consultant and founder of MBA Crystal Ball, says top MBA employers in banking and consulting—including the Big Three consulting firms—assess GMAT scores when recruiting. Taking the GMAT helps you stand out to recruiters, he says.
Cara Skikne, from Absolute Admissions, says some MBA scholarships and fellowships are based on GMAT scores. “A good GMAT score could mean paying less for business school,” she explains.
Ultimately, you need to consider your own strengths and where your competitive advantage lies. “In my experience, it is easier to switch from the GMAT to the GRE than the other way around, so the GMAT might be a better starting point if you are undecided on which test to take,” says Cara.
If you’re still not sure if a business school degree is for you, however, the GRE does give you the flexibility to apply to a wide range of master’s programs as well as an MBA.
Which is easier—GMAT Focus Edition or GRE?
What you might find easy may be difficult for someone else, depending on their previous experience, educational background, and skills.
So, the question of whether the GMAT Focus Edition or GRE is easier doesn’t have a simple answer. Both the GMAT Focus Edition and the GRE are computer-adaptive tests, meaning that as you answer questions, they become harder or easier based on if you get the questions right or wrong.
For the GMAT Focus Edition, there’s no essay required, you can choose your section order, and you can skip questions and come back to them (within a section). You also have 25% more time per question on the GMAT Focus Edition over the GRE.
Cara, from Absolute Admissions, says when asking yourself ‘Which is easier GMAT Focus or GRE?’, you should consider the differences between the GMAT Focus and GRE and whether one test suits you best.
“People say the GMAT is harder on the quant side and easier on the verbal side than the GRE but I don’t think that’s always true. If a student is good at logic, the focus on logic in the GMAT’s quantitative section could be an advantage,” Cara explains.
“The GRE Verbal side is also considered harder due to the amount and obscurity of the vocabulary. But vocabulary is easier to study than some of the GMAT Verbal content which requires a deeper understanding.”
Sameer, from MBA Crystal Ball, says candidates’ educational and professional backgrounds tend to influence their choice of test. “Candidates with engineering backgrounds generally find the GMAT to be easier, while those from liberal arts backgrounds prefer the GRE,” he says.
Standardized tests are all about competitive advantage as you’re scored in relation to other test takers, Cara notes. She’s noticed test takers who take the GMAT Focus and the GRE record similar equivalent scores across both tests.
Ultimately, you should consider which test is easier or harder in relation to your own abilities and ensure you make an informed decision on which admission test, GMAT Focus or GRE, is right for you.
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*BusinessBecause is owned by GMAC. This article is intended as an objective guide, comparing the tangible differences between the GMAT Focus Edition and the GRE. Test-takers should make their own decision on which test to pursue.