But what is the difference between the GRE and the GMAT? Which test is better for MBA candidates? And is the GRE easier than the GMAT?
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), 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 Exam each year.
The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), 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 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 and the GRE, covering exam structure, cost, test prep, and more.
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The GMAT Exam is 3 hours, 7 minutes long, and you can take advantage of two optional eight-minute breaks. The current version of the GMAT Online Exam is 2 hours, 45 minutes long and excludes the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA).
The GRE exam is 3 hours, 45 minutes in length both online and in a test center. You get a one minute break between each section of the exam until the third section, when you get an optional 10 minute break.
In terms of the exam structure, the two tests differ, with the GMAT exam structure comprising four sections while the GRE test has three. Below is a breakdown of the two test structures.
The GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section tests your ability to analyze data and reach conclusions using reasoning skills. You have to demonstrate your knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry, though advanced math skills are not required.
GMAT Verbal Reasoning tests how you read and understand written material and evaluate arguments given in a passage. GMAT Sentence Correction questions test your grammar and language proficiency requiring you to present the best way of constructing a sentence.
GMAT Integrated Reasoning evaluates your data and information analysis skills across multiple formats. You have to demonstrate the ability to integrate data to solve complex problems.
The Analytical Writing Assessment measures critical thinking skills and your ability to communicate ideas. The AWA requires you to analyze an argument’s line of reasoning and use of evidence.
You can choose to take the GMAT in three different orders. They are:
1. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning
2. Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
3. Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
The verbal and quantitative reasoning sections of the GMAT 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. The computer adaptive element of the GMAT means you cannot revisit questions or change your answers during the exam.
The GRE Analytical Writing section tests your critical thinking skills. You’re presented with an argument to analyze and asked to present your own coherent argument.
The Verbal Reasoning section tests 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 which maintain the coherence of the sentence.
The GRE Quantitative Reasoning section consists 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.
Unlike the GMAT, the GRE allows you to revisit questions during the exam and you can choose to tackle each section in whatever order you prefer.
You are not allowed to use your own calculator for the GMAT or GRE math questions. You can however use a calculator provided to you throughout the GRE test.
For the GMAT, a calculator is provided for use during the Integrated Reasoning GMAT section only. For the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section, you are provided with note boards and markers to work out your calculations.
GMAT test-takers receive one overall score between 200 (the lowest possible score) and 800 (the highest possible score).
Your GMAT score is based on your scores for the verbal and quantitative sections of the exam. These are graded between 0 and 60, although test-takers rarely score lower than 6 or higher than 51 on these questions.
The Analytical Writing Assessment and the Integrated Reasoning sections of the GMAT are scored separately and do not count towards your GMAT score out of 800.
Your AWA score is based on a single grading of your argument, between 0.0 and 6.0, graded at increments of 0.5. IR questions are scored between 1 and 8. IR questions usually have multiple components, and you must answer all parts in order to receive any credit.
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 360 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, for example, you’ve typically performed better than 99% of test takers. GMAT and GRE percentiles data is recalculated each year using data from the previous three years.
Both GMAT and GRE scores are valid for five years. You’ll receive your official GRE score about 10 to 15 days after your test date. You’ll get your official GMAT score within 20 days, although you can view your unofficial score immediately after finishing the exam.
What is a good GMAT or GRE score?
When deciding what GMAT score to aim for, it’s worth assessing the class average GMAT and GMAT score range for your target schools.
Class average GMAT scores for the top MBA programs tend to be 700 or higher, although scores submitted by accepted MBA students tend to range from around 590 to 790.
This means both candidates with a 590 GMAT score and a 750+ GMAT score are often accepted into the same MBA class. Harvard's median GMAT score is 730, for example, but even Harvard Business School has accepted students with GMAT scores under 600 in the past.
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.
The test center GMAT Exam costs $275 in the United States and Canada.
The cost of the GMAT varies depending on your test location and local currency. The GMAT costs €250 in mainland Europe. In the UK, the GMAT costs £225. In India, the GMAT costs $250.
You pay additional fees for Enhanced Score Reports (around $30), rescheduling ($50-$150), or cancelling your score after you’ve left the test center ($25).
The GMAT Online Exam costs $250 worldwide.
The GRE exam is priced slightly lower at $205 for most regions, including the US and Canada. In India, the GRE costs $213.
The GRE is the same price, whether you take the GRE in a test center or online.
GMAT vs GRE Online
You can take both the GMAT 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 Online exam 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, excluding Mainland China and Iran.
For both the GMAT Online exam and the GRE at Home test, 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 and GRE online tests are almost 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.
The current version of the GMAT Online exam is essentially the same as the test center GMAT, aside from the exclusion of the AWA section. However, GMAC plans to launch an enhanced version of the GMAT Online in 2021, which includes the AWA, the optional breaks, and other enhancements, and will make the two test formats equivalent.
So should you take the GRE or GMAT online or in a test center? Since the content of the tests is pretty much the same, the costs are similar, and they’re viewed the same by business schools, your choice mostly comes down to personal preference.
Taking the GMAT 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 vs GRE Prep
Whichever test you decide to take, preparing for the GMAT 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 test prep, take advantage of the prep resources offered by GMAC. The annual GMAT Official Guide—see our GMAT Official Guide 2022 Preview—is the most comprehensive GMAT prep book around.
It’s also the only GMAT test prep guide that uses real practice questions, taken from previous GMAT exams. 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 prep books focused on sentence correction, GMAT math, or GMAT critical reasoning are all available from test prep experts like Manhattan Prep.
The best GMAT prep strategies also include at least one full GMAT practice test. Taking a mock GMAT test will help you understand how you perform under pressure, and gives 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 vs GRE for your MBA?
Should you take the GMAT or GRE for your MBA application? Does it matter?
While the GMAT was a preferred option in the past, almost all business schools now accept both the GMAT 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 vs GRE preference either.
Still, the GMAT remains the more popular choice among MBA applicants. 78% of the Harvard MBA class of 2022 took the GMAT, while 22% took the GRE. Similarly, 76% of the Stanford MBA class of 2022 took the GMAT.
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 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 or GRE is easier doesn’t have a simple answer. Both the GMAT 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, there’s only one essay required and you can choose your section order, while for the GRE you can skip questions and come back to them (within a section) and you can use a calculator throughout the exam.
Cara, from Absolute Admissions, says when asking yourself ‘Which is easier GMAT or GRE?’, you should consider the differences between the GMAT 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 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 or GRE, is right for you
Considering an MBA?
*BusinessBecause is owned by GMAC. This article is intended as an objective guide, comparing the tangible differences between the GMAT and the GRE. Test-takers should make their own decision on which test to pursue.