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GMAT Vs. GRE Compared— Should you take the GMAT or GRE?

Should I take the GRE or the GMAT?

If you’re considering applying to grad school, you may have asked yourself this question. Figuring this out is a crucial stage in your grad school trajectory, as these tests not only require significant lead-time for registration, preparation, and score reporting, but the GMAT and GRE are also structured differently, serve different purposes, test you on different skills, reward different thinking styles, and can be viewed somewhat differently by MBA programs and grad schools.

In this article, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the differences between the GMAT vs. the GRE. This article is written from the perspective of an expert tutor who’s taught both tests extensively, and who’s helped countless students pursue their dreams of business school as well as a variety of other educational & professional paths.

As you read on, you’ll find information on the differences between the two tests’ formats, content, reputation with graduate programs, and other relevant concerns you’ll want to consider before deciding which of the two is right for you.

Do graduate school schools prefer the GRE?

If you’re hoping to attend business school in pursuit of a career in business or management consulting, you’ll need to consider the GMAT vs. the GRE very closely, as they are both accepted by a variety of schools, but they have important differences and are viewed differently by graduate programs and even by consulting firms. Further, they test and reward different skills and thinking styles—meaning they will not necessarily present an equivalent picture of you to admissions committees.

In the not-too-distant past, this question wouldn’t have even been an issue, as the GMAT was perennially the test of choice for virtually every competitive MBA program and management consulting firm. This is apparent from the test’s full name: the Graduate Management Admission Test. This exam was designed to test all the necessary skills for assessing an applicant’s likelihood to succeed in business school and beyond.

The GRE—which stands for the Graduate Record Examinations—has historically served as a kind of all-purpose admissions exam. While much of the content between the two exams is conceptually similar, the GRE has been used to assess applicants’ skills and competitiveness for those programs and disciplines that do not have an official graduate-level exam, such as the GMAT and the LSAT. You can think of the GRE as a more challenging analogue to the ACT and the SAT.

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The Business School Admissions Landscape Is Changing

The historic preference business schools have demonstrated for the GMAT is starting to change. At the time of this article’s writing, the GMAT continues to be accepted by virtually all business schools worldwide. The GRE has made significant strides in this regard, as it’s currently accepted by over 1200 business schools across the worldwide, but its acceptance is not universal in the way the GMAT is.

There are many reasons why the GRE has gained currency and started catching up to the GMAT in the eyes of business schools. One reason is that business schools have started to embrace the value of diversity in a variety of forms, including both ethnic and cognitive diversity.


As stated above, the GRE and the GMAT reward somewhat different thinking styles. While the GMAT is often considered to assess more technical skills, the GRE does a bit more to test your creative, flexible thinking and problem-solving. You should keep this in mind when deciding which test will be a better showcase of your skills. Conversely, as the GRE focuses a bit more on advanced knowledge of English, the GMAT can be better for students who don’t speak English as a first language or whose verbal skills lag behind their quant skills.


One motivation for more business schools to accept the GRE is that they are trying to widen their talent pool to attract students whose backgrounds and experience may not be strictly centered on business, finance, or other related fields.


The Covid pandemic has also had an impact on schools’ exam policies. According to a survey administered by Kaplan and Manhattan Prep, 34% of MBA programs had suspended all exam requirements, with most considering moving permanently to making the test optional. Still, that same survey also revealed that 88% of the business schools who had suspended testing requirements still considered high scores an asset while evaluating applications.


And while many schools may require no test or may allow either test, a 2015 Kaplan survey found 25% of business schools that offer both still prefer the GMAT. Also worth noting is that, after grad school, many consulting firms still prefer the GMAT to the GRE, and some will even require the GMAT for applicants who gained acceptance to grad school based on their GRE scores.

Is the GMAT harder than the GRE?

One important consideration as you decide which exam to take is whether you’re likelier to score higher on the GMAT vs. the GRE. But some students seek GRE tutors and students also seek GMAT tutors. On a high level, one test is not substantially more difficult than the other. But there are differences in difficulty if you have clear strengths and weaknesses.

As we specify in the previous section, the GMAT is typically the easier test for quantitative thinkers, while the GRE is better for (native English-speaking) verbal thinkers and creative thinkers. This is complicated, however, by the fact that the quantitative questions on the GMAT are slightly harder than they are on the GRE. Further, within the quant sections, the GMAT contains more logic problems, whereas the GRE contains more geometry problems, either of which might dictate which test is preferable for you.

There are other considerations relating to the test’s structure. The GMAT does not allow you to go back to revise your answers or choose an optional order to the questions you answer, whereas the GRE offers both those options. Some students may find that being able to return to previous questions helps them practice better time management and/or manage test anxiety, but other students may find the opposite to be true. In either case, you should consider what kinds of testing circumstances work better for you, which may require you to take practice tests under each format.

Testing Format of the GRE vs. GMAT

The GMAT is a computer-delivered test, though you will be assigned a notepad for notes and calculations. The exam is known as a “Computer-Adaptive” test. This means that there is no set array of questions. Rather, the questions get progressively harder or easier depending on whether your previous answers were correct or incorrect. Gradually, the software builds an assessment of your true capacities and assigns you a corresponding score.

The GRE, on the other hand, can be taken as a computer-delivered or paper-delivered test.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, both exams began offering the option to take the exam remotely by computer

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Testing Structure

Now let’s consider the differences in the GRE vs. GMAT testing structure.




The GMAT takes 3 hours and 7 minutes total (not including two optional 8-minute breaks), and it’s composed of the following sections:


  • Analytical Writing. This section contains one essay question, requiring you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a given argument, with a time limit of 30 minutes. The score range is 0-6.
  • Integrated Reasoning. This section contains 12 questions, requiring students to analyze data in different formats and from different sources before solving complex quantitative problems. Its time limit is 30 minutes and its score range is 1-8.
  • Quantitative Reasoning. This section contains 31 questions and has a time limit of 62 minutes. Its score range is 6-51. There are two primary question types: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. Problem solving questions—which involve evaluating data, solving equations, and interpreting graphs—resemble math questions from other common standardized tests. Data Sufficiency questions are likely to be less familiar to you. These questions are followed by two factual statements. Your job is not to answer the question, but to decide whether either, both, one, or neither of the twi statements provides enough information to fully answer the question. Because of their unfamiliarity, we highly recommend practicing these kinds of problems before deciding which test to take, to see if they agree with your thinking style.
  • Verbal Reasoning. This section contains 36 questions, has a time limit of 65 minutes, and is scored from 6-51. There are three kinds of VR questions: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reading, and Sentence Correction. Reading Comprehension questions test your ability to analyze given arguments and draw conclusions from texts. Critical Reading questions involve shorter passages you must analyze, extracting information and evaluating different interpretations. Sentence Correction questions consist of single sentences, with part or all of the text underlined. The answer choices offer alternative phrasings, and your job is to pick the best one using your grammar and communication skills.


Your composite GMAT score (which does not include Analytical Writing or Integrated Reasoning) ranges from 200-800.




The GRE takes 3 hours and 45 minutes total (not including one optional 10-minute break), and it’s composed of the following sections:


  • Analytical Writing. This section contains two essays, each of which has a time limit of 30 minutes. It is scored from 0-6. One of these essays requires you to Analyze an Argument—similar to the GMAT’s Analytical Writing prompt—while the other requires you to Analyze a Task. This latter essay requires you to take a position on a given argument and defend that position with evidence.
  • Verbal Reasoning. This part of the test contains two sections of 20 questions each, with 30 minutes per section. This section is scored from 130-170. There are three different question types: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence. Reading Comprehension questions are similar to the GMAT. Text Completion questions include a short passage with one or more blanks. Your job is to choose the best word to fill in the blank/s from multiple choices. Sentence Equivalence questions have a single blank, with six answer choices. You have to pick two of the six answer choices that fit the sentence and create sentences with equivalent meanings.
  • Quantitative Reasoning. This part of the test contains two sections of 20 questions, with 35 minutes per section. It is also scored from 130-170. These questions mostly cover Algebra, Arithmetic, Data Analysis, and Geometry. Some are multiple-choice and some are numeric entry. There are also a few Quantitative Comparison questions, where you have to determine which of two given quantities is larger, or whether they’re equal, or whether the answer can’t be determined from the given information.
  • This section is an additional QR or VR section. While it’s unscored, the test does not indicate which section is the Experimental one. This section exists to test new questions for future exams.


Additional Information about the GRE vs. GMAT


There is a slight cost difference between the GRE and the GMAT. The costs vary somewhat by country, but generally the GMAT costs $275 and the GRE costs $205.

Both tests’ scores are considered officially valid for 5 years.

However, the score reporting structure is different. The GMAT gives you the option to cancel your score entirely upon completion of the test, should you believe you performed below your true capabilities, for whatever reason. Every time you take the GMAT, your score is recorded on your official score report. When you apply to graduate school, your score report automatically includes every score from the past five years.


The GRE also gives you the option to cancel your score upon completion of the test. The GRE also offers an option called ScoreSelect when reporting your scores to schools, which allows applicants to hand-pick which scores do and do not get submitted.




While an increasing number of business schools accept both the GRE and the GMAT, you should carefully consider the differences between them before deciding which exam will maximize your chances for success. You should take practice tests of each, following the official format and timing as closely as possible. You should also consider the different skills & thinking styles each test rewards. That information will allow you to determine which test will offer a better picture of your talents to the schools you’re applying to.


You should weigh that picture against the fact that many top business schools and consulting firms do retain at least some preference for the GMAT. However, that doesn’t need to outweigh other considerations. If you have a genuinely different skillset or background than the conventional business school applicant, the GRE may very well be the best test to help you gain admission to the business school of your dreams.


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