GRE vs GMAT

Since 90% of business schools have started accepting GRE scores from applicants wishing to be a part of their MBA programs, one would think the MBA application process has become much easier. The truth however is the opposite.

Where a student wishing to be an MBA graduate had to just go get a GMAT score before, they now have to make the decision between taking a GMAT exam or the GRE. And this choice can very well shape their future.

With so much at stake, how do you decide which exam is right for you? For that, you will require to know both the exams thoroughly. Fortunately, you don’t have to prep for them to get to understand them. There is a simpler way.

A few things about the exams can help you make a decision on this dilemma.

FORMAT AND SCORING

format blueprint test

Although both GMAT and GRE share a few sections like the Quant, Verbal and the AWA, they can’t exactly be considered similar.

Before we dive into the details of how the format and scoring of the tests is different, let’s take a quick look at a comparison of the tests side-by side.

Criteria GMAT GRE Test duration 3 hours 30 minutes 3 hours 45 minutes Sections& Questions Quant: 31
Verbal: 36
IR: 12
AWA: 1
Quant: 20 Verbal: 20
AWA: 2
Unscored or Research: 20
Composite score 800 340 Scoring algorithm Adaptative per question Adaptative per section Validity 5 years 5 years Fee $250 $205 Mode of conduction Computer Computer and Paper As you can see, the GMAT and the GRE have only one different section. the GMAT has the Integrated Reasoning section while the GRE has the Unscored or Research section. As the name suggests, you get no scores for the GRE Unscored or Research section, whereas, the IR section on the GMAT carries much less weightage than the Verbal and Quant sections, it does matter to business schools. Other than that, the GRE is also conducted through two mediums, computer, and paper. The Paper conducted GRE is only rarely available and is not up to the test taker’s discretion to choose. The difference in the scoring algorithm of the GMAT and the GRE lies in the parts that they are adaptative in. both GMAT and the GRE are Computer Adaptative Tests. This means that the next question that a test taker will be presented with will depend on whether or not they answer the current question right. A right answer means the difficulty level of the next question would be more than the current question and a wrong answer means the difficulty level would be less. However, the GRE isn’t adaptative per question. The test analyses your performance on a complete section, and the difficulty level of the complete next section is decided through that. As you must have noticed, there are a few other differences in the table above. We will be discussing these at length further in the blog.

GMAT QUANT VS GRE QUANT

Both the GMAT and the GRE have similar quantitative sections and do not test high level Math concepts like derivatives, limits or continuous functions. In the case of the Quant sections, GMAT takes the cake. It is believed that the Quant section on the GMAT is much harder than the Quant section on the GRE.

How so? After all they test similar concepts.

The GMAT is known for being a tricky test to navigate. It is known to contain trickily worded questions and Quant on the test is especially affected by it. But that isn’t all. It also has questions based more on critical thinking and analyzing the problems, especially in the Data Sufficiency segment.

The GRE Quant also asks you to solve only 20 questions in 35 minutes, i.e. an average of 1 minute 45 seconds per question. Whereas GMAT Quant requires you to solve 31 questions in 62 minutes, giving you full 2 minutes on an average to solve each question.

This is why a lot of students that want to portray their Quantitative prowess to business schools, choose to take the GMAT instead of the GRE.

GMAT Quant

The GMAT Quant section tests a students’ capabilities to solve quantitative problems, analyze and interpret data and reason mathematically. The difficulty on the Quant section on the GMAT is based in the analytical skills required for a particular question rather than the concept it is asking about.

It has two question types.

Problem solving:

These are pretty straightforward questions asking a test taker to solve a Math problem and selecting the correct answer from the answer choices available.

Data sufficiency:

Data sufficiency is where the Quant section gets a little trickier. These questions provide a part of a question, two possible conditions that may or may not help in solving the question and then 5 answer choices. The answer choices ask the test taker whether one or both or none of the two possible conditions can help in solving the previously placed incomplete question.

GRE Quant

GRE Quant is much different form the Quant section on the GMAT due its decision to stick to purely testing Mathematical concepts. The section places more emphasis on the test-takers knowledge of the various concepts rather than testing their analytical skills. This is why GRE Quant doesn’t have a question type equivalent to the Data Sufficiency on the GMAT Quant. It does contain Word Problems though.

The concepts tested on the GRE Quant are from the four major topics; Arithmetic, Algebra, Data Analysis, and Geometry. It tests all concepts from these topics.

The couple concepts that the GRE Quant is not interested in, i.e. does not test, is infernal statistics from Data Analysis, and the construction proofs in Geometry.

GMAT VERBAL VS GRE VERBAL

The Verbal section is one of the sections that both the GAT and the GRE have in common. The prevalent belief is that the GRE Verbal section is harder than the GMAT Verbal section due to its usage and testing of highly challenging vocabulary and grammar.

For non-native English speakers, GMAT is considered to be the safer route to take.

In addition to the language and testing differences on the two tests, the Verbal sections of GRE and GMAT also differ in volume. While GRE only asks its test taker to answer 20 questions in 30 minutes, the GMAT gives a student 65 minutes to solve 36 questions. This brings the average time per question on the GRE Verbal to 1 minutes and 30 seconds, and on the GMAT to 1 minute and 48 seconds.

Although it might not seem significant, the additional 18 seconds could be helpful especially if accumulated towards the end to use on tricky questions.

GMAT Verbal

The GMAT verbal section tests applicants on three things; Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. It basically tests your ability to analyze written material and your knowledge of grammar rules.

Reading Comprehension:

Testtakers are required to answer questions regarding the conclusion and arguments from a passage provided in the test.

Critical Reasoning:

Very similar to the Reding comprehension questions, Critical Reasoning contains shorter passages and requires test takers to use the data provided in the passage.

Sentence Correction:

In layman terms, Sentence Correction can be called the grammar section of GMAT Verbal. It requires the test taker to follow certain grammar rules to find the errors in a sentence and rectify them by picking the grammatically correct option choice.

GRE Verbal

The GRE Verbal section test applicants on their skills of analyzing, concluding and summarizing passages and excerpts. It also tests the test takers’ vocabulary indirectly. The questions on this section are divided into roughly three types mentioned below

Reading Comprehension:

Similar to the Reading Comprehension on GMAT Verbal, the GRE Reading Comprehension will also test students on their analysis of the passage presented to them. The difference however is the presence of more challenging vocabulary in this section.

Text Completion:

This part of the GRE is very different from anything on the GMAT. Text completion requires you to read a passage, roughly 5-7 lines long, and then fill in key information in the blanks present in the passage. This tests your analytical skills to interpret missing information in a passage by reading the rest of it.

Sentence Equivalation:

This is text completion in a single sentence. Here is where the ‘challenging vocabulary’ element of the GRE Verbal comes into play. The blanks in a sentence need to be filled by selecting two answer choices, out of the six given to you, that might not mean the same but would complete the sentence.

GMAT AWA VS GRE AWA

The GMAT and GRE essays are quite similar except for the fact that GRE contains an additional essay. Where you will be given 30 minutes to answer only one question on the GMAT AWA section, you will be allotted 60 minutes to attempt 2 questions on the GRE AWA section.

Although, the GRE has two essays for twice the time that GMAT allots, it only brings the total time of the GRE up to the total time of the GMAT.

If you have a flair for writing, or have confidence in your essay practice, the two essays on the GRE won’t be much trouble. However, if you’re dreading writing an impromptu essay on the test, GMAT would save you a lot of trouble.

GMAT AWA

The GAT AWA provide an author’s statement to a student. The student is required to elaborate on the same but not by presenting their own opinion.

Instead, they are asked to understand the statement that the author made and do a SWOT analysis of the same. Students need to poke holes in the author’s opinion by pointing out the weak arguments or facts, and provide options for improvement on the same.

GRE AWA

The GRE AWA also provides a similar question to the GMAT AWA> it provi9des students a statement or an opinion. The two question types in this essay are:

Analyze the Argument:

This is the same as the question on the GMAT AWA except, the student is also required to provide critique on the argument.

Analyze the Task: This type of question on the GRE AWA requires the student to explain their own opinion on an argument. You will be provided with an argument like all the other questions, but rather than pick apart that argument, you will be required to provide where you stand in regards to it.

interview admission committee business school application


No business school outright talks about which exam they have a preference for either the GMAT or the GRE. However, students aiming at business schools still tend to pick the GMAT over the GRE. One of the biggest reasons for this choice is that the GMAT is meant purely for testing an applicant’s acumen for business school.

The GMAT isn’t just a test of Quant or Verbal, but it also tests your executive decision-making skills through your algorithm. Scoring high on the GMAT is very dependent on your strategies to pace, or to take guesses. Every time you decided to guess on a question rather than spending a minute or two trying to solve it, you make an executive decision to spend more time on some other question that might be of value.

Another show of executive decision-making is that taking the GMAT means you can’t apply to anything but business schools. You’re basically proclaiming that you know your future path and have made an informed and focused decision.

However, Admissions committee member Diane Eytchesen of the Fuqua Business School does say that the school converts GRE score to GMAT score before evaluating your profile.

RECRUITERS’ POV

Very few applicants realize that top recruiters for MBAs follow the lead of business schools while hiring fresh graduates. Like I mentioned earlier, although you’re not given a score for it, the GMAT tests your re4adiness for the business world. This means it holds value to recruiters as well.

While many companies do not rely on GMAT scores to make any decisions regarding who they recruit, you’re still not in the clear if you hadn’t taken the GMAT. Before I tell you why let’s look at what recruiters said when GMAC asked them whether they used GMAT in recruiting during the Corporate Recruiter’s Survey 2018.

interview admission committee business school application


You might be wondering, ‘if only 6% of MBA recruiters care whether I have a GMAT score or not, then how does it matter?’

Well, these 6% recruiters are the top recruiters in the various fields of MBA. Top consultancies, hedge funds, and investment banking service providers have time and again rejected students based on their GMAT scores.

These firms are the mecca for any MBA graduate, so if you’re okay not being a part of such firms, then this point is not for you. But for those whose dream job is to be a part of a top consultancy or hedge fund, a high GMAT score might be just what you need.

WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU TAKE?

So, we know the differences amongst the two tests; GMAT and GRE. As you would have read through this blog you must have figured that these two tests are pretty similar, and where one is tougher, it makes up for by being much easier in another section.

I am sure you are a bit more confused about which one to take than when you started reading.

But don’t you worry, now that you have the basic knowledge of the intrinsic differences of the GMAT and the GRE, we can easily figure out which one would be better for you.

How sure are you of Business Schools?

As we all know by now, GMAT is purely meant for business school applications. Whereas, the GRE keeps your door open for applications to almost every post graduate course available across the globe.

If you aren’t sure about which post graduate course is the right choice for you, or just want to weigh your options once you have all the admits, take the GRE.

If you know for sure that an MBA is the way to go for your career, take the GMAT. It will also help you showoff your Quant skills to the admission committee.

Are you a Poet or a Quant?

Poets and Quants are the two broad categories MBA graduates divide themselves into. It does not mean that there is a prejudice related to being either of these things. It’s simply a marking of the acumen of each student.

Poets are students that perform better in theoretical subjects like marketing. This is because their understanding of language is much stronger as they are generally from a liberal arts background. Thus, they will be able to perform much better on the Verbal section and can choose the GRE.

The second category is the Quants. These are students with a stronger grip on practical concepts like Math as they generally come from a background similar to engineering. Thus, they will able to perform much better on the Quant section and should choose the GMAT.

Before you start protesting and saying that you perform equally good on both types of subjects, let me clarify something. Being classified as a Poet or a Quant doesn’t mean you aren’t good at the other, it simply means that the type you are classified as is dominant in you.

What does your school say?

This is the most important point. While most schools have started accepting both the GMAT and the GRE for the purposes of MBA admissions, you should always check school policies to be sure.

If you have any particular business school that you have your heart set on, make sure you check which test they accept.

If they accept both, then make the choice on your own.

Which one can you score better on?

If you are still truly confused about which of the GMAT or the GRE would be the right choice for you, take a mock test.

It will use up your 6 hours, but will be well worth it because you will be able to come to a definite conclusion.

Both the GMAT and the GRE are scored quite differently. So, I would suggest using the percentile charts to see how you performed on both the tests. If you scored a higher percentile on the GMAT, and an average percentile on the GRE, you should definitely take the GMAT, and vice versa.

In any scenario, just remember that the GMAT and the GRE will both open doors to most top business schools for you. However, these test results aren’t the only thing that would get you into one of these schools.

Other than your GMAT or GRE scores, your profile, essays, and letters of recommendation will play a huge role in your selection to an MBA program. So, don’t fret this decision. As long as you keep the previously mentioned things in mind, you won’t regret the test you choose