GMAT Vs. GRE: Which Should You Take?


In an effort diversify the applicant pool and make MBA's more accessible, more B-schools are accepting both the GRE and the GMAT. So what's the difference and which should you take?

What are they?

GRE

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is a standardized test administered by the ETS (the same people who brought you the SAT, PSAT, AP Tests and a plethora of other acronyms scored by scantrons). The primarily computer-based test measures verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing. There are 4 sections to the text, one of which is an experimental section. Your scores on the experimental section are not reported. The Verbal section of the test involves sentence completion, analogies, reading comprehension and antonyms and is designed to test your vocabulary and reading comprehension. The Quantitative section consists of multiple choice questions based primarily on high-school level math. The Analytic writing section requires two essays, an issue task and an argument task. The issue task essay offers testers a choice between two subjects on which to write an essay. The argument task gives test takers an argument and requires them to create an essay arguing in favor of the statement. The exam takes about 4 hours.

GMAT

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admissions Test, was designed by Business school deans. It is divided into three sections: Analytic Writing Assessment, Verbal Reasoning Ability and Quantitative Reasoning. The Analytic Writing Assessment requires two essays, an issue essay and an argument essay, just like the GRE. The Quantitative Reasoning section involves problem solving and high school level math problems exactly like the GRE. However, there is an additional Quantitative Reasoning section on the GMAT that tests Data Sufficiency. In this section, the examinee is given a question with two associated statements providing data that may or may not be useful in answering the question. The examinee must then decide if one, both or neither of the statements give enough data to sucessfully answer the question. The Verbal Reasoning section involves sentence correction, reading comprehension, and a critical reasoning section in which examinees are given brief arguments or statements presenting an argument and must evaluate the content or form of the argument. The exam takes about 4 hours.

How are they different?

The GMAT's Data Sufficiency and Critical Reasoning sections were specially designed for the test and aren't used in the GRE. Both sections are designed to test an examinee's logical and quantitative reasoning skills.

The GRE's Verbal Sections are extremely reliant on vocabulary while the GMAT favors logic puzzles and grammar.

The GMAT caters to examinees with strong math skills, so the Quantitative sections of the GMAT are more difficult than those on the GRE, which feature more geometry problems.

The GRE is about $100 dollars cheaper than the GMAT.

Which test do B-Schools Prefer?

There's no question that the GMAT is still the dominant test for B-school admissions. While top tier schools such as Harvard and Stanford were some of the first to accept both tests, some schools have remained hesitant; accepting only the GMAT because it clearly indicates an applicant's desire to attend Business school in particular, not just graduate school. Because admissions offices have used the GMAT for much longer, some schools prefer to stick to the GMAT because they're so familiar with what an applicant's scores indicate for their success in an MBA program. On the other hand, many admissions officers at top-tier schools that accept both tests maintain that it's the score, not the test that matters most.

How do you decide which to take?

If there are particular MBA programs you're interested in, check to make sure that they accept both scores. If the schools you're interested in accept the GRE and GMAT, then it's best to examine your strengths and think about your plans for school and beyond.

You might want to take the GMAT if....

Your background and learning styles are more quantitative in nature.

You want to work in investment banking or management consulting, as many of these firms look at GMAT scores when considering applicants.

You're planning on applying to Business school this year or next and aren't sure which school you want to attend.

You're better at statistics than vocabulary.

You might want to take the GRE if...

Your background and learning styles are more qualitative and language based.

You're not sure if you want to attend B-school and want the option of applying to other types of graduate programs.

You're planning on waiting a few years to apply to MBA programs, as it's likely the GRE will be more prevalent in the future.

You're applying for a joint-degree program. Many joint degrees require the GRE.

You're an international student. The GRE is much more accessible outside the U.S. than the GMAT.

You want to save money. The GRE is cheaper and scores are valid for 5 years.

You're better at vocabulary than statistics.

The Takeaway

It's better to choose one test and prepare well for it than to try to take both. Success on either test requires a significant amount of preparation and dedication, so choose one and study like there's no tomorrow! If you feel like you need extra help, tutors and test prep classes for both tests are plentiful.

Thinking about applying to business school but not sure which school is best for you? Try our B-School recommendation engine and get a list of schools that fit your personality, academic profile, and preferences!

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