If you are considering graduate school, chances are you have started to learn about the different kinds of standardized tests many grad programs require. Mainly, the GMAT vs GRE debate is likely taking up most of your time.
If you’re looking at graduate programs in several different fields, you are probably seeing the GRE test pop up as a common requirement. Meanwhile, if you’re considering an MBA program to get a graduate degree in business, the GMAT may be coming up more often. Sometimes, graduate programs accept either test.
So, what is the difference between the GMAT vs GRE and why should you choose one over the other? Read on for our breakdown of each test and a direct comparison of the GRE vs GMAT.
What Is the GRE?
The GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations. The GRE we are referring to in this article is the GRE General Test. For future reference, the ETS, the agency that administers the GRE, also offers six GRE Subject Tests.
The GRE General Test is required for admission to many master’s and doctoral programs across the country. It essentially functions like the SAT or ACT of grad school in that it also tests general subjects like writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.
What Is the GMAT?
The GMAT is the Graduate Management Admission Test. It is primarily required for management school or business school admissions at the graduate level.
Like the GRE, it also tests for writing, analytical, and quantitative skills. It also has an additional section called Integrated Reasoning. GMAC, the Graduate Management Admission Council, administers the test as a means of giving business schools a standardized measure through which to consider applicants.
Increasingly, some business schools accept both the GRE or GMAT. That said, the GMAT is still the most common test for business schools to require.
GMAT vs GRE: A Direct Comparison
There is a lot to compare when it comes to figuring out what makes these tests similar and different from one another. To make this easier, we’re breaking it down into different categories, the most important of which are test format, scoring, and cost.
One of the biggest differences between the GMAT and GRE formats is that the GMAT only exists as a computer test. ETS does still offer a paper GRE format, but the majority of students select the computer version.
The GMAT test is three hours and seven minutes long, though it can clock in at three hours and 23 minutes if you take the two optional eight-minute breaks. The GRE test lasts three hours and 45 minutes. This doesn’t include one 10-minute break within that, meaning that in total, you can expect to be at your GRE testing center for about four hours.
One of the biggest similarities between the GRE and the GMAT is in their test sections. Both tests include analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. The difference is in how those sections are broken up.
Both the GRE and the GMAT include an analytical writing section. However, the GRE writing section is two 30-minute sections that ask you to analyze an issue and an argument. The GMAT analytical writing section is just one 30-minute section that asks you to analyze an argument. Both the GMAT and the GRE writing sections have score ranges from 0 to 6 within 0.5 scale increments.
The verbal reasoning sections of both exams are quite similar. They both focus on reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and text completion/correction. The GRE verbal section is split into two sections with 20 verbal questions per 30-minute section. The GMAT verbal section is one 65-minute section with 36 questions.
The quantitative reasoning sections of these two exams are quite different. While the GRE is broader and includes mathematical elements like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and data analysis, the GMAT is more focused on business-relevant quantitative concepts.
The GMAT quantitative reasoning section features two question types: data sufficiency and problem solving. It is one 62-minute section with 31 questions. The GRE quantitative reasoning section is split into two 35-minute sections with 20 questions each.
You should also know that the GMAT has an additional section that the GRE doesn’t have: the integrated reasoning section. Integrated reasoning includes graphics interpretation, table analysis, multi-source reasoning, and two-part analysis. It’s a section that seeks to ensure that students are prepared to think critically and analyze data in business school.
The GRE verbal and quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 130 to 170 and vary in one-point increments. The composite score, which also ranges from 130 to 170, does not include the writing section. The writing section score is given separately and again, ranges from 0 to 6.
The GMAT verbal and quantitative sections are scored from 0 to 60. The integrated reasoning score ranges from 1 to 8. However, the composite GMAT score, which includes all four sections, is a score range between 200 and 800.
GMAT vs GRE Costs
Registration Fee and Score Report Costs
ETS charges test takers in the United States, US territories, and Puerto Rico $205 for the GRE General Test. GMAC charges $250 for the GMAT regardless of location.
While the GRE includes four free score reports and charges $27 per additional score report, the GMAT includes unlimited score reports with the registration fee.
Cancellation and Rescheduling Costs
If you need to cancel your GRE test, ETS will only refund you for half of your registration fee, which in the US would be $102.50. Meanwhile, GMAC will charge you $100 for cancelling your GMAT registration. Clearly, cancelation is more flexible and less of a penalty with the GRE than with the GMAT.
Meanwhile, if you need to reschedule your GRE, you can do so by paying a $50 fee at least four days before your scheduled exam date. However, if you try to reschedule less than four days before your exam date, you will lose your entire registration fee.
If you need to reschedule the GMAT, you can do so at any time for only a $25 fee. In this case, the GMAT is more flexible and less expensive to reschedule than the GRE.
As you can see, you can’t make a blanket statement about the tests either way. The GRE is definitively not more flexible nor is it more expensive than the GMAT or vice versa. They simply have different policies that come with different costs and limitations.
Financial Assistance for Registration Fee
Though both ETS and GMAC offer financial assistance for the cost of test registration, they have very different processes for granting them. ETS offers the GRE Fee Reduction Program, a program that reduces the registration cost by 50 percent, so in the US, its territories, and Puerto Rico, that would be from $205 to $102.50.
Test takers who can demonstrate a certain amount of financial need, who are unemployed, or who are members of a national partnership program may be eligible to participate in the GRE Fee Reduction Program. ETS does not offer a full fee waiver.
Meanwhile, GMAC offers a full fee waiver but it goes directly through the business school, not through the individual test taker. In other words, a business school may apply to receive up to ten fee waivers from GMAC. Then, the business school is responsible for granting those fee waivers to their applicants.
Another element that you should definitely know about as you are comparing these tests is computer adaptivity. When a test is computer-adaptive, it means that it adjusts itself based on how the test is going. In other words, the difficulty of the test increases as the exam goes on if the student is answering the questions correctly.
Both the GMAT and the GRE are computer-adaptive, though the paper-based GRE is not. The GMAT is computer-adaptive by individual questions. It starts off each section with a question of medium-difficulty and then adjusts itself depending on whether or not you answer the question correctly.
This means that the test tailors itself to the difficulty level for the student and takes this into consideration when scoring. The GRE, meanwhile, is computer-adaptive by section, not by question. So, you may sense a difference in difficulty from one section to another.
Who Accepts the Tests?
Because the GMAT is by business schools for business schools, every business school sees it as an acceptable standardized test for admission. However, according to Kaplan Test Prep, just over 1,200 MBA Admission offices around the country also accept GRE scores alone. Some business schools prefer the GMAT, where some will consider them both equally.
Is the GMAT or GRE Easier?
The answer to this question is going to depend on the person. Each test may have pros and cons for you as a student.
Research the business schools you are applying to and figure out where they land on the GRE. Then, research each test format to gauge which test may best suit your needs and abilities. Then decide which test you want to focus on to set yourself up for school admission.