Which Test Should You Take?

Last Updated On: April 2, 2021

Many graduate programs require you to take an entrance test to be considered for admission to the school. A graduate admissions test will be one of the biggest exams you take throughout your graduate career.

So, is it GMAT or GRE? Which test should you take?

GMAT vs GRE: Overview

GRE vs GMAT logo

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) was designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council. It is used by many business schools to determine a student’s aptitude for MBA programs and other business degrees such as marketing, entrepreneurship, and business finance.

Business schools use a student’s GMAT score, GPA, and personal statement to determine if they should be accepted into MBA programs. [1]. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) was designed by the Educational Testing Service.

It is used by most other graduate programs to determine a student’s aptitude to succeed. Students who want to enroll in a graduate degree program that is not business will likely need to take this test. It is used for master’s degrees and Ph.D. programs in the United States. [2]

GMAT and GRE - Who Takes The Tests?

The two primary test options for graduate programs are the GMAT and GRE, but which one should you take? With our helpful tips, you’ll be able to decide which test to take, so you don’t end up studying for the wrong one. We’ll help you solve the great GMAT or GRE debate and decide which is the best test to take.

Who Takes the GRE?

Every student who is interested in a graduate program that is not part of a business school will be required to take the GRE test. Approximately 532,836 students took the GRE last year.

Most of these students were considering entering into a graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree or Ph.D. program. This test is best for students who want to enroll in graduate school that is not covered under the business school umbrella.

Who Takes the GMAT?

Most business schools accept GMAT scores. More and more business schools are beginning to accept GRE applicants, but for now, we recommend taking the GMAT if you plan to apply to business school in the future. Approximately 250,000 students took the GMAT last year.

This is much less than the GRE test. This is probably because more graduate schools accept GRE whereas only business schools accept the GMAT. The GMAT scores are best for test-takers who wish to apply to a business school at a university.

What is the Format of the GRE?

A woman writing on a paper sitting down

The GRE consists of 3 sections; analytical writing, quantitative, and verbal reasoning. With each section, you will be given several questions to be completed in a specific amount of time.

The GRE analytical writing section contains two essays, an Issue essay, and an Argument essay. You will have 30 minutes to complete each one.

The 30-35-minute experimental section for the essay are usually given at the end of the test. The GRE quantitative section has 2 sections of 20 questions each for a total of 40 questions.

You will have 35 minutes to complete each quantitative section. The GRE quantitative reasoning sections will have quantitative comparison, problem-solving, and data interpretation questions.

The GRE verbal section will have 2 sections with 20 questions in each. You will have 30 minutes to complete each section. The GRE verbal reasoning sections will contain questions such as reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence correction, and equivalence.

What is the Format of the GMAT?

The GMAT consists of 4 sections; verbal reasoning, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing.

The GMAT verbal section consists of 36 questions that you will have 65 minutes to complete. This section will have questions about reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.

The GMAT integrated reasoning section will have 12 questions that you will have 30 minutes to complete. The integrated reasoning part of the GMAT will have questions such as graphics interpretation, table analysis, multi-source reasoning, and two-part analysis. This section is meant to be more business-oriented.

The quantitative section of the GMAT will have 31 questions that you will have 62 minutes to complete. The GMAT quant section questions will be focused on data sufficiency questions and problem-solving skills.

GMAT analytical writing section contains only 1 question that you will have 30 minutes to complete. The essay will require you to analyze an argument.

GMAT vs GRE: Scoring

Both the GMAT and GRE analytical writing assessment is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The integrated reasoning section will be scored from 1 to 8. Both the verbal and quantitative sections are scored from 6 to 51. The GMAT and GRE reports are designed on a fixed scale.

Your GRE scores for the writing section will range from 0 to 6 in half-point increments. Your GRE score will reflect 2 different section scores. Both the quantitative and verbal sections are scored from 130 to 170. Most schools analyze and accept GRE scores using those two section scores instead of a combined number.

Your GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800. The top business schools will expect you to have a GMAT score of around 730. The average GMAT score is 565. The top GRE score is around 165, while the average is around 150 to 152.

GMAT vs GRE: Additional Differences

A person writing on paper, calculator and highlighter

Both the GMAT and the GRE are computer-adaptive tests. That means if you get one question correct, then the next question will be of the same or greater difficulty. Many students think this makes the test harder. The computer-adaptive test structure can help the GMAT and GRE scores be more accurate. Most standardized tests have adopted the computer-adaptive test structure.

One of the main differences between the GMAT and the GRE is the GRE verbal section tends to focus more on vocabulary. A good way to increase your vocabulary skills before the GRE is to practice using flashcards and reading high-level books and articles.

The GMAT verbal questions focus on grammar and sentence structure. You should practice for this part of the test before you take the GMAT. We recommend focusing your studies on correcting grammar mistakes in sentences.

Another difference between the GRE and GMAT is the integrated reasoning section. The GMAT integrated section focuses on data analysis using tables and graphs to solve complex problems. Most students agree that this section is difficult. It is used as a gauge of a student's aptitude for MBA programs.

Another notable difference between the GMAT and GRE is the use of a calculator in the quant section. During the GRE, you are allowed to use a calculator.

However, can you use a calculator on GMAT exam?

Unfortunately, not, you cannot use a calculator. Most students agree that the GMAT math is harder than the GRE.

The GRE and GMAT both allow breaks between sections. The GMAT is the only test that allows you to select the order in which you take the sections. The GRE does not allow this. Before taking the GMAT, we recommend deciding the order of the sections. It might be wise to choose to put the sections you struggle with first, so the information is fresh in your mind.

GMAT vs GRE: When and Where?

When you decide if you should take the GMAT or the GRE, you won’t have to worry about timing since both of these exams are offered year-round. The GRE is offered as a computer-based and paper-based test. The GRE test-makers are trying to get rid of their paper-based test, however. The GMAT is only a computer-based test.

GMAT vs GRE: Cost

When it comes to GRE and GMAT scores, the cost of taking either exam is around a couple of hundred dollars. The GRE costs around $205. The GMAT costs around $250. The test prep materials for the GRE or GMAT are similarly priced. Test-takers should prepare about 3 months in advance when considering the GRE or GMAT.

GRE vs GMAT Registration

A woman distributing papers on the counter

Who Should Register for the GRE?

In our opinion, students who are interested in applying to a graduate program should register for the GRE. If you are not sure which program you want to enroll in, it is still better to study for the GRE. Most Master’s and Ph.D. programs accept GR test scores, but not many of them will accept the GMAT.

Who Should Register for the GMAT?

If you are positive you only want to apply to business schools, then you should register for the GMAT. All business schools will accept the GMAT and very few of them will accept the GRE. The number of business schools that will accept GRE applicants is increasing, but business school applicants should not rely on that. MBA admissions councils still prefer the GMAT.

GMAT vs GRE: The Bottom Line

When deciding if you should take the GMAT or GRE, we recommend making a list of the schools you want to apply to. If they are primarily business programs, then you should take the GMAT.

If most of the programs you are interested in are non-business programs, then register for the GRE. When it comes to the GMAT vs GRE, both tests have their merit, but the GRE is more versatile.


  1. https://www.mba.com/exams/gmat
  2. https://www.ets.org/gre

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.

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