GRE vs SAT (2022's Complete Comparison Guide)

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: February 28, 2022

Both the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) measure academic aptitude and reasoning by having students answer questions in a standardized testing format.

Over the years, I’ve helped hundreds of students succeed on both exams.

Today, I’ll discuss what distinguishes the two exams from each other, as well as what the similarities between them are.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • The GRE and SAT are both used for admission into academic programs.
  • The GRE is used for graduate schools, has a required essay section, covers math and language, costs more, is computer-delivered, and a little longer than the SAT.
  • The SAT is a college admissions test, does not have an essay, also covers math and language, is cheaper, paper-delivered, and a little shorter than the GRE.

Differences Between the GRE and SAT:

There are several key differences between these two exams.

1. Purpose

woman with books and graduation hat

Grad schools all over the country use the GRE General Test to help them screen graduate school applications and choose the best candidates for their programs.

Each graduate school will use the GRE score to measure how well the applicants understand key math concepts, their critical thinking skills, their ability to reason out an argument, and their familiarity with academic vocabulary.

How well they do on the GRE test is expected to correlate with their success in grad school.

On the other hand, the SAT is used by colleges to determine which students to accept and whether they have what it takes to succeed in college-level courses.

The SAT asks questions to assess the students’ reading comprehension, grammar usage, and mathematics. Performance on the test should predict how well the students will perform in undergraduate studies.

2. Format

The GRE is taken on a computer via an adaptive testing program. The test adapts to the performance of the test taker. It starts off at one difficulty level and then gets harder or easier as you go along, depending on how well you are doing.

The SAT is a paper-based test, and there is no adaptive element to it, so everyone is on the same playing field throughout the exam. In this sense, it's more consistent than the GRE.

3. Structure

student writing on a paper

The GRE has three parts: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. Every portion is mandatory.

The SAT also has three required sections - reading, writing and language, and mathematics.

However, unlike the GRE, the SAT does not have an essay-based section.

The essay section was eliminated in 2021 after being included as an optional component for the first time in 2016.

4. Cost

Another key difference is that the GRE and SAT have different price tags.

For GRE tests, you will pay $205 whether you take it at a testing center or opt for a home-based option. The SAT is less expensive - $52 for the examination.

5. Availability

woman using a laptop on table

The GRE has more than one testing option. It is offered at testing centers most days of the year.

Some centers do not give it on Sundays or holidays, but otherwise, you will find year-round availability.

Moreover, you can choose the at-home computer-delivered GRE around the clock, seven days a week.

Unlike the GRE, the SAT is only offered on a limited basis - seven times a year. You need to plan carefully and register for the test on time to complete it before college application deadlines.

6. Timing

The GRE is a little longer than the SAT. The GRE has a total testing time of 3 hours 45 minutes, while the SAT takes only 3 hours.

You can expect your time at the center to be a little longer since breaks are included in the testing plan.

7. Administration

The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), while the SAT is run by the College Board.

Similarities Between the GRE and SAT:

woman using a calculator while working and a hand view of a person with stack of papers

Although there are many differences between the exams, these two tests also have some similarities.

1. Question Types

Like most standardized tests, both the GRE and SAT are mainly comprised of multiple-choice questions. Test takers need to pick the best alternative of the presented options.

2. Calculators

Each test allows you to use calculators, though with a few key differences. On the GRE, you can only use the on-screen calculator, not your own.

On the SAT, you can bring in an approved calculator to do math problems on a specific part of the test. One SAT math section, though, does not permit a calculator of any sort.

3. Subject Tests

In addition to the general GRE and SAT examinations, the parent companies also offered subject tests in certain areas that allowed students to show their ability in those subjects.

Generally, a student was only expected to take a subject test if they were specializing in that particular subject.

The ETS still offers a subject test in chemistry, mathematics, physics, and psychology [1].

On the other hand, the College Board used to have twenty SAT subject tests covering five areas: English, languages, history, mathematics, and science. However, these tests were eliminated in 2021 [2].

4. Content

In the writing and language section, you should know vocab words, be able to do sentence completion questions, and be good at reading comprehension.

Out of all of these, vocab knowledge is considered the most crucial. Also, both tests expect the student to read a passage and then answer multiple-choice questions about it.

Both the SAT and GRE expect that you know basic math concepts such as algebra, arithmetic, basic geometry, data analysis, and other math topics.

You will need to solve these types of problems in a multiple-choice format.


Is the GRE or SAT Harder?

The GRE is considered more challenging than the SAT. This is to be expected, given that the GRE is designed for graduate schools admissions and the SAT for undergraduates.

That being said, the harder areas are the essay and verbal reasoning sections. Many people find that the quantitative reasoning section of the GRE is not more difficult than the math section of the SAT.

How Are the GRE and the Sat Scored?

The GRE and the SAT are scored on different scales. The GRE's Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are graded on a scale of between 130 and 170 points.

These scores are added together to provide the total GRE score on a scale of 260 to 340 points. The Analytical Writing section is graded separately on half-point increments, from 0-6 points.

The SAT is scored in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math sections. Each of these is graded from 200 to 800 points for an SAT total score ranging from 400 to a perfect score of 1600.

Do Sat Scores Predict GRE Scores?

No, the SAT scores don’t predict the GRE scores. There is no guarantee that test-takers will do well on one test if they do well on the other.

GRE Vs SAT - Final Thoughts

Although both the GRE and the SAT are standardized tests used for academic admissions that have many similarities, there are some differences between them.

No matter which standardized test you decide to take, make sure to start studying on time.

If you need any help with your SAT and GRE prep, check out our review of test prep resources for the GRE and SAT prep courses.


  1. https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/about
  2. https://mvstampede.net/5006/news/sat-subject-tests-permanently-cancelled/

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