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The GRE® or GMAT™ test for an MBA: Which is better?

If you intend to go to graduate school or study an MBA, there are particular requirements you need to meet in order to get admitted. One of them is including standardized tests in your application, which will significantly increase your chances of getting accepted to the program and university of your choice.

There are two highly accredited tests you can invest in. You can either take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) examination. But what is the difference between the GRE and the GMAT and which one is better for an MBA? Prospective students frequently find themselves into a dilemma regarding which examination to choose.

This article will attempt to answer all of the questions you might have about the structure, cost, registration and scoring of both examinations, in order to make the best decision of which test to take for your graduate studies.

GRE vs GMAT: What are they?

GRE Test

  • Founded in 1936 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT).
  • Currently administered by the Educational testing Service (ETS).
  • It is required for admission to graduate schools, but also for business schools and MBA programs.
  • The first universities that used the test on their students were Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University and Columbia University.
  • It measures quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, analytical and critical thinking skills.
  • It is valid for 5 years.

GMAT Test

  • Founded in 1954 and is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
  • Created by representatives of several colleges like Harvard and Columbia, the test was initially named the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB).
  • It grants admission to graduate management programs like MBA degrees.
  • GMAT Test assesses problem-solving, analytical writing, data processing, logic and critical reasoning skills.
  • It is valid for 5 years.

How and where do I register?

GRE Test

For the GRE® General Test create an ETS account online and pick the GRE General or the GRE Subject Test you want to take.

  • There are more than 1,000 test center locations in more than 160 countries.
  • In order to register for the test, you need to create an ETS account first.
  • Find the location of your test center online through the official GRE website. In some cases, you may also have the option to take the GRE General Test at home.
  • The cost of the GRE Test for most countries is $205. Exceptions apply to countries like Australia, China, India, Nigeria and Turkey where the cost is slightly higher up to $255. Fee reduction also exists if the student meets particular criteria.
  • Computer-based tests are offered throughout the year and can be retaken anytime after 21 days, up to 5 times per year.
  • The GRE paper-based test is offered three times per year in September, October and April.

GMAT Test

Visit mba.com and register for your GMAT™ Test by selecting time, date and test center.


  • GMAT is administered in more than 400 test centers across 114 countries around the world.
  • The test is offered both online and also at an official test center.
  • You can register for a GMAT exam on the official website of the examination, after you have created an mba.com account.
  • The cost of the GMAT Test overall is around $250-275. The cost can reach up to $750 depending on the country of the applicant or services like additional reports, cancellations or rescheduling. The cost for the GMAT Online examination is the same.
  • GMAT Test is offered all year-round and can be taken up to 5 times a year, but no more than 8 times in total. The test can be retaken anytime after 16 days.

GRE vs GMAT: How is the exam formatted?

GRE Test

The GRE® General Test is a computer-delivered test. However, paper-based examination is possible when a computer-delivered test is not available.

  • The GRE General test includes 3 big sections with 2 sub-sections each and measures your skills in analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning.
  1. The Analytical Writing part includes one issue and one argument analysis task where you will be asked to articulate clearly and effectively your ideas and support them by examples. It also evaluates your English language writing skills.
  2. The Verbal Reasoning includes 2 sections with 20 questions per section and measures mainly your ability to understand and summarize texts. During this section you can find reading comprehension tasks, sentence equivalence tasks or text completion tasks.
  3. Similarly, the Quantitative Reasoning test consists of 2 sections with 20 questions each. Quantitative reasoning tasks include, multiple choice questions, numeric entry questions or quantitative comparison questions.
  • An identified research section at the end of the test, as well as an unidentified section after the analytical writing test might appear on your GRE Test. They are both not scored.

GMAT Test

The GMAT™ Test is a computer-based standardized test offered year-round in test centers around the world.



  • The GMAT Test is divided into 4 sections which measure your analytical writing, integrated, quantitative and verbal reasoning.
  1. The Analytical Writing section includes one question, an essay writing where you should be able to critique a brief argument that is presented to you. It is the only part of the GMAT Test that doesn’t include multiple choice questions.
  2. The Verbal Analysis section contains 36 questions in total and tests your reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction skills.
  3. As for the Quantitative Analysis section, it is mostly math-related with 31 questions testing problem solving and data sufficiency skills.
  4. Finally the Integrated Reasoning section which was added just in 2012, includes 12 questions of 4 different types. This can be multi-source reasoning or table and graphics interpretations.

How long do the tests last?

GRE Test

You can complete your GRE® Test in three hours and 45 minutes in total, with a 10-minute break after the third section.

  • Analytical Writing: 60 minutes (30 minutes per section).
  • Verbal Reasoning: 60 minutes (30 minutes per section).
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 70 minutes (35 minutes per section)
  • The time for the unscored identified research section and unidentified sections varies.

GMAT Test

The amount of time you need in order to complete your GMAT™ examination is just a bit above 3 hours, including two optional breaks.

  • Analytical Writing: 30 minutes (1 essay question).
  • Verbal reasoning: 65 minutes (36 questions).
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 62 minutes (31 questions).
  • Integrated Reasoning: 30 minutes (12 questions).

How does scoring work?

GRE Test

In the GRE Test, the ScoreSelect® option allows you to decide which test you want to send to the universities you apply for.


  • Your official GRE® score report contains your contact information, gender, date of birth, test dates, intended graduate major, your GRE test score followed by the percentile ranks and a list with the authorized score recipients or sponsors.
  • In the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections the score ranges between 130-170 points in 1-point increments.
  • In the analytical writing section, the score ranges between 0-6 in half-point increments.
  • The GRE is section-level adaptive. That means that your score on the first section of verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning will affect the difficulty of the questions on the second section. All questions contribute equally to the final raw score.
  • A raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly.
  • The analytical writing section is graded by at least one examiner using a six-point holistic scale. After that, the essay is also graded by a computerized program, the e-rater®. Both grades are taken into consideration for the final score.

GMAT

Your official GMAT™ Score Report includes multiple ways to interpret your exam results. Each of the five separate scores is reported on a fixed scale.

  • Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800 points. While the final score is important, each score from the sections separately should be taken into consideration, since they reflect your strengths or areas you need to work more on.
  • In the analytical writing assessment, the score ranges between 0-6 in 0.5-point increments.
  • For the integrated reasoning assessment, the score ranges between 1-8 in 1-point increments.
  • The score for the quantitative reasoning is graded between 6-51 with 1-point increment.
  • Similarly, the verbal reasoning ranges between 6-51 as well, with 1-point increment.
  • The analytical writing section is the only one graded by professional essay raters.
  • The remaining sections are item-level adaptive, depending on the number of questions you answered, the correct answers you provided and the difficulty of the questions you answered.
  • GMAT Test has a penalty for unanswered questions or sections. This will significantly decrease your final score in the test.

Where can they take me?

GRE Test

The GRE® General Test is accepted by thousands of graduate schools globally, including business or law programs.

  • When taking a GRE Test, you can find yourself studying a Master’s in any discipline including business, an MBA, a J.D. or a Doctoral degree.
  • About 90% of business schools in the US accept GRE Test scores.
  • Many fellowship sponsors and also more than 1,200 business schools around the world with top-ranked MBA programs accept GRE tests.
  • Can lead you to pursue graduate studies in highly accredited universities like Georgetown University, University of Oxford or Cambridge University.

GMAT

GMAT™ examination is a standardized exam created for management and business schools admission.


  • 9 out of 10 new MBA enrollments are made by using a GMAT score.
  • It is accepted in more than 7,000 programs and over 2,000 business graduate schools internationally.
  • More than 200,000 prospective business students take the GMAT Test every year.
  • The GMAT Test structure measures your skills in areas and problems similar to the ones in real-life business world.
  • It increases your earning potential and opens doors to internationally accredited institutions like the Sloan School of Management or the Harvard and Wharton Business Schools.

GMAT or GRE for MBA: Which test should I take?

Are you still not sure about which examination to select? Read the following key points that will assist you in making your final decision easier.

The biggest difference between a GMAT and a GRE examination is that the GMAT is only used when applying to business schools, whereas the GRE is a more general test that can be used for a wide range of graduate programs. So, if you are planning to apply only for a business school, then you should consider taking a GMAT Test.

Although GMAT is widely accepted by the vast majority of universities for MBA studies, in recent years, more and more universities have started to accept the GRE test as well for admission to business schools. If you have already taken the GRE examination, keep in mind that universities convert your GRE to GMAT score, when reviewing applications and comparing applicants.

Are you the quant or poet?

As for the test format, both tests measure the examinee’s ability in subject areas such as analytical writing, verbal and quantitative reasoning. However, the emphasis on the GMAT verbal section is mostly on grammar, while GRE focuses more on the vocabulary part, providing a more demanding verbal section with more difficult reading comprehension tasks. Plus, taking a GRE means you will have to write two essays instead of one for the GMAT.

On the other hand, the quantitative sections of the GMAT Test are obviously much more challenging than the ones of GRE. Despite the fact that both focus on similar topics, GMAT has two sections testing mathematical skills: The quantitative section and the integrated reasoning section.

If you are a person with strong analytical algebra or geometry skills, being able to interpret complex data and solve problems without a calculator, then GMAT will be the best choice for you. GRE is a much more straightforward and simple quantitative test that also provides you with a calculator during your exam.

How is each exam scored?

Finally, the scoring of both exams. The GRE is a section-level adaptive exam. That means that your score on the first section of verbal and quantitative reasoning will affect the difficulty of the entire following section. On the contrary, on the GMAT every question determines the difficulty of the next question separately.

What about the cost, location and duration of the tests?

In relation to the cost of both examinations, GRE is slightly more affordable with the cost set at $205 for the majority of countries around the world, while the cost for the GMAT is $250-275. Any additional services like cancellation fees, rescheduling or additional reports increase significantly the cost of both tests.

Not only GMAT but also GRE examinations offer the possibility to prospective students to take the exams either online or at an official test center. The tests run all year round in numerous locations internationally and can be repeated in both cases in less than a month. The duration of the tests are almost the same, with both tests needing between three to four hours almost to be completed.

examination day

Final Thoughts

Getting into business school and pursuing an MBA is a difficult task. There is no test that is easier than the other. Both require you to have advanced skills in analytical writing, logical, quantitative and verbal reasoning. The best way to determine which one is the right one for you is to take into account your personal skills and abilities first. Are you stronger in mathematics or in reading comprehension? Or in both?

Continue by conducting thorough research on the universities and programs you want to apply to. Decide on whether you want to apply only for a business school or if you are more flexible in relation to the direction of your graduate studies. In any case, study hard, prepare yourself by downloading the GMAT and GRE practice tests and compare your results in order to make sense of your strengths and weaknesses. That way you can make the wisest choice based on your personal skills and choose the suitable test for you.

Interested in studying an MBA?

Use our free, online search engine to search MBA programs. Start your MBA journey today!

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Sources:

https://www.ets.org/gre

https://www.gmac.com/gmat-other-assessments/about-the-gmat-exam/gmat-online

https://www.mba.com/

Last update: 07 May 2021

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