GMAT or GRE: Which is The Right Test For You?

GMAT or GRE: Which is The Right Test For You?

Chances are you’re on your way to graduate or business school or are simply trying to plan your life before deciding which programs to apply to. The process was easy a few years ago. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) rang more bells than the Graduate Records Examinations (GRE). But now, you can find yourself torn between the two choices and sometimes delay your application because you can’t decide.

To help you decide, this guide will shed light on both options separately and then let you know which one suits you. So get comfortable and stick with me to the end of this article.

All about the GMAT

One thing you’ll notice about the GMAT is that it still rules the day in most graduate and business schools. At its core, the test is meant to challenge applicants’ quantitative, verbal, and writing skills. This sets the applicant on the right foot on their way to business school. 

The test will also provoke higher-order thinking and exploit your problem-solving skills. Can you apply these skills in a timely fashion? That’s all the test wants to prove before you receive the acceptance letter.

GMAT has been around for a couple of years, and so has the GRE. However, the GMAT has a stronger grip on business schools all over the globe. So, if you plan to be an international student but haven’t yet known which country you’ll end up in, you can bank on GMAT.

GMAT Structure and Divisions

GMAT has four major divisions: 

  • The quantitative section

Entails data sufficiency and problem-solving questions. This section tests your ability to assess data, evaluate, and draw meaningful conclusions. Quant, as it’s famously called, is undoubtedly challenging. So, to brace yourself for the test, be well-versed with some math concepts. However, don’t stress yourself too much with memorizing complex calculus formulae – that will most likely not be tested. Instead, recheck your data sufficiency, abstract presentation, and creative thinking skills.

  • Integrated reasoning

Challenges your skills in data analysis. The section presents information in multiple formats and evaluates your reasoning. The questions are designed to help you maximize your critical thinking abilities. It tests your judgment of different outcomes and ability to take on a solution that first seemed counterintuitive. To tackle each question, you must remain alert and attentive to detail. Your score on this section demonstrates your reasoning and ability to attend to details throughout your business school years and in the marketplace.

  • The verbal reasoning 

This part of the test assesses your capacity to read and understand written information. Hence, it presents comprehension that may come with structural problems. This challenges your understanding, ability to notice and correct sentence problems, and critical thinking. The verbal portion of the test brings out a key point of divergence between the GMAT and the GRE. How so? The comprehension, creative thinking, and overall reasoning required are more comprehensive for the GMAT than for the GRE.

  • The analytical writing assessment 

section focuses on your writing abilities. You must do a 30-minute essay showing your writing capabilities and strength in presenting and articulating an argument. The section tests your ability to defend your point of view or ideas that seem otherwise to other people. Can you take on a point, make sense of it, and articulate it in an argument?

Exam Strategy

The GMAT is a question-adaptive type of test. This means that the questions are interrelated. Hence, if you answer a question correctly, the following question might sound more challenging. On the other hand, if you got the wrong answer for the first question, the following one might appear more straightforward. If you find the questions on the GMAT test easy, you might need to do better because the questions are designed to be challenging. 

You will take the test on a computer. This has a setback because you can’t return to it to make changes once you submit an answer. 


Administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE is a standardized test that targets prospective graduate students. 

The GRE entails three sections:

  • Analytical writing: The section has two essays that gauge your writing skills. The essays are each 30 minutes long and require you to demonstrate your ability to defend your ideas. This will set you up for the school and the marketplace. 
  • The verbal reasoning portion of the GRE is considered more challenging than the GMAT verbal section. The section targets your knowledge more than your critical thinking abilities. Hence, you may encounter very challenging vocabulary and sentence equivalence exercises. The exercise will require a good understanding of vocabulary and the ability to unlock context in a sentence. Otherwise, things you may need a better score.
  • The quantitative reasoning section focuses more on your math skills than the abstract presentation. Hence, you will face challenges requiring knowledge of mathematical concepts to solve rather than knowledge of data sufficiency and critical or analytical thinking. 

Compared to the GMAT quantitative section, this part is more straightforward. First off, you won’t encounter questions that require higher-order critical thinking. This section will not be as challenging as long as you have some good background knowledge of mathematical concepts. 

Exam Strategy

The GRE exam takers will use a computer to complete and submit the test. The exam strategy is similar to GMAT but for a few things. Unlike GMAT, the test follows a section-adaptive system. This means that the sections are related, and once you get it wrong with the first section, you’ll lose it for the other sections. For instance, if you fail the first verbal and quantitative reasoning section, you may hardly pass the following sections.

The GMAT, on the other hand, follows a question-adaptive strategy. The correctness of your answer determines the difficulty of the next question. However, getting the correct answer in a section on the GRE will make the following sections easier.

Differences between the GMAT and GRE

  1. Content difficulty

While the GRE and GMAT are challenging, most people prefer the GMAT’s verbal section. The GRE uses more obscure vocabulary, and once you fail to unlock the context of the question, you may not answer it correctly. However, the GMAT’s quantitative section is considered more challenging than the GRE’s section. Besides being complex, you don’t have the option of using a calculator. However, if you feel confident with your mathematical skills, take the GMAT. Non-native students often find the GRE tests more challenging than the GMAT.

  1. Testing tyle

GMAT requires test takers to answer all the questions systematically. Once you answer a question, you can’t return to it. However, the GRE allows the candidate to answer the questions in any order. That means you can start with easy questions and return to the hard ones later.

  1. Exam format

The questions’ difficulty level changes as candidates undertake the exam on the computer. The GMAT’s difficulty level changes after every question, whereas the GRE’s difficulty level changes per section. Meaning GRE’s questions are section-adaptive.

  1. Test focus

The GRE emphasizes broader graduate skills than the GMAT.  The latter focuses on your reasoning, problem-solving, and data analysis skills. However, you should take the GRE if your graduate program is outside the business field.

  1. Price

The GMAT test costs about $305 in the US – $275 for the test and $30 for the score report. On the other hand, the GRE is relatively lower – $$232. $205 goes for the test and $27 for the score report.

Which one should you take?

The final answer lies within you because your strengths in different aspects might differ from others. This is why it may be hard for someone else to know which test will be more challenging for you and which one you can pull off.

To get a glimpse of your strengths, get an assessment. This will help you evaluate the questions and your abilities to tackle them. Be intelligent with your final decision because just because you find the GRE questions easy doesn’t mean you can’t pass the GMAT test.

The give-and-take is evident in the sheer differences between the two tests. While you may spend a lot on the GMAT, passing it may place you a few steps up your career ladder. Hence, you want to spend on something you’re sure will pay off. Besides, the GMAT’s global presence will allow you to study in a country or school of choice. 

The GRE test can be a go-to if you are well-versed in English vocabulary. The paper is considered more friendly because it doesn’t focus so much on data sufficiency, analysis, or critical thinking. Students without much background in business are also able to pull it off. 

If you’re asking about retakes, both tests don’t limit the number of retakes you can have in a lifetime. So failing in a test is not the end of the world.

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