GMAT vs. GRE for Business School

GMAT vs. GRE for Business School

With more business schools accepting the GRE® as well as the GMAT, a lot of students are asking themselves which test they should take. The tests are very different, so there is a lot to consider when comparing the GMAT vs. the GRE.

How are the Tests Used?

Historical Purpose
GRE® GMAT
  • General admissions test for a wide variety of graduate programs.
  • Admissions test for MBA programs.
If you’re not interested in an MBA, don’t even think about the GMAT!
Now
GRE® GMAT
  • Top MBA programs beginning to accept GRE® as an alternative to the GMAT.
  • Feeling the competitive heat from the GRE®.
This trend is good for you. Having a choice means you can take the exam that will best showcase your individual skills.
Looking Forward
GRE® GMAT
  • ETS (the makers of the GRE®) released a new version of the GRE® in August 2011. Implied goal is to improve exam to better compete with the GMAT.
  • GMAC (the makers of the GMAT) will release a new version of the GMAT in 2012. Implied goal is to improve the exam to stave off challenge from the GRE®.
The GRE® currently doesn’t have a concrete scale of scores.  The GMAT is currently a known quantity.

What’s the Format?

Exam Delivery
GRE® GMAT
  • Section adaptive exam: For both the verbal and quant portions of the test you will take two separate sections.  Your performance on the first section of each type will determine the difficulty level of the second section that you receive.
  • Computer adaptive exam: Questions get harder as you get more correct, easier as you get more incorrect.
Sections/Timing
GRE® GMAT
  • Two 30-minute essay sections
  • Two 30-minute verbal sections
  • Two 35-minute math sections
  • Two 30-minute essay sections
  • One 75-minute math section
  • One 75-minute verbal section
Both are taken on a computer, and both are adaptive exams.  The GMAT adapts after each question while the GRE® adapts after each section. Both are significantly different from other exams you’ve taken – regardless of which exam you decide to take, you’ll need to spend some time honing your exam strategy and practicing your pacing.
Scoring
GRE® GMAT
  • One Essay score (0-6)
  • One Verbal score (130-170)
  • One Math score (130-170)
  • One Essay score (0-6)
  • One Verbal/Math combined score (200-800)
While the GMAT gives a combined verbal/math score, schools will still see percentiles for each section on your GMAT score report. Don’t think you can hide behind the combined GMAT score!

What’s On the Test?

Essay Questions
GRE® GMAT
  • One 30-minute “Issue” essay requiring that you take a position on an issue and support your opinion with relevant examples.
  • One 30-minute “Argument” essay requiring that you analyze the logical structure of an argument.
  • One 30-minute “Issue” essay requiring that you take a position on an issue and support your opinion with relevant examples.
  • One 30-minute “Argument” essay requiring that you analyze the logical structure of an argument.
The essay sections are pretty much identical, except for slightly more restrictive instructions that direct your response on the GRE®.
Verbal Question Formats
GRE® GMAT
  • Text Completion: You fill in the blanks with appropriate words.
  • Sentence Equivalence: You pick two words that could each fill the same single blank in a sentence such that the sentence would have the same meaning using either choice.
  • Reading Comprehension: You read a passage and answer questions.
  • Sentence Correction: You correct the grammar of a given sentence.
  • Critical Reasoning: You analyze the logic of an argument.
  • Reading Comprehension: You read a passage and answer questions.
Two of the three GRE® verbal question formats (Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence) test your vocabulary in a very direct way. If you don’t like words, the GRE® verbal will be tough for you.
Math Question Formats
GRE® GMAT
  • Discrete Quant: Standard multiple choice, ‘select all that apply’ multiple choice, and numerical entry.
  • Quantitative Comparison: You compare the relative size of two different expressions.
  • Data Interpretation: You answer questions based on charts and graphs.
  • Problem Solving: Standard multiple choice.
  • Data Sufficiency: You determine whether certain data is sufficient to answer a question.
Each exam showcases one “oddball” math question format. The Quantitative Comparison format on the GRE® and the Data Sufficiency format on the GMAT will take some getting used to. Plan to invest some time to learn appropriate strategies and approaches.
Verbal Content Tested
GRE® GMAT
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Grammar
  • Critical reasoning
  • Reading
This is an important difference. Students with strong vocabularies are not necessarily students with strong grammar skills, and vice versa. Consider your strengths when making your decision about which exam to take. The GRE® verbal section involves a lot of vocabulary recall while the GMAT verbal requires a bit more reasoning.
Math Content Tested
GRE® GMAT
  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Data Analysis
  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Data Analysis
These categories are very broad. In reality, anything up to, but not including, trigonometry is fair game on either exam. Things NOT included are: trigonometry, algebra II, calculus.

Though the content tested is the same, the GMAT math section is definitely more difficult both in terms of the level of questions that appear on the exam and the scoring scale. GMAT math questions require more sophisticated reasoning skills than do GRE®math questions.

Be careful, though – don’t think that you can avoid studying math by opting for the GRE®. The GRE® math still requires a sophisticated sense of numbers and an ability to solve problems.

GRE At A Glance

Are you new to the GRE? Read the following articles:

GRE Test Tips

Are you ready to take the GRE? How would you score if you take the GRE today? We’ll help you become familiar with what to expect on Test Day with our free practice test options so you can raise your confidence — and your score.

Interested in taking the GRE and want to prepare for it? Our GRE Test Prep courses are here to assist you. Contact us if you need more information.


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