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GMAT vs. GRE: Key Differences to Consider

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Posted: August 30th, 2021
GMAT vs. GRE: Key Differences to Consider

The GMAT and GRE are both graduate school entry exams, but the GMAT is designed specifically for students applying to business school. Many MBA programs accept either exam, which can leave applicants wondering which test they should take. Let’s break down the key differences between the GMAT and the GRE. 

See also: What is the GMAT? Everything you need to know

GMAT vs GRE: Overview

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are both graduate school entry exams. The main difference is that the GRE is taken to gain admission to a range of graduate programs, while the GMAT is designed specifically for business school programs. However, many business schools accept scores from either exam. In fact, a recent Kaplan report shows that 92% of business schools accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. Accepting the GRE widens the admission pool beyond students from traditional business backgrounds. It also gives MBA applicants the flexibility to choose which test can best showcase their academic potential. 

GMAT vs GRE: Key differences

Why Take It Accepted by all business schools  Accepted by 1,200+ business schools worldwide
Test Structure Consists of:

  • Analytical Writing section with one essay (30 mins)
  • Integrated Reasoning section (30 mins)
  • Quantitative Reasoning section (62 mins)
  • Verbal Reasoning section (65 mins)
Consists of:

  • Analytical Writing section with two essays (60 mins) 
  • 2 Verbal Reasoning sections (30 mins each)
  • 2 Quantitative Reasoning sections (35 mins each)
  • Experimental section that can be either math or verbal (30-35 mins)
Test Duration 3.5 hours 3.75 hours (Computer) 

3.5 hours (Paper)

How It’s Scored The overall GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800 Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 130 to 170
Registration Fee $250 $205


Do business schools prefer the GMAT or the GRE?

Nearly all business schools accept both exams, but some programs prefer the GMAT over the GRE. According to a recent report by Kaplan, 26% of admissions officers say applicants who submit a GMAT score have an advantage over those who submit a GRE score. Only 2% say GRE-takers have the advantage, while the remaining 73% say neither exam-taker has the advantage. To compare applications objectively, many business schools use this comparison tool to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores. Check with the business schools you’re considering and see if they indicate a preference for one exam over the other.

Which exam should I take?

If your prospective MBA program doesn’t indicate a preference either way, you should take the test that highlights your individual strengths. The GMAT and GRE are similar in many ways. Both require writing tasks, involve early high school-level math, and rely heavily on reading comprehension. But it’s important to understand that the tests have different focuses.

The GMAT is designed specifically for business students. Because of this, students with traditional MBA backgrounds in finance, banking, or consulting may prefer this exam. The GMAT generally suits students who excel at solving complex problems using data presented in charts, tables, and text. Meanwhile, the GRE is designed for a variety of graduate programs ranging from visual arts to higher education. Because the GRE caters to a wider audience, it may be preferable for students transitioning to business from other fields of study. 

When in doubt, take a practice test

Ultimately, the best way to decide between the exams is to take a practice test. After taking a GRE practice test and a GMAT practice test, compare the two and see which one you prefer. Both practice tests can be taken for free. And of course, a solid study plan is key to performing well on either exam. 

Once you take both practice tests, you can decide which test to tailor your studying to. If the schools you are looking into accept either, there’s no sense in studying for the exam you perform worse on. Using this strategy, you can maximize your GRE or GMAT score.

Keep on reading

If you’re considering returning to school to obtain your MBA, you may find these resources helpful:

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