Updated 10 September 2020
Almost all MBA program admissions require a test result from either the GMAT or the GRE.
Until very recently, the GMAT was the only admission test for an MBA. Most schools will now accept either a GRE or GMAT score, depending on the program.
While it is completely possible to take both tests, remember that each test costs money and takes a lot of preparation and study. If you feel you can devote enough time to give both a try then do so; otherwise, you will need to choose where to focus your energy.
Looking at the basics, both tests are pretty similar. Each lasts a similar amount of time at 3.5 hours and 3.75 hours respectively and both sets of test scores are valid for five years from the time they are taken. Both tests are also now computerized.
In many respects, the test content itself is similar too, although there are important differences that we will look at later. Each test consists of four sections, with similar times given for each.
The GRE covers:
The GMAT consists of:
More information on the GMAT can be found in our comprehensive article: What Is the GMAT Test?
The two tests cover similar material in the following areas:
While both the GMAT and the GRE seem to cover a lot of the same material, there are some differences to note before deciding which one to study for:
Most business schools in the United States will accept candidates with good GMAT or GRE scores. A survey commissioned by Kaplan Test Prep revealed that 74% of business schools do not have a preference of one test over the other, with 25% preferring candidates to have taken the GMAT.
Some schools feel that GMAT questions are more in line with what they will be teaching in business school and that, by taking the GMAT, the applicant is showing they are serious about attending business school.
Many business schools are more comfortable interpreting GMAT scores as they are more familiar to them. Older faculty who have always seen applicants with GMAT results may still prefer this exam.
Those who prefer the GRE are often looking for candidates with a more diverse educational background.
Unlike the GMAT, the GRE allows test-takers to return to questions in each section.
If your preference is to answer the questions you are sure of quickly and then return to the ones you need to think about, the GRE may be the test for you.
Even if you have completed all the sections, this feature can allow test-takers to go over their answers once more to ensure they are satisfied. It can also lessen test-takers anxiety to know they can return and fix an answer, if they have suddenly figured it was wrong during the test.
It has been noted that the quantitative questions on the GMAT are generally more difficult than those on the GRE. Those with good math skills would likely do better on the GMAT.
The GRE verbal section can be more difficult than the GMAT, especially for those with English as a second language. Candidates who are strong in this area usually choose the GRE over the GMAT.
There are small differences within each section of the exams, which may suit some candidates better than others and are worth considering if you are given the choice of exam:
The GMAT and GRE are both scored on different scales so it can be difficult to compare scores.
The GMAT is scored on a 200 to 800 scale while the GRE is scored on a 130 to 170 scale. While the GMAT provides a total score, the GRE does not.
It is important to understand the score range that your chosen school requires when choosing which test to take.
Although the amounts are not vastly different, the GMAT and GRE do have different costs. The GRE will cost about $205 while the GMAT will cost $250.
While there isn’t a big difference, the price could become an issue if you need to retake one of the tests or need to travel to take it. The GRE is offered at more locations than the GMAT.
You may still be undecided about which of the tests to take. Before making your decision, make sure you carefully consider some of the following:
More and more schools accept both exam scores for their programs so you will likely be faced with a decision. The exams are similar in many respects, containing writing, numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning sections, although their differences may play to different candidates’ strengths.
You may be tempted to write both exams. While that option is completely open, keep in mind that both exams require a lot of studying, not to mention the costs of each.
Ultimately, you need to choose the test that will give you the best chance of getting a good score and being accepted into your chosen school. Use the tips in this article to set yourself up for success.
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