GMAT vs. GRE: Understanding the Difference

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GMAT vs. GRE: Understanding the Difference


When seeking to enroll in a graduate program to receive an MBA, students must understand the entrance exam required. Before you decide, make sure that the business school you plan on applying to will accept the appropriate exam.

Despite having somewhat similar names, the GMAT and GRE have different purposes. The GMAT applies to students looking to get their Master of Business degree in a competitive business program. Meanwhile, the Educational Testing Services (ETS) created the GRE for ambitious students looking to get their master’s degree, Ph.D., or attend business or law school.

What is the GMAT?

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means that the test will adapt depending on the number of questions answered correctly or incorrectly. The GMAT can become easier or more difficult depending on how well you are doing throughout the exam. Only two sections, the Quantitative and Verbal reasoning sections, are computer-adaptive during the exam. The GMAT consists of a 30-minute Analytic Writing section with one essay, a 30-minute Reasoning section, a 62-minute Quantitative section, and a 65-minute Verbal section.

The GMAT will take around 3.5 hours and will cost $250 to take the test. Furthermore, students may retake the test five times within 12 months (allowing 16 days between each testing session). Do keep in mind that you are only allowed to take the exam a total of eight times in your life.

How Does GMAT Scoring Work?

During the writing assessment, you will have to analyze an argument. The writing assessment’s score occurs in intervals of 0.5 going up to 6.0 and calculated by professional essay raters and a machine algorithm. If you believe you received an incorrect score on the writing assessment, then you can submit a recalculation request on the official MBA website.

For the Integrated Reasoning section, you can expect 12 questions about graphic interpretation, table analysis, multi-source reasoning, and two-part analysis questions. Scoring in the Integrated Reasoning section ranges from 1-8 in 1-point increments. There can be multiple parts to a question in this section, but you must answer them correctly to receive full credit.

There are 31 questions in the Quantitative Reasoning section, which will entail data sufficiency and problem-solving questions. The score range goes from 6-51 in one-point increments.

Finally, 36 questions make up the Verbal Reasoning section, which will test your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. This section is also scored on a 6-51 range by 1-point increments.

Three critical factors contribute to scoring in the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections:

  1. Number of questions you answer
  2. Whether your answers are correct
  3. Difficulty and other parameters of the questions you answered

Based on the number of questions, if you answer more correctly, and had more difficult questions, you could earn a higher score in the Quantitative and Verbal sections.

It is important to note that there is a penalty for not completing each section of the exam. If you do not finish a section, then the number of questions you answered will determine your score. Your score will decrease dramatically with each unanswered question in each section.

What is the GRE?

The GRE is a required test to get into most graduate schools and is growing as a test for admission into business schools. The GRE consists of two 30-minute Analytical Writing sections, two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections, two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections, and a 30-35-minute Experimental section containing either math or verbal-related questions.

The GRE is also offered as a computer-adaptive exam but is available on paper in places where a computer is not accessible. The exam can range from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments and will cost $205 to take. If needed, you can take the test once every 21 days, up to five times within 12-months. Unlike the GMAT, you can take the GRE as many times as you want in your life.

What to Expect on the GRE?

The essays will test the test-takers ability to communicate effectively, evaluate claims, support ideas with logical reasoning, and their writing skills. The Quantitative section will test arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and some problem solving and data analysis questions. Lastly, the Verbal sections will test how you analyze sentences and write passages. You can expect reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence questions in this section.

Which Test is Easier?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to which test is easier, it will just depend on you and your strengths. The GMAT is made for those who are more quantitative, analytical, and who can interpret data from charts or tables to solve complex problems. If you feel like you are a strong editor, the GMAT Verbal section might be easier for you.

If you struggle to master mathematical concepts, then you should note that the GRE math section is less tricky than the GMAT, plus you may use a calculator! Nevertheless, both tests will have challenging questions, so taking practice tests for each exam will help determine which one will better suit you.

When will I receive my GMAT & GRE Scores?

You can expect to receive your GMAT scores within five to 20 days after taking the test. The score report can include copies of your essay and a digital photo if the designated graduate program wants to receive them. You will select up to five programs before the start of the exam to send your official scores and they will automatically send them to the schools electronically or by mail.

It can take 10 to 15 days to receive your scores from the GRE. You have two opportunities to send your scores to your designated schools: on test day and the day after test day. On test day you can select up to four schools to send your GRE scores to and they will receive them 10 to 15 days after your test for free. If you decide to wait until the next day to send your score, it will cost you $27 per recipient.

GMAT & GRE Success Relies on Practice

No matter which test you think will be easier for you, it is important to put in a lot of time studying to ensure success. Most people study over 60 hours for both tests and start at least four weeks before their scheduled test. If you do poorly on your first attempt, you can always try again. The second time around you will be going in more prepared than your first, for you already know what to expect now.

There are free resources online to take practice tests to decide which test would be better for you. Princeton Review offers free GRE and GMAT practice tests as well as live-online events where you can take a live practice exam. These can help calm your nerves going into the real tests and can help you receive a higher score. Confidence is key, but so is preparation.