How the GRE Stacks Up Against the GMAT

So, why exactly did the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) decide to change? Well, if you take test owner Educational Testing Service’s word for it, it’s about more accurately assessing the candidate for skills that he or she will need in grad school. If you are more conspiracy-minded, you may like this theory better—the GRE wanted to compete with the GMAT.

When you read ETS’ bit on its site about how the Revised GRE will be accepted at over 450 MBA accredited institutions/programs, the theory gains more than an iota of plausibility. Regardless of ETS’ motives, if you are considering business school, then which test to take is a very important decision. Below are some important considerations to keep in mind.

1. Price

The GRE is over 100 dollars less than the GMAT ($140 vs. $250.) While not substantial, such a sum could dissuade those who are not 100% set on business school from taking the GMAT. If you are still undecided about business school, then you may want to defer taking the GMAT and sit for the GRE instead.

2. Quantitative

Compared to the GRE test-taking pool, in which poets are mixed with physicists and philosophers with artists, the GMAT pool mostly consists of those with strong math skills.

As a result, the math on the GMAT is more difficult than that on the GRE. Moreover, the GRE is curved much more leniently. Miss a few and you can still get a perfect score. To get a perfect score on the GMAT, there is a little room for error.

So if math is not your strongest point, you may be better off taking the GRE. That said, if geometry conjures up memories of high school torture, keep in mind that the GRE is more geometry-centric than the GMAT.

3. Verbal

Whereas the difference in math sections on the two tests is mostly one of difficulty (and perhaps something called data sufficiency), the verbal sections on the two tests differ significantly.

For starters, the GRE is highly dependent on vocabulary. For the GMAT, you don’t have to know the difference between parsimonious and pusillanimous. Indeed, you don’t have to know either word, or any vocabulary words not encountered in academic-level reading. You will, on the other hand, encounter logic puzzles in the form of paragraphs asking you to identify flaws in reasoning.

There is also GMAT Sentence Correction, a section in which the test-taker is grilled on the minutiae of grammar. So, if you never learned about dangling participles and illogical modifiers, you may be better of taking the GRE.

4. Business School Realities

The GMAT is still the golden standard as far as most top B-schools are concerned. While many schools state they will accept either, a lingering suspicion remains that taking the GRE is tantamount to copping out. That said, Stanford and Harvard were amongst some of the very first business schools to accept the GRE.

5. Keeping Your Options Open

If you are not sure whether to pursue a business degree, then taking the GRE will not pigeonhole you in the same way that taking the GMAT will. Then there is also the question of price (see #1.)

Final Word

If you are in a dilemma over which test to take, then the best takeaway is to simply find out which test you’re better at. Both have free downloadable software that allows you to take an actual Computer Adapted Test (CAT). If you score significantly higher on one test, then you may want to seriously consider sitting for that exam.

For the last ten years, Christopher S. Lele has been helping students excel on the SAT, GRE, and GMAT. Some of his GRE students have raised their composite scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Chris posts helpful tips and strategies for Magoosh GRE test prep.