One of the biggest conundrums of an aspiring MBA candidate is to decide which entrance test to take. 

Despite the information flowing from all sides about different tests, the pros and cons of each, figuring out which test would suit your unique situation isn’t easy.

It used to be easier when the only way to get an MBA was through GMAT. Now many schools have begun to accept GRE scores as well. So, this guide is going to chart out all that you need to know about both these tests.

85% of B-Schools Now Accept the GRE as an Alternative to the GMAT

GMAT: General Info

The GMAT Consists of the following four sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment – A 30-minute-long essay.
  • Integrated Reasoning – 12 Questions
  • Quantitative Section – 37 Questions
  • Verbal Section – 41 Questions

You can read more about GMAT Test Pattern here.


The composite score of GMAT ranges from 200 to 800. Only the scores from the Quantitative Section and Verbal Section are included in the Composite Score. Both these sections have the score range of 0-60 (one-point increments).

Time Strategy Essential For GMAT Test Success

Your scores for Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning will not be a part of your Composite Score. The range for both these sections differs, with the range for Analytical Writing being 0-6 (half point increments) and the range for Integrated Reasoning being 1-8 (one-point increments). You can read this article for more information on GMAT Scores.

GRE: General Info

Unlike GMAT, GRE is not only considered by business schools, but rather numerous graduate schools as well.

GRE consists of the following three sections:

  • Analytical Writing – 2 Essays in 60 minutes (30 minutes for one essay)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Analytical Reasoning (AR) – Both have 2 sections of 20 Multiple Choice Questions each [40 questions QR + 40 questions AR]
  • Research Section – GRE unlike GMAT has a research section of 20 questions, which is not a part of the test score. This section could be a Quantitative Section or a Verbal Section but which section is the research section would be unknown to you. Read more on GRE Pattern.


Now we come to the scoring aspect of GRE. Unlike GMAT, in GRE the scores are usually reported separately and there is no combined composite score. Analytical Writing score ranges from 0-6 (half-point increments), and the score for Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning range from 13-170 (one-point increments).

How to Get Admission to MBA Programs Despite Lower GMAT, GRE Scores

You should note that the GRE is mostly taken online. It is a section-level adaptive test which means that what you score in the first section of both Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning will have an effect on the difficulty of the questions in the second round of both of these sections.

Also read:


The following table summarizes the abovementioned information for your ease:


Length3 Hours and 30 minutes3 Hours and 45 minutes
Number of Essays12
Number of MCQs9080 + 20 unscored research questions
Number of Sections46 (Including an unscored research section)
Composite scoringComposite GMAT score ranges from 200-800, in ten-point incrementsVerbal and Quantitative Reasoning each have score ranges of 130-170, in one-point increments, for a total score of 260-340
Score Validity5 years5 years


Average GRE vs. GMAT Scores At Top Business schools Compared

The average GRE and GMAT scores of the incoming class at the top 50 business schools are shown below. If you are aiming for a top 50 business school, the below table should help you in setting a target score for the GMAT or GRE, whichever test you choose to take.


Business School2017 GMAT2017 GRE
VerbalQuantTotalWriting Score
1. Penn (Wharton)730NANANANA
2. Harvard Business School729164164328NA
3. Stanford GSB7371651643294.9
4. Chicago (Booth)730NANANANA
5. Northwestern (Kellogg)732NANANANA
6. MIT (Sloan)722NANANANA
7. Dartmouth (Tuck)7221611583194.8
8. Columbia724NANANANA
9. UC-Berkeley (Haas)7251641613255
10. Yale SOM7271651643294.7
11. Michigan (Ross)7161601603204.5
12. Duke (Fuqua)7021611603214.5
13. Virginia (Darden)7131621613235
14. Cornell (Johnson)7001611613224.5
15. UCLA (Anderson)7161641643284.5
16. NYU (Stern)7141621613234.4
17. CMU (Tepper)6911591623214
18. Texas-Austin (McCombs)7031581583164.3
18. UNC (Kenan-Flagler)7011591573164
20. Emory (Goizueta)682NANANANA
21. Indiana (Kelley)6781601573174.3
22. Washington (Foster)6931601583184.5
23. Georgetown (McDonough)6921571573144.3
24. Notre Dame (Mendoza)6741581573154.4
25. Rice (Jones)7111601613214.4
26. USC (Marshall)7031601593194.4
27. Georgia Tech (Scheller)6801581623204.4
28. Washington (Olin)6941561563124
29. Michigan State (Broad)6741551523073.7
30. Arizona State (Carey)6821561553113.9
31. Minnesota (Carlson)6761611573184.6
32. Wisconsin6781581573154.5
33. Vanderbilt (Owen)6881561573134
34. Ohio State (Fisher)670157157314NA
34. BYU (Marriott)680NANANANA
36. Penn State (Smeal)6611571573144.1
37. Rochester (Simon)6661561583144
38. Purdue (Krannert)6321531613144
39. UC-Irvine (Merage)6591571583154.3
40. Maryland (Smith)NA1561533094.3
41. Boston (Questrom)680157158315NA
42. Pittsburgh (Katz)6081541533074.1
43. Texas-Dallas (Jindal)6701571553124
44. Texas A&M (Mays)NA1561553113.9
45. Iowa (Tippie)676N/AN/AN/AN/A
46. Boston College (Carroll)6371531533064
47. SMU (Cox)6611541533074
48. Temple (Fox)NAN/AN/AN/AN/A
49. Rutgers673158158316NA
50. Georgia (Terry)6481571563134.3

What Do GRE and GMAT Cover? How Are They Different?

GMAT and GRE comprise of 3 main subject areas: Verbal, Quantitative and Writing while GMAT also has the Integrated Reasoning section. Let’s look into the format and the content for each section, in both the exams.

Verbal Section: GMAT vs GRE

Both GMAT and GRE have a verbal section. The similarities and differences in the verbal section in both the tests are as follows:

GMAT Verbal

The Verbal Section of GMAT focuses on grammar. It will test your ability to understand the material provided to you in writing, evaluating arguments based on various subjects, and distinguish errors and correct those in the written material.

  • Reading Comprehension

In this section you will be given a passage to read and then you will be required to answer questions based on the passage that you have read. Mostly, you will be asked to draw a conclusion based on your reading while analyzing the argument.

  • Critical Reasoning

These questions start with a short passage of 2 to 3 sentences which you have to analyze and use information information given in the passage to answer questions based on the passage. The questions are similar to the questions in the Reading Comprehension part. The difference is that the passages here are comparatively shorter and contain information for you to analyse rather than simply comprehend.

  • Sentence Correction

In this section, you will find a sentence which is wholly or partly underlined. There would be about five ways to re-phrase the underlined portion of the given sentence. The first option is often a repetition of the original phrase. Your job is to  determine the correctly phrased option. The idea is to test your grammar and communication skills.

GRE Verbal

The verbal test of GRE aggressively focuses on your vocabulary. It measures your ability to arrive at conclusions from excerpts, summarise passages, identify the key points from a given text, understand words, sentences and their meanings and your ability to complete passages.

The three categories of the GRE verbal part are as follows:

Reading Comprehension

You will be provided with a passage which you’ll have to read and then answer questions based on the passage. The questions would be about your takeaways from the passage.

Text Completion

Here, you will be answering questions which would be in the form of short passages with one or more blanks. Your job will be to select words from a list of words which would also be provided, to fill in the blanks with the most appropriate word.

Sentence Equivalence

This part will consist of a sentence with one blank and six probable answers. You will need to choose the option that will fit in the blank the best.

The following table summarises the above information.


Number of verbal Sections12
Number of verbal Questions4140 (20 questions per section)
Length75 minutes60 (30 min. per question)
Main Topics Tested-Reading Comprehension

-Critical Reasoning

-Sentence correction

-Reading comprehension

-Text completion

-Sentence equivalence

Score Range0-60130-170


Difficulty – GRE vs GMAT Verbal Section

The Verbal Section of both GRE and GMAT are similar. However, GRE’s verbal section is considered to be a tad bit more challenging in terms of grammar, and vocabulary especially for non-native English speakers. The Verbal Sections are more or less similar for both the tests.

Quantitative Section: GMAT vs GRE

While the quantitative Section for both the tests is broadly similar in terms of the math concepts they comprise of, the manner in which they do this is quite different.

GMAT Quantitative

This is divided into two sections which evaluate your math skills viz. Quantitative section and Integrated Reasoning.

Quantitative Section

There are two sections under this section:

Problem Solving: Here you will solve equations, evaluate data, interpret graphs, or attend to a combination of all three of these. The questions are similar to standardized math problems.

Data Sufficiency: In Data Sufficiency, which are about 14-16 of the total of 37 questions under the Quantitative Section, you will deal with some unusual questions. There will be a question followed by two sentences which would be required to answer the question. You will have to determine if one, both, either or neither of the given reason/statement can be used to answer the question.  (Note: You don’t need to solve the problem here, rather you only need to decide if you can use the given information to solve the problem.

Integrated Reasoning Section: The questions in this section also tests your quantitative skills. There are four types of questions under this section –  Graphic Interpretation, Two-part Analysis, Table Analysis and Multi-Source Reasoning. Each of these, test your ability to interpret and analyse data to solve difficult problems. In order to crack these problems, you should be able to interpret information presented in graphics, numbers and texts, blend information from various sources. You will need to look out for and analyse any relationships arising out of the information to solve the given problems.

One thing that you should note is that you only get points if you answer all the questions correctly. This can obviously be daunting. 

GRE Quantitative

The Quantitative Section of GRE tests the following skills:

  • Algebra
  • Arithmetic
  • Data Analysis
  • Geometry

Most of the questions asked in the GRE quant are Multiple Choice Questions (MCPs). However, several numeric entry questions are also asked wherein you need to enter the right answer instead of just having to select the answer from the options given.

Apart from this, there will be some Multiple-Choice Questions called ‘Quantitative Comparison’ questions. In these types of questions, two quantities viz. A and B ill be given. Your task will be to determine which among the two given quantities is larger, or equal or whether the relation can be determined between the two quantities at all.

The following table summarises the above information.


Number  of quant sections2 (Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning)2
Number  of quant questions49 (37 for Quantitative section, 12 for Integrated Reasoning)40 (20 questions in each section)
Length105 minutes total (75 minutes for Quantitative, 30 minutes for Integrated Reasoning)60 minutes total (30 minutes per section)
Main topics testedQuantitative:

-Data sufficiency

-Problem solving

Integrated Reasoning:

-Multi-source reasoning

-Graphics interpretation

-Two-part analysis

-Table analysis





-Data analysis


Score RangeQuantitative: 0-60

Integrated Reasoning: 1-8



Difficulty – GMAT vs GRE Quant

The GMAT has a more challenging quantitative section than GRE. While the topics tested in both the exams are similar in nature, the questions and manner in which they are presented differs.

While higher level math concepts such as calculus are not tested in either of the two exams and basic high school knowledge of math is sufficient for the exams, the Data Sufficiency and Integrated Reasoning Questions of GMAT have more difficult questions which ask for critical thinking and analysis.

Analytical Writing: GMAT vs GRE

Before we begin, a critical difference between GRE and GMAT is that while GMAT has one essay, GRE has two.

GMAT Writing

You are expected to write on essay as part of the test and the time given for it is 30 minutes.

As part of this, you must evaluate an argument and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the said argument. You will not be giving your opinion on the issue, rather you will discuss the opinion which is given, finding loopholes in the opinion and how it could be made better.

GRE Writing

You need to write two essays and you will have 30 minutes for each of the two essays. In one essay you will analyse an argument, and in the second essay you have to analyse a issue.

The essay about analysing an argument is similar to GMAT’s essay. Although, you will also need to critique the given argument.

For analysing a issue, you will be given a passage and you will have to explain your own position and stand on the issue and substantiate it with evidence.

Here is a summary of what we have covered till now.

Number of writing Sections11
Number of essay prompts12
Length30 minutesTwo 30 minutes sections
Main topics Tested-Analysis of arguments-Analyse an issue

-Analyse an argument

Score Range0-60-6


Difficulty Analysis – GMAT vs GRE Analytical Writing Section 

When it comes to difficulty, the writing sections of both GMAT and GRE are similar. Your job is to write an essay analysing the strengths and weaknesses of a given argument. GRE has a second essay, which you are likely to do well on if you do well on the first one. 

The writing section of GRE is 60-minute-long compared to GMAT but then again you have to do two essays. Besides the difference in the time and length of the writing tasks, the tests are largely similar.

What you need to consider is your willingness and ability to write continuously for an hour in case of GRE compared to the 30 minutes for GMAT. If writing for long does not exhaust you, then you can consider the GRE.

Business Schools’ Preference – GMAT or GRE

Most business schools accept GMAT as well as GRE. Although 90% of business school aspirants submit a GMAT score. So, does it matter which test you take? Is there any advantage to if you take the GMAT or GRE? 

According to a survey in 2015 conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, covering more than 200 business schools, 25% of the schools said they prefer GMAT over GRE. In 2014 the number of schools choosing GMAT over GRE were 18%. 

The reasons for the preference for GMAT could be due to a couple of reasons.

First, the schools feel that GMAT questions (Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning especially) test skills and knowledge required directly for getting through business school such as data interpretation and multi-part reasoning.

The second reason is that some school have a notion that GMAT scores show the certainty of a candidate to attend a business school and commit to the chosen path.

The GRE is a gateway to many courses and a wide variety of grad schools, which may show that a candidate is not certain about what he or she wants to do and is looking to keep different options open. Why that should be a problem is beyond us – having options is no bad thing. 

The third reason is that most business schools are familiar with GMAT and even a majority of the candidates submit a GMAT score by default. This means that the business schools are more adept at judging candidates based on A GMAT score.

That said, as per a more recent survey, about 74% of business schools have said that they do not have a preference regarding GMAT vs GRE scores. Moreover, schools such as Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Yale School of Management have expressly specified that they view both the exams equally.

So, while some business schools prefer GMAT over GRE, they are not huge in number. Many schools do not have a preference between the two, but if at all they do, they will still accept scores from both the exams.

Should You Take the GRE or the GMAT? 

Before you decide what exam, you need to take, there are two things that you need to think about and do.

  • Learning School Exam Policies: You need to research on the exam policies of the schools that you are interested to attend. The schools mostly state which exams they accept on their admissions page. The best thing to do would be to contact someone from the admissions team and ask them if they have a preference.
  • Practice the Exam: This is very important. You should always take practice tests before deciding on an exam – go for one that comes more naturally to you. There are software and apps available which can help you with GMAT test practice and GRE test practice. It is recommended that you do not take these tests one after the other since they are lengthy. Also, make sure you emulate realistic testing conditions while taking the test for the best evaluation of your skills. See which test you score higher in and which test you find more challenging. 

Is Taking Both GRE and GMAT A Good Idea? 

Who can find fault with covering all your bases? Seems like the perfect solution to the confusion. Except time and  money are the two things none of us have enough of to lose.

People study for weeks and months to prepare for one of these tests. Doing both the tests simply puts you under unnecessary pressure.

You need to make a decision. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself.

What are the policies of the schools you’re applying to?

What did you find out after reviewing the exam policies of schools? Did most schools prefer GMAT? Or did the schools consider both the exams equally? If a school of your interest indicates a specific preference for GMAT, then don’t think twice and go for GMAT. It will boost your application. If you do not come across a preference, then keep reading. 

What are your grad school plans?

While the GRE is accepted commonly for graduate school admissions, it can also be used to apply for a wide range of programs from a Master’s degree in literature to a Doctorate in Chemistry. GMAT is specifically for business schools only.

So, if you only want to attend a business school, then the best thing to do is to take GMAT. It will show schools that you’re a driven individual and committed to a management career. 

Now, if you have interests in business school but also in other arenas, go for the GRE. It will help you keep your options open in terms of applying various disciplines.

Which exam can you get you a better score on?

Your score in the practice test will help you figure out your aptitude on both the exams. There are other ways to do this as well:

Use a Conversion Table to compare scores

GMAT and GRE have a different scale for scoring. So, a direct comparison is difficult.

But don’t worry. We have a solution to that as well.

Here is a conversion table that you can use to convert scores to get an estimate. Now you can easily compare your scores and make up your mind.


GRE  to GMAT score conversion chart
GRE Verbal Reasoning scoreGRE Quant Reasoning scoreGRE ScoreGMAT ScoreGMAT Verbal scaled scoreGMAT Quant scaled score


Compare the Quantitative and Verbal Sections

As we now know, GMAT is considered to have tougher quantitative questions, while GRE has more difficult verbal questions. If one of these is your strong suit, then it is advisable to play to your strength.

Consider your test taking strategies

A relatively less important but still worthwhile parameter is that in GRE you can go back and take a second look at your work within the same section.

However, in GMAT you only get one shot at answering a question and you cannot go back once you move forward. So, if you are the kind who likes to take a final look before finalizing something, maybe consider taking the GRE.

Do the logistics of one exam work better for you than the other?

While both GRE and GMAT can be taken at any time of the year across many test centres, you should note that GRE is offered at more places and more frequently. Check the websites and find out the about the dates of the test and the closes centres for the period in which you plan to take the test.

Score Report Policies

If you decide to take an exam more than once, GRE offers greater flexibility than GMAT with respect to the scores you submit to schools.

The benefit with GRE is that you can choose the scores you want to send to the schools. In GMAT your report contains the scores from every attempt that you made.

It is important that you know that most schools do not consider dual or sometimes triple attempts in a negative manner. But if it bothers you to share the score where you have lower points compared to the second time, then with GRE you can decide to send the latest score only.


Both the exams would affect your pocket more or less in an equal manner more or less with slight differences. GRE will cost you about $205 while the application fee for GMAT is $250. The GRE  fee is inclusive of 4 free test reports whereas the GMAT fee covers 5 free test reports. Plus, if you think you need to take the exam more than once, GMAT’s higher cost might be an impediment for you.  The cost for sending additional test reports for both GRE and GMAT is almost the same. It is $27 for GRE and $28 for GMAT.


You can also look up scholarships offered by schools. Certain schools only consider a specific exam for applicants to qualify for scholarships. So, you may want to check the program out and apply accordingly. Your decision here, could help you save up on the cost of your education.

 GRE vs GMAT: Final Assessment

While both GMAT and GRE cover topics of similar nature, and contain more or less similar kinds of sections, GMAT has more difficult quantitative questions while GRE has verbal questions which are more challenging.

Most of the business schools do not have a preference between these exams but some schools prefer GMAT scores. It is simply because it helps them assess a candidate better and reflects upon the certainty that a candidate has for pursuing an MBA or MiM course.

Research both tests and then align your strengths and weaknesses with the test that works for you. Practice tests can help you a great deal in this regard. Give some tests and then make an informed decision.

Always remember, that these scores will only be a part of your application. Please make sure that you carefully deal with the other parts as well, such as statement of purpose or personal statement, letters of recommendation etc, which will also have a bearing on your chances of making it through. 

Good luck!

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