One of the biggest conundrums of an aspiring MBA candidate is to decide which test to take. It is all about being able to figure out what is the best choice to make, what would result in better returns, and what would help you get to the next level.

However, this is not an easy decision to make, with the swarm of information flowing from all sides about the different tests, the pros and cons of each, and how to go about it.


We are here to help you out.

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.

 GMAT: General Info

As mentioned above, GMAT used to be the first thing that an MBA aspirant thought of taking in order to get into a reputed Business School.

It is segregated in the following four sections:

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


The composite score which is also the most important aspect 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).

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).

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.


Now we come to the scoring aspect of GRE. Unlike GMAT, in GRE the scores are usually reported separate 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 are similar and range from 13-170 (one-point increments).

You should note that the GRE is taken online mostly. 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 section of both of those subjects each.


The following table summarises 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

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.

P&Q Rank & 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 the GRE and GMAT Cover? How Are They Different?

GMAT and GRE comprise of 3 main subject areas: Verbal, Quantitative (For GMAT Integrated Reasoning is included), and Writing. Each of these sections look into the format and the content tested for each section, on both the exams.

Verbal Sections: GMAT vs GRE

Both GMAT and GRE have a verbal section. In this part we will chart out the similarities and differences in the verbal section of both the tests.

  • GMAT Verbal

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

Reading Comprehension: You will be given a passage to read and then answer questions based on the passage that you have read. Mostly, you will be asked to draw a conclusion based on your reading while analysing the argument.

Critical Reading: These questions start with a short passage of 2 to 3 sentences. Thereafter a passage is given which you have to analyse and then use the information given in the passage while answering. 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 and use for answering the questions.

Sentence Correction: You will find questions here which have a sentence which is wholly or partly underlined. Now, there would be about five ways to 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 further 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 this 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 your reading. The questions would be a general overview of your reading, and then would be about specific 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 use 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 two options that will fit in the blank and also make sentences with similar or same meanings.


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 Analysis:

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. But if you take an overview, 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 further two sections which evaluate your math skills viz. Quantitative section and Integrated Reasoning.

Quantitative Section: There are two sections under this head which are as under:

Problem Solving: Here you will probably 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: Under Data Sufficiency, which are about 14-16 of the total of 37 questions under the Quantitative Section, you will need to deal with some unusual questions. There will be a question followed by two sentences which would be a 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 this through, you should be able to interpret information presented in graphics, numbers and texts; blend information from various sources and solve tough problems. Thereafter, you will need to look out for and analyse any relationships arising out of the information to solve the problems given.

One thing that you should note is that you only get points if you answer every of a question correctly. This can be quite daunting, but this is the way to go.

  • GRE Quantitative

The Quantitative Section of GRE tests the following skills:

  • Algebra
  • Arithmetic
  • Data Analysis
  • Geometry

Most of the questions are Multiple Choice Questions. However, several numeric entry questions are also there here you need to enter in 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. Two quantities viz. A and B ill be given for this. Your job is to determine which among the two given quantities is larger, or equal or if the relation can be determined between the two.


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 Analysis:

It is known that GMAT has a more challenging quantitative section than GRE. While the topic tested in both the exams are similar in nature, the manner in which it is done differs. Higher level math areas like calculus are not tested in either of the two exams. Basic high school knowledge of math is sufficient for the exams.

However, the Data Sufficiency and Integrated Reasoning Questions of GMAT have more difficult questions which ask for critical thinking and analysis on your part. Moreover, even the format is different.

GRE on the other hand has direct questions which are Multiple-Choice or numeric entries, and most people have a good experience with these kinds of questions.

Analytical Writing: GMAT vs GRE

Before we begin, what is important for you to know is that GMAT has one essay, while GRE has two.

  • GMAT Writing

There is one essay that you will need to complete in 30 minutes.

It will be an argument, which you must evaluate and chart out 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, what are the loopholes of this 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. One essay will be where you analyse an argument, and the second will be where you have to analyse a task.

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 task, you will be given an argument where you will have to explain your own position and stand w.r.t  the issue and substantiate it with evidence.


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:

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 in if you do well on the first one. It would help to study and prepare in order to understand what the graders look for an in essay.

The writing section of GRE is 60-minute-long compared to GMAT but then again you have to do two essays. Besides, the cumulative time for both the tests is similar the duration of the test does not differ.

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’re good to go.

Business Schools’ Preference – GMAT or GRE

Now 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 the kind of test you take?

So, most of the business schools in the United States accept both GMAT and GRE scores. You can find out from the website of these schools about the scores that they consider for admissions.

According to a survey of 2015 conducted by Kaplan Test Prep covering more than 200 business schools, 25% of the schools prefer GMAT over GRE. In 2014 the number of schools choosing GMAT over GRE were 18%. Now you would wonder why the favourable stance towards GMAT.

The reasons to this are three-fold.

First, the schools feel that GMAT questions (Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning especially) test skills and knowledge required directly for getting through business school specifically like 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 covers many courses in its ambit 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.

The third reason is that most business schools are familiar with GMAT over GRE and even majority of the candidates submit a GMAT score by default. This means that the business schools are more adept at adjudging you based on the interpretation of your GMAT score.

However, according to a recent survey, despite the above finding, about 74% of business schools have said that they do not have a preference regarding GMAT vs GRE scores. Moreover, schools like Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Yale School of Management have expressly specified that they view both the exams equally.

So, what we can see is that while more business schools prefer GMAT over GRE, they are still 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.

  1. 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.
  1. Practice the Exam: This is a very important task. You should always take practice tests before deciding. There are software and apps available which can help you with GMAT 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 the realistic testing conditions while taking the test for the best evaluation of your skills. See, which test you score higher in, which test you find more challenging, ask yourself which test you were more comfortable with.

What about taking both GRE and GMAT? 

While you can certainly take both these tests, it is recommended that you don’t. The reason being the high amount of time and money needed for each of these exams. People study for weeks and months to prepare for one of these tests. Doing both the tests simply puts you under unnecessary pressure.

Now, to the questions you need to ask yourself.

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

Now your research comes to fruition. 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 Physics. 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 the chosen career path.

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 to areas of various disciplines.

Which exam can 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.

Wait. Don’t worry. We have a solution to that as well.

We have a conversion table which you can use to convert scores and 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 advised that you 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 finalising something, maybe consider taking the GRE.

Do the logistics 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 number of places and more frequently. It is advised that you check the website and find out the about the dates of the test and the closes centres.

Score Report Policies

If you decide to take an exam more than once, GRE offers greater flexibility than GMAT w.r.t 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. (Another note is that if you study properly before the test, you can avoid going through the hassle and wasting your time and money on a test that you have not prepared for.)


Both the exams would affect your pocket more or less in an equal manner more or less with slight differences. GRE will cost about $205 while the application fee for GMAT is $250. The GRE  fee is inclusive of 4 free test reports whereas 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 for 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

So, what did we learn?

While both GMAT and GRE cover topics of similar nature, and contain more or less the same 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 the course. So, your job is to research and then align your strengths and weaknesses with the tests to see what works for you. Practice tests can help you a great deal in this regard. Review this information 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, like statement of purpose or personal statement, letters of recommendation etc. which will boost your chances of making it through.

Good luck!

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