GMAT vs. GRE: How to Choose the Right Test for You
Last updated on May 17th, 2019
If you’re trying to figure out how to choose sides in the seemingly never-ending debate on GMAT vs. GRE, you’ve come to the right place.
Since you’re reading this article, you must at least be considering business school as an option.
Why else would you even consider taking the GMAT, right?
In our experience, those who grapple with the question of choosing between GMAT vs. GRE are the ones who have not clearly decided which postgraduate degree to go for. The logic is simple for those who have clearly decided to pursue specific programs – if it’s a B-School program like an MBA, take the GMAT. If it’s anything else, take the GRE.
So, we assume that you want to keep your options open or at least explore what it will mean for you to pick one test over the other when it comes to GMAT vs. GRE. No matter what your questions are, we hope you’ll find the answers you’re looking for in this article.
The GRE and GMAT are both tests which you will consider taking only when you are looking to get your postgraduate degree from a reputed, international institution, whether in India or abroad. Both exams are internationally recognized and have a lot in common, so picking between the two is really not that simple.
There are five critical questions you should ask yourself when trying to choose between GMAT and GRE. Your answers to these questions will help you figure out which test will serve your purpose best. Six questions that will help you choose between GMAT and GRE are:
- What is the Difference between the GMAT and the GRE?
- Which Degree and Specialization Do You Plan to Choose?
- Which Schools Do You Plan to Apply to?
- What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
- How Much Importance Should You Give to Exam Costs?
- How Does Score Translation Work?
Further, we look into how answering each of these will help you.
1. What is the Difference between the GMAT and the GRE?
The GMAT and GRE vary on various counts but they also have many similarities in the pattern, syllabus, and the likes.
In this section, we will take a look at the ways in which the two tests differ and converge, respectively.
3 hours 7 minutes
3 hours 45 minutes
$205 (for Indian Students)
Business Schools (MBA and similar programs)
Master’s Programs and some Business School Programs
Enhanced Score Report, available for $30
Diagnostic Score Report, available free of cost
When you can take the test
*This section is not scored at all. GMAT IR and the AWA sections on both exams are scored separately but these scores are not included in your final test score.
2. Which Degree and Specialization Do You Plan to Choose?
Now, you must be aware that taking the GMAT will effectively limit your choices to B-Schools exclusively. A GMAT score won’t get you into an MS program anywhere in the world.
On the other hand, there are B-Schools that accept GRE scores even for their MBA and other hardcore-business-oriented programs. In effect, with a GRE score, you will leave both avenues open for yourself.
But you will have to be thorough in your research before you pick either option.
The thing is, many B-Schools accept the GRE on the face of things, but they have certain limitations on which specializations will accept students with GRE scores instead of GMAT. In order to avoid finding yourself in this position, you’ll need to have an idea in advance on what you plan to do next.
It’s okay to have doubts or even to be totally uncertain with respect to your area of expertise/interest. The first thing you need to do in such a situation is, figure out if your interests and expertise lie beyond the realm of B-Schools.
If they do, you’re probably better off choosing the former when it comes to GRE vs. GMAT.
However, if you’re sure that the programs you’re interested in are all offered by B-Schools, you’ll be better served by taking the GMAT.
Here’s the thing:
Both exams will eliminate a certain set of institutions for you. You just need to figure out which ones you’re okay with shutting the door on.
3. Which Schools Do You Plan to Apply to?
More B-Schools in the US and Canada are likely to be open to the GRE as compared to those across Europe and Asia.
What this means for you is that it is safer for you to go for the GRE if you’re applying to colleges in the US-Canada region. You will be eligible to apply at a significant number of B-Schools in addition to other universities if you do this.
However, if you want to apply to B-Schools in Europe and Asia, taking the GRE will eliminate most of your options.
In any case, irrespective of where you want to apply, remember that taking the GMAT will most certainly close all avenues apart from B-Schools for you.
It might be a good idea to invest some time into thinking about the specific schools and universities you want to apply to. Spend some time figuring out the preferred exams for the schools and universities you’ve chosen to apply to.
Ideally, you should have a list with a maximum of 8-10 programs that you would like to apply to, before deciding which exam you will take to get into these programs.
This helps make the decision more or less easy.
4. What are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
Another critical factor is what you’re naturally adept at between Quant and Verbal. In a GRE vs. GMAT evaluation, the first interesting point to note is that both exams have the same major sections.
There are two parts of the exams on which your final score calculation is based, in the GMAT as well as in the GRE. These sections are Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning, or Quant and Verbal. Both the exams have Quant and Verbal sections.
The biggest difference in GRE vs. GMAT is that the tougher of the two sections is Verbal on the GRE and Quant on the GMAT.
This means that if you’re great at Quant, you are likely to score better (in percentile as well as directly translated scores) on GRE Quant than on GMAT Quant. Similarly, if you’re great at Verbal, you’ll score better on GMAT Verbal than on GRE Verbal.
That’s because GRE Verbal is tougher than GRE Quant, while GMAT Verbal is easier than GMAT Quant. If you compare the two exams directly, section-on-section, GRE Verbal is tougher than GMAT Verbal, and GRE Quant is easier than GMAT Quant.
We recommend that you should go for the exam which has an easier set of the section you’re good at.
For example, let’s say Quant is your strong suit and Verbal is going to be more or less of a gamble. In this case, we recommend that you take the GRE. We’re aware that most of you would have assumed the best one to go for with a strong Quant skillset would be GMAT, but we don’t think that’s a good idea.
Here’s our logic:
It makes sense to capitalize on your strengths. But it is not a good idea to ignore your weaknesses while you do that.
Suppose, in the given example, you go for the GMAT instead. You know you’re not so good with Verbal, which means you will need to work hard to improve your verbal skills. But the GMAT is known for having a relatively tougher Quant section than the GRE, which means you’ll need to study some of that and probably spend significant amounts of time honing your Quant skills as well.
However, if you go for GRE, the exam with the easier Quant section, you can focus almost entirely on scaling up your Verbal skills. You can walk into your prep with near-certainty that you’ll score a 160+ on GRE Quant, so you won’t need to worry.
So, figure out which section you’re stronger at; it should help with this GMAT vs. GRE debate.
5. How Much Importance Should You Give to Exam Costs?
In simple terms: none.
Why one exam is cheaper or more expensive than another says literally nothing about the level of question difficulty or subject proficiency required to crack it. Of course, the GRE and GMAT are both tests you can’t fail, so by ‘crack it’, we mean get your target score.
Some of you may already know this but one GMAT attempt costs $250 while one GRE attempt costs $205 for Indian students.
Now, we’re aware that the difference between converted costs is around ₹3,100. Some of you may think an exam worth around ₹17,400 is more expensive than one worth around ₹14,300 and these are big amounts to pay for ‘just an exam’. We understand the temptation to go for the cheaper option.
But here’s the thing:
Both these exams combined will still amount to only around 3-4% of the annual expenditure on the tuition for any program abroad. Unless you enroll for non-business-based masters programs in Germany, that is. Those programs charge no tuition fees.
In any case, our point is that if you’re looking to study abroad, it is all the more reason to keep exam costs out of your mind. If you’re looking to cut corners on exam costs, you are unlikely to be able to afford what follows.
Honestly, only take these exams if you can do so without thinking much about the costs.
6. How Does Score Translation Work?
Now for the most complicated part of this article.
At the outset, let us make it clear that there is no objective way to compare GMAT and GRE scores to each other.
Since GRE and GMAT are each designed to serve distinct purposes, drawing parallels between the two is quite complex. So much so, in fact, that even Universities around the world struggle to get it figured out.
The ETS, which is the body that conducts the GRE, provides a GRE to GMAT score converter to find the indicative GMAT score equivalent to a certain GRE score. However, this is only an indicative list, meaning that each school and B-School can come up with its own list of comparative scores.
This means that the ETS may say that a GRE 325 is the same as a GMAT 700, but any B-School could say that the GRE 325 is only equal to a GMAT 670.
In short, this system of score conversions is more or less arbitrary. It is not even a matter of comparing percentiles, because even that would not be a reliable system. How much value your GRE score holds depends entirely on the credibility that the GRE has in the eyes of a given B-School. This can actually matter a lot more than you’d think.
For instance, a certain B-School that has an average GMAT score in the 600-680 range might expect a GRE score range of 318-325.
However, scores that B-Schools will consider comparable to anything below a GMAT 600 will still be close to 315 on the GRE. Scores above GMAT 680 will require your GRE score to go well over 320 or even 325.
Naturally, scoring under 310 on the GRE is kind of pointless, since the lowest B-Schools are likely to go will be about a GRE 315. So if the required GMAT score is under or near 600, you should just go after the GMAT itself. On the other end of the spectrum, scoring above 315 on the GRE will take serious effort; it’s likely to be easier for you to score a GMAT 700+ than to get a GRE 325+.
The given numbers are not fixed or specific, they are merely indicative of the latest known scenario.
Depending on the score conversion tendencies of the B-Schools you plan to apply to, it might be more practical to take the GMAT rather than taking the GRE.
For over 50 years now, the GMAT has been the gold standard for B-schools to determine a candidate’s suitability for their programs. It continues to be the most popular test for business school aspirants.
However, in the past decade, there has been an upswing in both, the number of students taking the GRE for business schools, as well as the number of B-schools accepting GRE scores instead of GMAT scores.
As a result, even though both the exams continue to maintain their standards, the GMAT and GRE are just like any two rival products in the market.
We hope this article has helped you figure out which side to pick in the GMAT vs. GRE battle.
If you’re still unsure whether your profile is suitable for B-School, check out our free profile evaluation tool!