GMAT vs GRE: Which admissions test should you take?

Is one admissions test more superior than the other?

By U2B Staff 

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Are you thinking about attending graduate school? Many universities around the world require some form of entrance exam as part of their admissions process.

The GMAT and GRE are two most common exams that prospective graduate students are often asked to sit. Both tests demonstrate your potential for academic success in your respective programmes, and are held in high regard by many universities. 

But which should you choose? Is one better than the other? Here’s a guide:


What is it?

Do you have your eyes set on getting an MBA? The GMAT, or the Graduate Management Admissions Test, is a common part of the admissions process at many business and management schools in the world, especially the top ones in the US.

The testing time lasts 3.5 hours while the exam consists of a multiple-choice, computer-adaptive test to measure your preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Your GMAT score, along with your relevant work experience, letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, among other supporting materials are typically used to assess your application.

In light of the COVID-19 global health crisis, you can now register to take the GMAT test online, from anywhere. Around-the-clock testing appointments are available from April 20 to June 15.

Click here for a list of GMAT accepting institutions.

How much does it cost?

The test costs US$275 to sit. Bear in mind that many students opt to take some form of GMAT preparation prior to the test, so the cumulative cost of preparing and taking a GMAT may be higher. There’s also a rescheduling fee if you need to cancel or change your dates.

It’s worth highlighting that currently, it’s only US$200 to take the GMAT Online exam and it’s available globally, except in Mainland China, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Slovenia, and North Korea.


What does the test entail?

The exam consists of a 30-minute analytical writing section with one essay, a 30-minute integrated reasoning section, a 62-minute quantitative section and a 65-minute verbal section.

What’s a “good” score?

A GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800, while the test takers’ score is valid for five years after the test date. However, different business schools have different average scores, so you might want to do your homework to gauge what score you should be striving for to improve your chances of being accepted into the program you want. 

To give you an idea of the ranges you can aim for, the average GMAT score in 2018 at Harvard Business School was 730, whereas at UCLA’s Anderson School, it was 716.


What is it?

Not unlike GMAT, the GRE (or Graduate Record Examination) is a test for admission to many graduate schools, including some business schools. It is offered as a multiple-choice, computer-based exam. It is used as part of the admission process to graduate school or to a business school while the testing time is close to four hours.

Click here for a list of GRE accepting institutions.

How much does it cost?

The GRE costs US$205, but that fee may be higher in certain countries. Many students take GRE preparatory courses prior to the test, resulting in higher cumulative costs. There’s also a rescheduling fee if you need to change your dates. 


What does the test entail?

The GRE consists of a 60-minute Analytical Writing section – with two essays at 30 minutes per task; two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections; two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections; and a 30-35 minute experimental section that can be either math or verbal.

As of March this year, ETS – the organisation that creates the test – is offering a GRE General Test at home option. It is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the test taken at their test centres, notes ETS.

What’s a “good” score?

Minimum or average GREscore requirements will vary between institutions to which you’re applying. Use this as a benchmark for what you should strive for.

According to Kaplan, the Verbal and Quant sections of the GRE are each scored from 130 to 170; the mean score for Verbal Reasoning is 151, and the mean score for Quantitative Reasoning is 153. Meanwhile, the Analytical Writing Assessment is scored from 0 to 6 in half-point increments, and the mean score is 4.0. 

The test takers’ score is valid for five years after the test date.

So, should you take the GMAT or GRE?

Both of these graduate school admission tests have a lot in common, but the one you choose may depend on the school and programme you wish to enrol in. If you’re an MBA applicant, you may want to check with your institution if they only accept GMAT, GRE or both. Or in some cases, none are required.

It’s worth noting that ETS has a GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools which allows business schools to place GRE scores in the context of GMAT scores. Some graduate schools such as the Stanford Graduate School of Business accept both the GRE and the GMAT. 

If you’re still torn, dip your feet into the water and try practice tests for both the GMAT and GRE to help you make a decision.