GRE vs GMAT: Our Thoughts

When you’re thinking about applying to graduate school, you’ll need to consider taking the GMAT vs. GRE exams to include with your application, as these are necessary to get into your chosen school.

But should you take the GRE or GMAT? Which is best for your chosen school? GRE vs. GMAT? In this article, we’ll explain the differences between these two exams, looking at scoring, school applications, prep time, and more.

Applying to Schools

Students during exam

The most significant difference between the GRE and the GMAT exams is the school’s admissions requirements. What is GMAT for? If you’re looking to go to business schools, then it’s best to complete the GMAT. The GMAT is exclusively used for Business Schools and MBA programs and is a key measure when comparing student applications. The GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test.

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is used as part of the admissions for a wide range of graduate school programs, including Law, Engineering and Psychology programs, as well as Business School. If you’re undecided about which path you want to take or know that you want to pursue a degree outside of Business and MBA, then the GRE is the best route for you.

Test Length and Structure

English exams test

When comparing GMAT vs. GRE, they are relatively similar in length and structure, and both are a series of multiple-choice questions in a standardized test format, completed on a computer at a certified test center.

The GMAT is split into four sections which span across 3 hours and 30 minutes, with a little extra time for breaks. The GRE is slightly longer and has six parts. It’s 3 hours and 45 minutes long with a short break in the middle.

The structure of the GMAT is:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment – 30 mins – 1 task
  • Integrated Reasoning – 30 mins – 12 multiple choice questions
  • Quantitative Math – 75 minutes – 37 multiple choice questions
  • Verbal Reasoning – 75 minutes – 41 multiple choice questions

The structure of the GRE is:

  • Analytical Writing – 1 hour – 2 tasks
  • Verbal Reasoning – 1 hour – 2 sections of 20 questions
  • Quantitive Reasoning – 1 hour 10 minutes – 2 sections of 20 questions

So you can see that the GMAT vs. GRE are quite similar on the surface and are testing the same types of skills and qualities that schools look for in great students for MBA programs, business school, and other graduate programs.

So should you take the GMAT or GRE? When taking either test, you need to be aware of your timings, because for many questions you’ll have around a minute to answer. You might need the practice to work at such a fast pace and get the answers correct, so you must prepare and study properly.

Test Topics

Test question paper and answer sheet

The GMAT is split into four sections:

Analytical Writing Assessment – This section has one long writing task and requires you to assess a given argument and write a critical essay of the argument. You don’t need to know about the topic, although it could be include general news, sociological debates, and business topics. This section is testing your ability to think critically and use good written English to express and communicate your views through analytical writing.

Integrated Reasoning – This section has 12 multiple choice questions that test how you absorb and use data to solve complex problems. The test will present you with information in graphics, text, and numbers and will need to evaluate the information from different sources. The data will help you to solve the complex problems, by combining and manipulating the data, thus integrated reasoning. These are high-level multiple-choice questions that you need to solve rapidly.

Quantitative Reasoning Maths – This section has a total 37 number of questions in multiple-choice format. These questions fit into two main types – problem-solving and data sufficiency. This non-calculator test requires knowledge of arithmetic, elementary algebra, and geometry, but is focusing on assessing your reasoning and logical skills. This section of GMAT is CAT and adapts the questions depending on your level of answering.

Verbal Reasoning – This verbal section of GMAT is more about the reading than the verbal, and comes in at 75 minutes with 41 multiple-choice questions. The key aim is to assess your English comprehension by asking you to read and understand the written material, use it to reason and evaluate arguments, and correct grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.

The GRE splits into six sub-sections:

Analytical Writing – This section splits into two separately timed tasks, and they’re each 30 minutes in length. They are both writing tasks, designed to assess your reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence. One task will be to ‘Analyze and Issue’ and the second to ‘Analyze an Argument.’ You’ll be expected to write at a high level of English and structure to your response to the text. Much like the GMAT, the topic could be social issues, business, or politics, and you are not expected to have a deep understanding or knowledge of the subject.

Verbal Reasoning – This verbal section is two sets of 20 multiple choice questions and is designed to test your ability to recognize links among words and concepts, analyze written material and distill information from it and evaluate relationships in sentence structures. Don’t put off by the term ‘verbal’ as again this is more of a reading comprehension section.

Quantitative Section – This GRE quantitative section has two sets of 20 questions and assesses necessary mathematical skills, understanding of basic mathematical concepts and ability to reason quantitatively and to model and solve problems with quantitative methods. You are expected to have a basic knowledge of Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Data Analysis and apply logic and reasoning to your problem-solving. There is an on-screen GRE calculator available for you to use.

You can see that both the GMAT and GRE are similar in the topics they assess and how they evaluate the individual skills. Many students that take the GMAT or GRE find that they either have weaknesses in the verbal and quantitative sections and so choose to spend time studying and preparing for both the verbal and quantitative sections simulations.

Are both the GRE and GMAT tests Computer Adaptive?

No, both tests are completed on the computer in an official test center, but only the GMAT is designed to be Computer Adaptive.

The GMAT is a CAT (Computer Adaptive Test), which means that the test questions adapt to your ability. In the Quantitive and Verbal sections, the course of the exam changes and provides different questions, depending on the answers you have given.

If in the first few questions you haven’t scored very highly, it will reflect this by showing questions at your ability level. If you have high scores in the first number of questions, then the test will stretch you with more difficult questioning. This will have a significant impact on your overall score, so you need to study hard for the exam.

The GRE is not a computer adaptive test, but it’s unique in that two of the six sections are included for research purposes, and are not scored or assessed. These sections are included to help the governing body test new questions and continuously improve the GRE exam. You will not be able to identify which parts are for research purposes, and so you need to put your best effort into all six GRE sections, even though only four of them will go towards your GRE score.

Scoring Systems


The scoring systems of the GMAT and GRE are very different, and you’ll end up with a completely different number and percentile score. This is why, if you’re applying to business schools, you should take the GMAT so that you can accurately compare your score to other students that have applied, as the GRE scoring system is more complex.

In this article, we’ll explain the scoring systems, but have a look at our GMAT Scoring and GRE scoring articles to understand these complex systems.

Each GMAT section has a separate scoring scale. You’ll receive five GMAT scores in total.

  • Analytical Writing Assessment score – 0-6 points
  • Integrated Reasoning score – 1-8 points
  • Quantitative Reasoning Math scaled score – 0-60 points
  • Verbal Reasoning scaled score 0-60 points
  • A combined total score between 200 – 800 points

The most complex element of GMAT scores is for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitive sections, as these are adaptive questioning sections. This means that the scaled score range is vastly different and influenced by the number of questions you complete, the correct answers you present, and the difficultly of the questions.

All the scores are combined and calculated to produce your total GMAT score. GMAT scores are worked out using a complex system. It’s not merely adding up, which is why it seems like the above values don’t match up. You’ll also receive a percentile score, which indicates how you performed in comparison to other students. An average GMAT score is 500 – 650, but top business schools will expect 730 points or above.

The GRE scores system is also complex and can be difficult for students to quickly read:

  • Analytical Task Writing scaled score – 0–6 points
  • Verbal Reasoning scaled score – 130–170 points
  • Quantitative Reasoning scaled score -130–170 points

This seems straight forward, but the GRE scores are rarely presented as one score, so for each student, you have to look at the scores of each section. In total, the highest score you can achieve is 340. If you’ve got GRE scores but want to apply to business school, you can use GRE to GMAT conversion, which will help the business school to review your application.


Overall, the GMAT and GRE tests are similar in structure, timings, and the skills that they assess. GRE vs. GMAT can be a tricky decision for students, with the GRE having benefits, including flexibility to apply to graduate programs.

Whether you take the GMAT or GRE, make sure that you study and prepare to achieve your best score. Check out our articles on the best GMAT prep courses and the best GRE prep courses today.

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