If you’re considering going to graduate school, you probably know that you’ll have to take a specific test to see if you’re qualified. These tests are similar to the tests you had to take to be accepted into college, the ACT and SAT. Historically, all you needed to do was take a test called the GMAT if you were going to school to obtain your MBA.
Now, there’s a second test that you can take to qualify to get into graduate school, and it’s called the GRE. Just like high school students struggle with deciding if they should take the ACT or the SAT, or both, it can be difficult to figure out if you should take the GRE or GMAT.
This is particularly true if you’re not familiar with how the two tests differ or if schools prefer one test over the other. This article provides a brief overview of each of the two tests, explains how they differ and gives you advice for which to take.
GMAT vs. GRE: Introduction
To truly understand how the two tests differ, let’s start with an introduction to each test.
Typically, those who take the GMAT are planning on going to business school or a specific program designed to earn their MBA, which is also known as their Master’s in Business Administration. The GMAT includes four separate testing sections, which are analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative section, and verbal reasoning. Each section varies in length.
For example, the analytical writing component gives you 30 minutes to write one essay. The other three sections feature a specific amount of questions, with integrated reasoning including 12, quantitative including 37 and the verbal section including 41.
Scoring on the GMAT is multi-faceted. Arguably, your most important score that you’ll receive is your composite score that will range from 200-800. Many think that the composite score includes your scores from all four sections, but it actually only includes your scores on the verbal and quantitative sections.
You’ll take the GMAT on the computer, and it will progress adaptively to your progress. What this means is that if you answer a question correctly, the test will then give you a harder question next. In a similar fashion, if you answer the question incorrectly, your next question will be easier.
This is true for both the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT. Additionally, the GMAT prohibits you from revisiting questions. The idea is that your score will be as accurate as possible following this methodology.
One of the most prominent differences between the GMAT and the GRE is that you can use the GRE to apply to a plethora of different graduate schools and programs. The GMAT, on the other hand, can only be used to apply for business graduate schools or MBA programs.
Another difference between the two is that there are only three sections in the GRE versus the four sections in the GMAT. There is an analytical writing, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning section in the GRE.
For the writing section, you’ll have 30 minutes to write two different essays. In the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections, there are two sections of 20 questions, so there are 40 questions total for each specific area.
There is technically a fourth section on the GRE, which is called the research section, but it isn’t a part of your score. The research section contains 20 questions and may be either a verbal or quantitative research section. You won’t know ahead of time which section your research section will be linked to.
Unlike the GMAT, your scores will not be reported as a composite score, and your score on each section will be reported. For the analytical writing component, you will receive of score from 0-6, with scores being marked in half-point increments. For the other two sections, your scores will range from 130-170 points, with scores being marked in one-point increments.
You’ll take the GRE on the computer, just like you would the GMAT. However, one major difference is that the GRE isn’t as adaptive as the GMAT. Your score on the first of the two quantitative and verbal reasoning sections will determine the level of difficulty of the second section.
Is one test better than the other?
Both tests are similar, but one isn’t inherently better than the other. The answer lies in the program you’re hoping to get into. As has been made clear so far, if you’re hoping to get an MBA or go to business school, you’re probably better off taking and submitting the GMAT.
While it’s common practice for most schools to accept either test, you’re definitely going to want to review each school’s requirements carefully so you only take the test that they accept to save yourself time and money.
If you’re planning on going to graduate school to obtain a different degree or study something besides business, you may only have the option of taking the GRE. Either test is a great test or you will likely have to take one or the other in order to achieve your dream of pursuing a Master’s degree.
How can you decide which test to take?
We’ve alluded to the answer to this question, but the most important thing to know before you make a decision on which test to take is to find out what your school requires.
Business schools or MBA programs may prefer the GMAT other schools may not accept the GMAT. You really just have to read the fine print to find out if there is a specific requirement by which you must abide.
If the school or schools you’re applying to don’t have a preference between the GMAT or the GRE it may be worth it to take a practice test or two to find out if you prefer one over the other.
While this might require a bit of an investment, it can help you deliver the best score possible with your graduate school application.
Moreover, you may find that you’re more comfortable with one versus the other, which is definitely important because the test can determine whether or not you get into your dream school.