GRE versus GMAT - Comparison

A growing number of MBA programs now accept the GRE General Test scores in addition to or instead of the GMAT; while most business schools require the GMAT, it is not eligible for use in admissions to other graduate schools. Only about 250,000 students take the GMAT every year while over 650,000 take the GRE, of whom approximately 30,000 are applying to business school. Which test is better for you—the GRE or the GMAT—should be judged by you, depending on your strengths and aspirations. If you are uncertain, appear for a couple of mock tests of both the tests and then decide. Manhattan Review offers full-length computer-adaptive diagnostic tests for both the tests. Although GRE and GMAT scores are incomparable as both tests are unique, the respective test administrators (ETS and GMAC) have devised comparison metrics to put scores in each other’s perspective. A comparison calculator to estimate GMAT scores from GRE scores is available on the ETS website.

Test Structure

The test structure is similar for both the GMAT and the GRE, with minor differences for each section. To test analytical writing, the GRE has two 30-minute analytical writing tasks, one on an issue and one on an argument. The GMAT has only one 30-minute essay on an argument, and has an additional 30-minute test of Integrated Reasoning. To evaluate "Verbal Reasoning," the GRE has two 30-minute test sections covering Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion (both testing vocabulary usage) and Reading Comprehension (which includes evaluation of critical reasoning. To evaluate "Verbal Ability", the GMAT has one 75-minute test section covering Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction (with emphasis on grammar and sentence construction, rather than vocabulary). Similarly, the GRE has two 30-minute sections to evaluate "Quantitative Reasoning" while the GMAT has one 75-minute section to evaluate Quantitative Ability. Generally, the GMAT is considered to have more difficult quantitative sections and easier verbal sections when compared to the GRE.

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, so the difficulty level of each question is influenced by performance on all questions up to that point. The GRE is also computer-adaptive, but only on a section level; performance on the first Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are used to adapt the difficulty of the second sections. The GRE includes a calculator for the quantitative sections, whereas the GMAT does not allow use of a calculator. The GRE is also available as a paper-based test, but the GMAT is only available on a computer.


The GRE is scored on a scale of 130-170 in 1-point increments for the Verbal and Quantitative reasoning sections, and 0-6 in 0.5-point increments for the Analytical Writing section. Two-thirds of test takers score beween a 157 and a 145 on the Verbal and Quantitative and between a 3.5 and a 4.5 on the Analytical Writing. Scores above a 160 are rare for Verbal and Quantitative, and scores above a 5 are rare for Analytical Writing. Verbal and Quantitative scores are combined into a total "scaled score", but also presented as individual section scores. Scores are not further broken down to display any sort of more detailed performance information, so they are only useful as a general indicater of readiness for reading, writing, and arithmetic at the graduate school level.

The GMAT is scored on a scale from 200 to 800, with two-thirds of test takers scoring between 400 and 600. Scores below 9 and above 44 are rare for the Verbal section, and below 7 and above 50 are rare for the Quantitative section. Because the GMAT is specifically tailored to predict business school performance, a high GMAT score can be a useful indicater of unsually high potential for networking purposes with professors or future colleagues.

Use in Admissions and Education

The GRE is the most general of the standardized graduate admissions tests. This means that it is easy to study for if you are already prepared for it (ie, if you got a good GPA at a competitive undergraduate university), but it will likely be difficult to substantially improve your score without dedicated effort. In addition, the score is likely to lose meaning very quickly after the test, because it is not measuring specific abilities but general aptitudes and attentiveness. If you are hoping to take a test whose score will be a useful metric for your future networking, you may want to consider also taking the GMAT or one of the GRE subject tests.

The GMAT is a much more specific exam, testing the skills and apptitudes that are relevant to success in business school only. For this reason, the MBA score can sometimes have more lasting value, because the section scores represent specific apptitudes that are then developed further during business school as students work towards their degree. In addition, business school professors and other students may judge you based on your score, and be more willing to network and join creative teams with you if you are a top scorer. If you get a score that is sufficiently high, or sufficiently higher than your peers, it may be a useful component of your professional resume to create a first impression with potential colleagues or employers. While you should be careful about "waving your credentials around", because the GMAT is so closely tied to success in business school, a high score can and should be used to boost your credentials and contribute to your success.

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