GRE vs. GMAT: Scoring, Schools, & Conversion

October 29, 2018

Have you notice there's a lot of talk about test scoring? Many students center their entire study plans around obtaining a particular score, whether it be for admission to an elite department or program or for future job prospects and opportunities. GMAT and GRE learners have their desired score at the forefront of their minds from the moment they embark on their preparation journeys, whether it be through a private tutor or in an in-person or online class. Let's face it—scores matter and their presence is felt tenfold in the process of attaining them!

The landscape for the GRE and GMAT has changed slightly the past few years, since more and more business schools are accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT for admission. Below is a list of some of the better known schools who have made this alteration, giving students more options from which to choose throughout the application process:

  • Wharton School of Business
  • Harvard Business School
  • Cornell University's Johnson School of Business
  • Columbia Business School
  • MIT's Sloan School of Business
  • Stanford University's Graduate School of Business

The list goes on and on. And while it's not necessarily relevant to this particular article, some law schools are even accepting the GRE over the LSAT! What does this mean? Well, students have more options—but furthermore, particularly when applying to MBA programs, it gives the GRE some more leverage and weight. Perhaps some students who always imagined taking the GMAT will instead sit for the GRE. This may have you scratching your head thinking, "Well, how do I measure up compared to GMAT scores?" Luckily, there are lots of online conversion pages and tools—including one featured by ETS, the maker of the GRE—to assist you in determining your place in the pecking order and an alternative projected score.

Let's take a look at how we can make the conversion ourselves, as well as delve into both exams—their importance, their role in the application process, their relationship with one another, as well as how to determine correlating scores. More than likely, this trend will continue in higher education, so getting a good grasp on it now is really the only way forward to a better understanding of your course of study.

GMAT vs. GRE Scoring

In order to understand how score conversions work, it's imperative to break down how the scores for each exam are scaled.

Let's begin with the GRE, which ranges from 130-170 per section. Combined GRE scores range from 260-340. A "perfect" score would be a 170 in the Quantitative, a 170 in the Verbal, with a combined score of 340. Average GRE scores land in the 304-range for a total score, breaking down to a 151 in Verbal and a 153 in Quant.

When it comes to the GMAT, the scoring works a little alternatively. Take a look at the following table to understand what each section consists of and what it's worth in terms of points: 

Test Section# of QuestionsScore Range
Verbal Reasoning36 Questions6-51 points
Quantitative Reasoning31 Questions6-51 points
Integrated Reasoning12 Questions1-8 points
AWA Writing Assessment1 Question0-6 points

It's important to note here that the GMAT composite score can range from 200-800, and that only includes the Quant and Verbal portions; Integrated Reasoning and the AWA is scored separately. Points are earned by the number of questions answered correctly, calculated to equal between 200-800.

As you can see, the score ranges for both the GRE and GMAT work on different scales. It's important to understand how they are graded and what each section is worth to begin to make comparisons and conversions possible.

Significance of GRE & GMAT Scores

Since many b-schools will accept the GRE in lieu of the GMAT, it's important to understand the significance of both exams. The GMAT was initially created to be an assessment for future MBA and real world success. Elite business schools will have a student population with higher-than-average GMAT scores due to selectivity. For example, Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management has an average GMAT score of 728 and Harvard Business School's is 729. No matter if you're applying to an Ivy League b-school or one that's less competitive, your highest possible score is of paramount importance for securing admission.

The GRE works similarly in that it has traditionally been used to measure a candidate's performance in graduate school. Nowadays, some law schools and MBA programs are willing to accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT and GMAT, so it's considered an overall higher education measure of competency. Princeton University, for example, has an average of 158 for Verbal and 163 for Quant; Columbia's around that range, falling at 164 for Verbal and 163 for Quant.

The significance of both of these scores is taken into deep consideration on the part of an admissions committee, not just through a hierarchy of applications, but also a real a predictor of department and program success. It's even been known that some interviews with MBA students upon graduation will request GMAT scores, mostly in the engineering and financial industries. Long story short—these scores matter, not just to get your foot in the door, but to keep the door open for future opportunities!

GMAT & GRE Conversion

While the conversions below are recent estimates, they are nearly accurate in determining a composite GMAT score from GRE Quant and Verbal scores. The GRE Quant scores run down the table vertically and the GRE Verbal scores run horizontally. Knowing both GRE scores is imperative for finding your projected GMAT score. The table below is just a sample of higher scores, specifically 700 and above (on the GMAT):

GRE QUANT
(down)
GRE VERBAL
(across)
170168166164162160158
170800800780770760750730
168790780760750740730710
166770760740730720700690
164750730720710700680670
162730710700690670660650
160700690680670650640630

Even though ETS provides a conversion tool, it claims on its website: "The predicted GMAT scores based on an applicant's GRE scores may not be perfectly equivalent to an applicant's actual performance on the GMAT exam due to the measurement error inherent in both tests. For this reason, a predicted score range is reported around each predicted GMAT score."

Furthermore, GMAC, the makers of the GMAT, does not endorse this conversion tool, so it's important to use this as a general assessment of a projected score, not 100% fact.

Does it Make Sense to Convert GMAT & GRE Scores?

Many will argue that trying to compare the GMAT and GRE is like comparing apples to oranges and they are just too incongruous. After all, isn't the math section on the GMAT more difficult than the GRE? Isn't the verbal section on the GRE more challenging than that of the GMAT? Traditionally, when given the option, students who excel in grammar and vocabulary opt for the GRE and those who are math-oriented choose the GMAT to suit natural abilities and academic inclinations.

While there may always be some controversy in this particular arena—regarding the subjectivity and difficulty of both exams—what's more useful for you, a student who ideally is only preparing and sitting for one of these exams, not both, is to look at what your b-school values. If you're entering a financial-heavy MBA program or one that stresses Quant in its curriculum, then taking the GMAT might be a better option for you. The same goes with the GRE and its traditional emphasis on verbal. Either way, if both schools purport to accept either exam, you have to trust them to be unbiased in weighing your admittance valuing both tests equally. The conversion tool is more of a tool for you to understand where you find your position to be in terms of a projected score and what your chances in relationship to the competition. Naturally, each school will have individual standards depending on each test.

GMAT Percentiles vs. GRE Percentiles

While percentiles can be more difficult to determine, the following tables reveal how they would convert to both GMAT and GRE scores. It's important to note here that the GMAT is more apt to pick up differences of ability at the higher and lower ends of the actual scale, while the GRE facilitates more of a range between middle and high-level test-takers. 

Quantitative Reasoning Percentile Comparison
PercentileGRE (130-170) GMAT (0-60) 
9751170
06132
Verbal Reasoning Percentile Comparison
PercentileGRE (130-170)GMAT (0-60) 
9951-60169-170
00-6130

Which Test is Right for You?

Living in a time where there are so many more options with standardized testing than before, it begs the question: Which exam is right for me? Certainly, as we've specified in this article, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Unfortunately, studying for one doesn't always directly apply in terms of content and strategy for the other—even though there is some slight overlap—so deciding which one makes sense for you is a personal decision you, as a prospective test-taker, must evaluate.

First off, look into what your chosen schools prefer. If the MBA programs you're looking at advertise they happily accept both, then there isn't pressure to choose one over the other right away. However, if you are applying to graduate programs as well as MBA programs all in one fell swoop, the GRE might make more sense for you if the MBA programs you're applying to also accept the GRE. (Note: Graduate programs typically do not accept the GMAT.)

Furthermore, if given the equal option of both, look at where your strengths lie. Since the GMAT is known to have a more challenging Quant section, if you're strengths are in math, then that might be the better test for you. The same goes for the GRE and verbal. Spending some time taking mock exams of both as you weigh your options also can be of great value, as there is nothing like getting the "test day experience" for an accurate feel of which feels right for you.

Regardless of your selection, Manhattan Review is here for you moving forward with all of your preparation needs. We teach and tutor thousands of students around the world each year about useful test content and helpful exam strategies for both the GMAT and GRE. Finding out where your projected score falls in relationship to both tests can be of great value, particularly when sizing up your competition from elite median scores. Make sure to cross-reference and check your score conversions more than once; since they aren't 100% accurate, it never hurts to double or triple-check your calculations to get the most authentic conversion possible.