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Students and working professionals alike applying to graduate programs frequently encounter the terms GMAT or GRE as part of the admission or application requirements. These two exams are challenging and important, but how do you determine which exam you need? Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the GRE and GMAT.

What Is the Difference Between GRE and GMAT?

Both the GRE and the GMAT are post-baccalaureate exams, meaning they are prepared for those who have completed a bachelor’s degree. They are both intended to be taken before admission to graduate school. Many graduate schools require one or the other (or even both) for admission. The GRE is the more general exam, and it’s a more common requirement among graduate programs, broadly speaking. The GMAT is business-focused and thus is required for prospective students at many business schools.

Both exams contain sections on analytical writing, though the GRE’s is longer, with two essays to the GMAT’s one. The GRE also contains sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning (math), and an experimental section. The GMAT, on the other hand, contains sections on integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and a verbal section.

The GRE allots 3.75 hours for completion via computer testing, while the GMAT allots 3.5 hours (also via computer testing).

The scoring systems are completely different, with the GRE maxing out at 170 and the GMAT at 800.

The math component (quantitative and analytical) is more rigorous on the GMAT. Both tests require strong grammatical-verbal skills, but the focuses are different, with the GMAT leaning toward error correction and the GRE testing vocabulary mastery.

Both tests are rigorous and include assessment items that may be unfamiliar to college graduates from many disciplines. 

What Is the Ideal Score on the GRE and GMAT?

In some prestigious programs or those with hard enrollment limits, your test score may be compared against other applicants. While not the sole defining factor, getting a higher score on these exams certainly makes you look like a more compelling candidate.

Both exams are scored exams rather than pass/fail. Most graduate programs are looking for a particular minimum score in the various testing areas. However, this minimum will vary from program to program. Schools may or may not disclose the minimum number they will accept. Optimal GRE scores and GMAT scores, then, vary according to the degree you’re seeking and the institution you’re applying to—and higher is always better.

Whichever test you plan to take, a prep course or study guide is generally advised for two important reasons. First, a high score on either or both tests is crucial for admission (and potentially in landing assistantships or fellowships). Second, as mentioned earlier, some question types are likely to be unfamiliar. Sections like the GMAT’s data sufficiency portion may seem downright unusual. Without adequate preparation for these elements, test-takers are unlikely to score as highly as they’d like.

What Is the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, is the gold standard for admission to many masters and doctoral programs. You’ll also see the test referred to as the GRE General Test.

The test is organized into three main sections.

The verbal reasoning section is the first, which aims to assess your ability to reason solutions from incomplete data and discourse. You’ll be tested on ability to perceive layers of meaning and prioritize what’s important in a text. Essentially, the test seeks to determine whether you can work through intricate verbal reasoning.

The second section, quantitative reasoning, focuses on your math ability and skill in analyzing data. In other words, do you have a solid understanding of appropriate math skills, and can you examine quantitative data and draw proper conclusions? The GRE provides a calculator for relevant questions in this section, as well.

The third section is analytical writing in the form of two 30-minute technical essays. One asks you to analyze an issue while the other asks you to analyze an argument.

Most test-takers will encounter additional content that isn’t scored. There may be a section of unscored items, which is included to evaluate and gather data on new questions. This kind of section isn’t marked, so you won’t know which section counts and which one doesn’t. Other tests include a research section at the end of the test, which is identified as such. This section is also unscored. Your test will not include both of these types of additional content.

One advantage of the GRE is that you can skip questions in a given section of the test and change earlier answers, making sure you’re completely satisfied with a section before moving on. The GMAT does not allow this flexibility.

Another advantage to the GRE is that you have control over whether your scores are submitted so that schools can see them. If you bomb the test, you can stop those scores from being sent. You can retake the test later on and send scores only when you’re satisfied with them.

ETS, the organization that makes and maintains the GRE, offers a deeper explanation of all question types and provides sample questions for each type. Check out their significant resources to get a better feel for what the GRE is like.

What Is the GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is a test designed specifically to assess a candidate’s aptitude for graduate management programs, most commonly the MBA. The test is produced and managed by the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC.

Like the GRE, the GMAT is organized into sections. Unlike the GRE, all four sections of the GMAT are scored.

The first section, analytical writing assessment, features just one essay where you’ll evaluate an argument for its reasoning and then form a critique of it.

The second section, integrated reasoning, is the first math- and data-related section, requiring you to analyze and interpret data from multiple sources and draw out relevant information from multiple sources. This is the business side of math, essentially.

The third section, quantitative reasoning, deals with interpreting math and data to draw conclusions. This section is more rigorous than the correlating section on the GRE, and no calculator is allowed.

The fourth section, verbal reasoning, deals with English grammar skills and analyzing textual sources.

The GMAT does not allow you to skip or cycle back to questions because it’s computer adaptive. GMAC and its partner organizations offer sample questions of each type. Make sure you take the time to learn each format before you take the test.

Should I Take the GMAT or GRE?

At the end of the day, people wonder: Should I take the GMAT or GRE? Which one is better for my situation? These are challenging questions, but we can provide some insight.

Note: It is possible to take both, of course, and there are some scenarios where doing so is the best choice. However, both tests are relatively expensive, and both require unique preparation. Don’t take both unless doing so is necessary for your application situation.

The first step when deciding which test to take is to look closely at the programs you want to pursue. Not every school’s MBA program has the same requirements, for example. The GMAT is a requirement for many business schools, but not all. Some accept or even prefer the GRE. And some don’t necessarily require either: Here at Post, MBA applicants do not have to have a GMAT score to apply, for example.

Once you know which test your desired schools require, take note of their minimum score on that test (if disclosed). When preparing for exams of this magnitude, it helps to have a target in mind.

Some students end up in a situation where they truly have the choice of which test to take. That’s a good position to be in because it gives you options. The two tests have differing areas of emphasis, so if you have the choice, pick the test that best suits your skills. The stronger your math, data, and analytical skills, the better you’ll fare with the GMAT. In the verbal components, the GMAT tilts toward grammatical and editorial issues, while the GRE focuses more on comprehension and vocabulary.

Earn Your MBA at Post

If earning an MBA is your purpose in pursuing the GRE or GMAT, consider the MBA program at Post University. This ACBSP-accredited program can be completed online or on campus, and it’s tailored to the working professional. Find a concentration that fits your life from among the following:

  • Corporate Innovation
  • Finance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Healthcare Systems Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Multidisciplinary
    Project Management

A Post MBA may be the key to career achievement and advancement, as it has been for many graduates. Ready to take the next step in pursuing your MBA? Apply online today.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post University program. To learn more about Post University’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.