MBA Preparation

GMAT vs GRE: Which Test is Best for Your MBA Candidacy?

September 29 2021 By The MBA Exchange
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Your Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT™) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE ®) test score shows your skills at a glance, from math to language to integrated reasoning abilities. Together with your GPA, essays, interviews, and more, your GMAT or GRE test score proves what you can do to admissions committees.

Many business schools accept either of these scores from applicants. So, which is best, the GMAT or the GRE for MBA admissions?

Should You Take the GMAT or GRE?

Making the call between GMAT vs GRE comes down to key questions about your skills, background, and admissions goals. Or, maybe it would be better for you to try both tests! Some applicants prefer multiple bites at the test score apple.

Here’s what you need to know before you make the decision about whether to take the GMAT or the GRE or both.

Key Differences Between the GMAT and GRE

The GMAT and GRE differ in some key ways. Review these before you decide on a strategy for how you want to handle testing and test prep.

GMAT vs GRE test fees

Both the GMAT and the GRE require fees to take tests and report scores. Financially, you might need to make your decision on this basis. But, don’t let concerns about test fees keep you from getting the specific test score you need to apply to your dream school.

You pay a little more to take the GMAT, with a total of $250, instead of the $205 needed to take the GRE. Your GMAT fee gives you five score reports, and your GRE fee includes four score reports, so if you’re applying to more than four schools, you might basically break even.

What scores do your schools accept?

Not all business schools accept both the GMAT or the GRE, so you should carefully review your application goals, and the tests needed to make those goals into realities. If your dream school only accepts the GMAT, even the strongest GRE score won’t do you much good.

That said, in today’s application world, most business schools are pretty flexible about the GMAT vs GRE question. More than 90% of MBA programs surveyed by Kaplan in 2020 said that it was fine for applicants to submit a GRE score instead of a GMAT score. And, in the same survey, more than 80% of respondents made it clear that having one test or the other wouldn’t be a factor that made a difference in the admissions process.

GMAT vs GRE test duration

When you sit the GRE or GMAT, you’re in for at least three hours of test taking. The GMAT clocks in at three and a half hours, while taking the GRE takes three hours and 45 minutes. That’s a difference, but a pretty minor one for most test takers.

GMAT vs GRE test design

The GRE is intended for use by a wide range of students, while the GMAT is only really used for business school applications. The GMAT test design directly targets skills relevant to an MBA education, one of the reasons why it’s slightly more widely accepted by business schools than the GRE.

GRE and GMAT test structure

When you sit down to take the GMAT vs the GRE, you’re looking at some different test structures and elements. Let’s break it down.

The GRE starts with the scored Analytical Writing portion, then you have the scored Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning parts to deal with, given in random order. You may also take the unscored Research Section.

The GMAT uses four sections: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment, and Integrated Reasoning. Your Quant and Verbal scores make up the bulk of your GMAT score.
Candidates were often underprepared for the Integrated Reasoning and Data Interpretation questions on the GMAT and GRE. Data interpretation questions are among the hardest problems in the quantitative sections of the GMAT and GRE. Margo Diewald, the Senior Tutor at The MBA Exchange, helps GMAT and GRE prep clients succeed. Her book Off the Charts! Data Interpretation shows you how to effectively get through these questions without losing either time or nuance.

Differences in scoring systems between the GMAT and the GRE

The GRE and the GMAT use different scoring systems. Depending on your unique strengths and weaknesses, you might score better on one exam or the other.

Your GMAT points score ranges between 200-800, with scaled scoring for the Verbal and Quantitative sections. You also receive GMAT Verbal and Quantitative percentile scores, comparing you to other test takers within a given window. GMAT score reports include all uncanceled test scores from the last five years, although adcoms typically only track your highest score.

The GRE gives you a total score of between 260-340, based on your Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores of 130-170 each. You get to pick which of your GRE scores get reported to your target schools with the ScoreSelect option.

GMAT vs. GRE: which test is easier?

Many future MBA applicants worry about the difficulty of the GMAT or GRE. What is easier GMAT or GRE? And, which is harder GMAT or GRE testing?

Not all business school applicants have the same strengths in terms of quantitative and qualitative capabilities. Some are stronger with language or other non-quantitative skills, while others qualify as bona fide math whizzes, and set the curve for GMAT percentiles.

Most applicants realize they need to refresh their math foundations and sharpen their core quantitative skills when prepping for the GMAT or GRE for MBA candidacies. These steps are essential to success with standardized tests and admission to a top business school.

In terms of GRE vs GMAT difficulty, the GRE has a reputation for being more friendly to test takers with strong verbal and vocabulary skills who may struggle more with quantitative reasoning portions. GRE math sections are geometry-heavy, a plus or a minus depending on your comfort with logic problems vs spatial reasoning.

The truth is, both the GMAT and the GRE are designed to successfully measure your abilities. Neither test is significantly easier than the other, although you might find that you succeed more with the GMAT or the GRE due to your unique combination of skills and test taking capability.

GMAT vs GRE: which exam should you take?

Enough about the rest of the business school applicant competition, what about you? Which exam should you take, GMAT or GRE, for business school success? How do you make that call?

One place to start is by checking out your scores on GMAT and GRE practice tests. When you have more information about your likelihood of success with the GMAT vs the GRE, you can make the right call for you.

Each test requires different approaches in terms of strategy, and each unique candidate should find a personal best fit. Make sure your GRE or GMAT test prep sets you up for your maximum high score, whatever exam you choose to sit.

Can I submit both the GMAT and GRE for business school admissions?

If you choosing a business school for admission, most schools happily accept both GMAT and GRE scores. If you have double strong scores, that might provide some added pizzazz to your application package. Adcoms pay attention to the highest score you submit, GMAT or GRE.

Don’t get too hung up on the idea of taking both tests at once. Studying for one exam is hard enough, but studying for two, while keeping track of essential differences in the best tactics for success, maybe enough to break your brain.
It typically makes the most sense to simply submit your single best test score, be that the GMAT or the GRE. And, when you’re putting together your test prep plan, stay focused on the exam closest to hand, not the other exam possibility lurking on the sidelines. A strong score in the hand is, as they say, worth two in the bush.

Should I take the GMAT or GRE for business school?

So, when you’re planning on applying to business school, what’s the best use of your time in terms of standardized tests? The answer is, it depends. Look over your test score requirements and practice test scores, consider your goals and aptitudes, and feel free to retest as needed to get that top GMAT or GRE score you need to secure your slot at your ultimate dream school and future career.

Do business schools prefer GMAT or GRE scores?

You’re pretty well set with either a GMAT or a GRE score for MBA admissions success. Mostly, it’s just important to have a strong score!

Some business schools do indicate that the GMAT is slightly preferred, while relatively few top business schools mention that they prefer the GRE. That’s a potentially relevant data point for applicants. However, the margins at top schools are tight, and if you score a stellar GRE, that could still get you a whole lot farther than a low GMAT score.
Business schools prefer elite candidates with provable chops in math, language, and problem solving skills. The question of submitting GRE or GMAT scores for MBA applications mostly depends on you.

GMAT or GRE, admissions success is up to you

In the end, your score is just one part of your application, albeit a significant one. A strong GMAT or GRE score will boost your candidacy, whichever exam you chose to take. If you don’t score the number of points or the percentile you need on your first try, you can always retest, or try the other exam option.

Unless you have strong reasons to think that your target schools won’t accept one exam or the other, or your test prep indicates a big difference in your performance on the GMAT vs the GRE, the choice is basically up to you.

For support you can count on when it comes to pulling out a top GMAT or GRE for MBA admissions optimization, turn to the team at The MBA Exchange. Our tutors, test prep experts, and MBA admissions consultants can advise you on the right call when it comes to your standardized testing needs, and prepare you for the fateful test taking appointment when it arrives. We’ve blogged recently about acing the GMAT exam.

To learn more about the role your test score plays in your application package, and how we can help you select and prepare for the GMAT or GRE in the way that’s best for you and your MBA admissions dreams, get in touch with The MBA Exchange today. Start by requesting your free candidacy evaluation now.