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GMAT vs. GRE: Choosing the Right Test for Your MBA Application

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The journey towards obtaining a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a significant decision in one’s career. As part of the application process for most MBA programs, prospective students are required to submit standardized test scores. The two most common options for these tests are the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Deciding which test to take can be a critical choice that impacts your application and potential admissions outcomes. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the differences between the GMAT and GRE, their respective formats, content, scoring systems, and provide insights to help you make an informed decision based on your strengths, weaknesses, and MBA aspirations.

Understanding the GMAT vs. GRE

The GMAT has long been the preferred test for MBA admissions, specifically designed to assess skills relevant to business and management programs. It is developed and administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The GMAT is divided into four main sections: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning.

GMAT Sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): In this section, candidates are required to write an essay that analyzes an argument. Test-takers are evaluated on their ability to construct a coherent and well-structured response.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR): This section evaluates candidates’ ability to process and interpret complex data presented in various formats such as graphs, tables, and multi-source reasoning questions. It aims to assess skills crucial for problem-solving in a data-driven business environment.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section measures mathematical and quantitative skills. It includes questions on arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. It is important to note that while the GMAT quant section is considered challenging, it does not involve highly advanced math concepts.
  • Verbal Reasoning: In this section, candidates’ language proficiency and critical reasoning skills are tested through questions related to reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning.

GMAT Scoring:

The GMAT scoring range is 200 to 800, with scores reported in increments of 10 points. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 0 to 60, and these scores are then combined to give the total score. The AWA section is scored separately on a scale of 0 to 6, and the IR section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8.

Exploring the GRE

The GRE, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), is a standardized test used for admissions to a wide range of graduate programs, including MBA programs. While the GRE is not specifically designed for business programs like the GMAT, many business schools have started accepting GRE scores as an alternative to the GMAT. The GRE consists of six sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning, each presented twice in a different order.

GRE Sections:

  • Analytical Writing: Like the GMAT, the GRE also includes an essay writing section. However, the GRE requires test-takers to write two essays – one analyzing an issue and the other analyzing an argument.
  • Verbal Reasoning: This section assesses reading comprehension, vocabulary usage, and text completion. It includes questions that test candidates’ ability to understand and analyze written material.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Similar to the GMAT, the GRE quant section evaluates mathematical and quantitative skills, including algebra, geometry, arithmetic, and data analysis.

GRE Scoring:

The GRE has a different scoring system compared to the GMAT. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 130 to 170, in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments.

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Key Differences and Considerations

Content Emphasis:

One of the primary differences between the GMAT and GRE is the content emphasis. The GMAT is designed specifically for business schools, focusing on skills relevant to the business and management field. On the other hand, the GRE is a more general test that covers a broader range of subjects and is used for admissions to various graduate programs, not just business schools.

Math Difficulty:

Many test-takers consider the quant section of both tests to be challenging. However, the GMAT’s quant section is often perceived as slightly more difficult. While the GRE quant section covers a wide range of math concepts, the GMAT quant section includes more advanced topics like combinatorics and probability. If you are confident in your math skills and enjoy tackling complex mathematical problems, the GMAT might be a better fit.

Data Interpretation:

The GMAT includes the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section, which focuses on data interpretation and analytical skills. This section is absent in the GRE. If you excel in data analysis and can effectively interpret complex information, the GMAT’s IR section might play to your strengths.

Vocabulary and Reading:

The GRE places a significant emphasis on vocabulary and reading comprehension. If you have a strong vocabulary and enjoy reading, you might find the GRE’s verbal section more appealing. The GMAT’s verbal section, on the other hand, emphasizes critical reasoning and sentence correction.

Also read: A Comprehensive Guide To Duke University MBA Program

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Test

1. Target Schools’ Preferences:

Research the MBA programs you are interested in to determine whether they have a preference for either the GMAT or GRE. Many schools now accept both tests, but some might still have a preference for one over the other.

2. Personal Strengths:

Assess your strengths and weaknesses. If you excel in math and data interpretation, the GMAT might be a good choice. If you have strong reading and vocabulary skills, the GRE might be more suitable.

3. Test Format:

Consider the test format that aligns with your preferences. If you prefer a test with an integrated reasoning section and specific business-related content, the GMAT might be more appealing. If you prefer a more general test covering a wider range of subjects, the GRE might be a better fit.

4. Preparation Resources:

Both the GMAT and GRE offer a variety of test preparation resources, including study guides, practice tests, and online courses. Research the availability and quality of resources for each test to help you make an informed decision.

5. Timing and Flexibility:

Consider your timeline for taking the test and submitting applications. The GMAT and GRE are offered at different times throughout the year. Check the test dates and availability to ensure they align with your application deadlines.

6. Previous Scores:

If you have already taken one of the tests and are not satisfied with your scores, you might consider switching to the other test. Business schools typically consider your highest score, so taking both tests and submitting the better score could be a strategic choice.


The decision to take the GMAT or GRE for your MBA application is a significant one that requires careful consideration. Both tests have their own unique formats, content, and scoring systems. Your choice should be based on your strengths, weaknesses, target schools’ preferences, and overall MBA aspirations. Remember that while test scores are an important component of your application, they are just one piece of the puzzle. Your work experience, recommendations, essays, and interviews also play a crucial role in the admissions process. Whichever test you choose, thorough preparation and a focused study


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