Derick de Souza
Written By - Derick de Souza

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Most graduate programs offered by universities across the United States require students to take a standardized test. This is in addition to presenting transcripts, recommendation letters, and other requirements.

The two most common standardized tests are the GMAT and GRE. The GMAT, Graduate Management Admission Test, is a standardized test required mainly to be admitted to business schools. The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is also a standardized test especially needed by students who plan to take a master’s degree in the United States or Canada.

There are some differences and similarities between the GMAT and the GRE, which you must know before taking either test.

Difference Between the GMAT and GRE: Which One Should You Take?

Table Of Contents

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GMAT vs. GRE: What Is the GMAT and What Is the GRE?

GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is a computer-adaptive standardized examination designed to assess a test-taker in the areas of mathematics, analytical, quantitative, verbal, and writing abilities. The exam is typically only offered online and has multiple-choice questions. The GMAT is frequently used as the first exam that business schools look at for students applying to MBA programs. GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is a standardized exam used to gauge a person’s general academic preparedness for graduate study and their capacity for abstract thought in analytical writing, mathematics, and vocabulary. The exam is typically only offered online and is used by many graduate programs in the United States and Canada regularly to assess an applicant’s suitability for the program. The GRE also has a “Subject Test” that evaluates technical knowledge related to a particular discipline like physics, psychology, or mathematics, which some graduate programs may require. 

Exam Formats & Structure

Update: The GRE has changed the test structure, effective September 22, 2023. While the test before that date had six sections, taking 3 hours and 45 minutes, the current test contains five sections and takes about 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Although the GMAT and GRE test similar skills, they take different approaches to do so and vary in structure, format, and scoring. Here is a quick overview of both exams and a look at their structures:

Overview of the GMAT & GRE
DatesAll YearAll Year
Validity5 Years5 Years
Duration3 Hours 7 Minutes1 Hour 58 Minutes
Target GroupStudents planning to sign up for graduate programs in business schools.Students who are undecided about the type of graduate program to sign up for or who already know which program to sign up for.
AdministratorGraduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Educational Testing Service (ETS)
How the GMAT & GRE Formatted
SectionsConsists of four sections: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning.Divided into three main sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning.
Analytical WritingThis section contains one essay question designed to test the candidate’s critical thinking and writing skills.
1 Question: Analysis of an ArgumentTime: 30 minutes
This section assesses a student’s ability to write clearly and effectively. It includes an essay question with one task – (a) Analyze an Issue.
1 Essay
Time: 30 minutes
Verbal ReasoningThis section contains 36 questions designed to test the candidate’s reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction skills. The section is timed and lasts for 65 minutes.

36 Questions: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, Sentence CorrectionTime: 65 minutes
This section tests a student’s ability to understand and analyze written material. It includes reading comprehension, sentence completion, and critical reasoning questions. There are three types of questions – (a) Reading Comprehension, (b) Text Completion and (c) Sentence Equivalence.

27 Questions
Time: 41 minutes
Quantitative ReasoningThis section contains 31 questions designed to test the candidate’s problem-solving and data-interpretation skills. The section is timed and lasts for 62 minutes.
31 Questions: Data Sufficiency, Problem SolvingTime: 62 minutes
There are four quantitative reasoning questions – (a) Quantitative Comparison, (b) Multiple-choice — Select One Answer, (c) Multiple-choice — Select One or More Answers and (d) Numeric Entry.
27 QuestionsTime: 47 minutes
Integrated ReasoningThis section consists of 12 questions designed to test the candidate’s data interpretation, problem-solving skills, and logical reasoning. The section is timed and lasts for 30 minutes.
12 Questions: Graphics Interpretation, Table Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning, Two-Part AnalysisTime: 30 minutes

Types of Test Questions

The GMAT and GRE vary in their test patterns. They use different types of questions in each of their sections. Here is a quick look:

TypesThe GMAT consists of three main types of questions:
  • Multiple Choice
  • Problem-Solving
  • Data Interpretation
The GRE consists of six main types of questions:
  • Multiple Choice
  • Numeric Entry Questions
  • Text Completion
  • Sentence Equivalence
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Analysis Type of Questions

The GMAT and GRE are unique on several fronts and test a student’s abilities in slightly different ways across varying parameters. Here is a breakdown of the two tests: 

Verbal Section

The verbal sections of the GMAT and GRE are virtually similar but vary in some ways. 

The GMAT emphasizes grammar and tests the following:
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Sentence Equivalence
  • Critical Reasoning
The GRE emphasizes vocabulary while testing the following:
  • Sentence Equivalence
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Text Completion
The GMAT has only one type of question:
  • Multiple Choice
The GRE has three types of questions:
  • Choose All Answers that Apply
  • Choose a Sentence in the Passage
  • Multiple Choice

Math Section

Both the GMAT and GRE test math skills and have the same topics:

  • Arithmetic 
  • Algebra 
  • Data Interpretation 
  • Word Problems 

However, both use distinct formats for math questions.

The GMAT has two types of math questions:
  • Problem-Solving (Multiple Choice)
  • Data Sufficiency
The GRE has three types of math questions:
  • Multiple Choice
  • Multiple Answers
  • Numeric Entry
  • Quantitative Comparisons
The GMAT has only one type of question:
  • Multiple Choice
The GRE has three types of questions:
  • Choose All Answers that Apply
  • Choose a Sentence in the Passage
  • Multiple Choice

How They Are Scored

Scoring points and patterns are also different in the GMAT and GRE. Here is a quick breakdown:

The GMAT is scored on a scale of 0 to 800. The score range for the four sections is 0 to 60, and the total score is the sum of the four section scores.

Analytical Writing
0.0-6.0 (In 0.5-point increments)

Verbal Reasoning
6.0-51.0 (In 1-point increments)

Quantitative Reasoning
6.0-51.0 (In 1-point increments)

Integrated Reasoning
1.0-8.0 (In 1-point increments)
The GRE score range is 130-170, with 170 being the highest possible score. The verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections are scored separately on a scale of 0-60, and the Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0-30.

Analytical Writing
0-6 (In 0.5-point increments)

Verbal Reasoning
130-170 (In 1-point increments)

Quantitative Reasoning
130-170 (In 1-point increments)

GMAT vs. GRE: 7 Steps to Choose the Best Test for You

Although most business schools and programs prefer the GMAT over the GRE, non-business programs almost always require the GRE. If you are at the crossroads and are finding it difficult to decide which of the two exams to choose, an often natural choice for business programs would be the GMAT. 

Still, here are some quick points to consider to help make your decision:

1. Understand the GMAT and GRE

The first step to choosing the right standardized test is understanding the GMAT and the GRE – its similarities, differences, fees, questions, format, and scoring.

2. List the colleges you want to apply to

Make a list of schools you want to apply to and find out which ones strongly prefer the GMAT, which prefer the GRE, and which accept both. Remember, business schools generally prefer the GMAT, but many accept the GRE, too.

3. Know your career objectives

Your career objectives can and should influence your choice of standardized test. Depending on the program you have chosen and your education level, you may be required to submit your GMAT or GRE scores for further studies (since the score validity is 5 years). For example, if you take the GRE for a master’s program and are considering a doctoral degree, the latter may use your GRE score.

4. Check with the institution which tests are accepted

If you prefer a particular school, but it does not indicate the test of your choice, inquire as to whether they accept GMAT if they have asked for the GRE, and vice-versa. Also, check whether taking one test over another gives you a benefit.

5. Check your math & English skills

The quantitative reasoning questions in the GMAT and GRE are generally challenging. Language proficiency is also tested at various levels. Therefore, read through both tests and understand whether you would find the GMAT or GRE easier.

6. Take a practice test

Several websites and resources on the internet offer a diagnostic or practice test for the GMAT and GRE. Taking one can help you further understand where your areas of improvement are and what sort of questions you can expect from either test.

7. Compare and choose

After taking the GMAT and GRE mock tests, you should now have an inkling of which is easier for you. However, it is important to map your practice test results to the graduate programs and colleges you have listed out. Based on your comparison and analysis, choose between the GMAT or GRE, ensuring your choice aligns with the corresponding program and college.

Look for Programs That Don’t Require the GMAT or GRE

Many colleges and universities are increasingly waiving the GMAT and GRE or abolishing their requirements completely. In some instances, they do not ask applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores if they, the applicants, have met certain criteria such as a high GPA or work experience. Some schools offer no GRE online master’s programs, and some business schools offer MBA programs without the GMAT. Therefore, always look for colleges that do not have the GMAT and/or the GRE as an admission requirement. It will save you time, money, and stress.

FAQs About GMAT vs. GRE

GMAT or GRE: Which Is Better and Easier?

There is no objective answer to this question because the GMAT vs. GRE debate is not about which is better but which one is best suited. Depending on your career objectives, aptitude, and other considerations, either option will be better and easier for you.

Do you always need to take the GRE or GMAT?

How often are the GMAT and GRE held?

Will I get my GMAT or GRE test score immediately?

I have taken both the GMAT and GRE. Will both scores be considered for admission?

Additional Resources

Here are a few additional resources to help prospective GMAT and GRE test-takers understand both these exams and provide them with information, tools, and more:


Magoosh is a go-to site for students planning to take the GRE, GMAT, or even SAT and other examinations. They have free tests and video lessons, among other tools and resources. 


Kaplan offers realistic practice GMAT tests with detailed score analyses and tools to practice questions daily. 

Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) website is an excellent source of information on the GMAT. This site includes an overview of the test, sample questions, tips for preparation, and advice on choosing a graduate program in the business. 

Educational Testing Service (ETS) 

The official site of the GRE, hosted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), has all the information students need about the GRE test and how to apply and prepare for it. The site also has several tools and resources for prospective applicants.   

The Grad Café – GRE/GMAT Forums

The Grand Café is a great place to seek advice when students have concerns about GRE questions or want some tips and direction about their study strategy. 

Khan Academy 

Khan Academy is an educational website that offers free videos to help students learn about certain academic or test subjects. Their math lessons are beneficial for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE.

Manhattan Prep

Manhattan Prep offers a variety of GRE preparation services for a fee, but they allow interested test-takers to take any first session of any class at no cost. The site also provides several free GRE resources, such as study tips, practice tests, and flash cards.