The 5 Most Important Differences Between the GMAT and the GRE

Some MBA programs accept the GRE, so depending on what programs you are applying to, you may have a choice between the GMAT and the GRE.  In order to help you decide which option might be the best for you, I have outlined the key differences.

1) Test Format

gmat v gre 2

The two formats of the test differ greatly as shown above.  Furthermore, the GMAT order is always the same.  However, anything after the AWA sections on the GRE is in a different order from test to test.  The unscored section is disguised as a verbal or quant section and placed somewhere throughout the test, so you won’t know if you are taking it when you are taking it.  The research section, however will be at the end.

A key thing to note about the differences in format, is that the GMAT requires you to write one essay, while the GRE requires you to write two.  The GRE, however, doesn’t have an integrated reasoning section.

2) Scoring

The main score on the GMAT is on a scale of 200-800 in ten point increments and is based on your quant and verbal scores together.  You are also scored individually on each section from 0-60. The GRE gives you a score of 130-170 in one point increments for the quant and verbal sections individually. The Analytical Writing Assessment for the GRE and the GMAT are both scored on a scale of 0-6 in half point increments.

3) Computer Adaptivity

The GMAT quant and verbal sections are computer adaptive within themselves.  Which means as you go through each section, the test will adjust and get harder or easier depending on how well you are doing.  This also means that you cannot go back once you have finished a question.

The GRE is adaptive between sections, which means that the next section will adjust based on how well you did on the previous sections.  Because of this, you can go back and correct questions after you have completed them.  The GRE also allows for students to take paper tests in certain circumstances.

4) Quant Question Types

A big difference between the two quant sections is that the GRE gives you an onscreen calculator, while the GMAT does not.  They also differ in question types. There are two types of quant questions on the GMAT:

  • Problem Solving
  • Data Sufficiency

PS asks students to solve a problem with given information.  This will always be multiple choice.

DS question gives students a prompt and information, in addition to two statements labeled (I) and (II).  The students will be asked if they can solve the problem with statement (I), (II), both or each, or if both statements together are insufficient  to solve the problem.  This will also always be multiple choice, with the same five answer choices every time.

The GRE quant section is a bit more complicated with four different question types.  Questions can also appear individually or part of a group called a Data Interpretation set. The four question types are

  • Multiple choice with one solution
  • Multiple choice with one or more solutions
  • Quantitative comparison
  • Numeric entry

The multiple choice questions are pretty straightforward.  QC gives students two quantities and asks which one is bigger, if they are the same or if there is not enough information to solve the problem.  Numeric entry gives students a problem to solve, but instead of having a selection of answers to choose from, they have to input the correct number solution.

5) Verbal Question Types

The verbal question types on the two tests also differ.  Although they both have reading comprehension questions, the remainder of the question types are very different.

In addition to reading comprehension, the GMAT has:

  • Sentence correction, which asks students to pick the grammatically correct way to complete a sentence.
  • Critical reasoning, which asks students to analyze an argument

The GRE verbal question types include reading comprehension, in addition to

  • Text completion- filling in blanks with the correct vocabulary word
  • Sentence equivalent- filling in a blank with two words that not only fit in the sentence, but generate similar meanings within the sentence.

Thus, the GRE is more vocabulary heavy, while the GMAT includes more grammar and analysis of arguments.

In Summary

GRE- more essay writing, more vocabulary, can take on paper, calculator, can go back

GMAT- more math, more grammar and critical analysis, no calculator, can’t go back

When deciding which test to take, it is important for students to understand the differences between the two tests in addition to their strengths and weaknesses.  That way, they can pick the test that highlights their strengths, so they can put their best foot forward!

Meet the Author

Eliza Chute

I was always just an average student, but with the right course prep I was able to score a 770 on my first try. I had to wade through a lot of material to find what was right for me, but luckily for you I've done all the research for you! See more on my GMAT courses page.

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