GRE vs GMAT (MBA context)

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You might be wondering why are we even discussing this - isn’t GRE for masters and GMAT for MBA? The answer is yes, it was so till a few years back. In the past half a decade however, GRE has been gaining importance as a test for admissions into the MBA programs of some of the top Business schools across the globe. Growing number of institutions are now accepting GRE scores too. In fact, one of the main reasons for the Integrated Reasoning section to be introduced in GMAT was to differentiate itself from GRE that does not have a separate section that tests the students’ understanding of data presented in graphical, tabular etc. kind of formats.

There is no minimum GMAT or GRE to apply and we do not have a bias toward one test or the other. - Harvard Business School (on its application process page)
Either the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for admission. We have no preference for one test over the other. - Stanford Graduate School of Business (on its application page)
All applicants must submit results of a Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) that are no more than five years old. - Wharton (on its admission process page)

The list goes on and I believe I have made a point here - GRE or GMAT both can be used for an MBA. However, we recommend that you first check the colleges that are in your target before taking the exam as some colleges like INSEAD accept only GMAT scores; but it is a only a matter of time before GRE catches up!

Now that we have established that either of the exams are generally accepted, the question comes down to which exam to write if your college accepts both scores. The answer to this is not as straight forward. Let us first begin by comparing the two exams -




Test Takers (2016 globally)

2.61 lakhs

5.84 lakhs

Test Cost



When can you give?

Year - around

Year - around

Mode of test

Computer Adaptive Test

Computer Adaptive Test*


3hr 30min

3hr 45min

Score range



90th percentile score



*GRE conducts paper based exams in those parts of the world where computer adaptive test is not possible. This is done three times a year.

Pattern difference:




Sentence Correction

Sentence Equivalence

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension

Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning


Text Completion

GRE has higher importance on vocabulary as the sentence equivalence and text completion are vocab based questions. GMAT on the other hand has sentence correction which is Grammar based. So, the bottom line here is GRE favors vocabulary whereas GMAT favors Grammar!

The conclusion is if you are a vocab freak, GRE is for you but if you are the typical guy who can’t stop yourself from correcting others’ grammatical mistake, GMAT is the right choice!


The topics here are almost the same in both the exams. Since the topics are same (unlike in English), we can compare the difficulty level here. We believe that the average math level in GMAT is higher than that needed in GRE. However, GRE has more types of questions whereas GMAT has only two types



Problem Solving (multiple choice)

Quantitative comparison

Data Sufficiency

Multiple choice - single answer correct.


Multiple choice - more than one answer correct.


Type in the answer

So, you can see that while the GMAT question level is higher, the format of questions is straightforward. GRE on the other hand has lower level of questions but appearing in many formats. But the different formats should not deter the students as it is only a matter of practice before the students becomes familiar with all formats. The focus should be on the difficulty level of questions.

The math questions in GMAT are slightly reasoning oriented where as in GRE they are calculation and quantitative based.

Another big factor is the use of calculator. GRE allows use of on - screen calculator where as GMAT does not allow (GMAT allows for only the IR section and not for Math section)

So, the conclusion is GRE’s math is easier and GMAT math is difficult and if you are a student afraid of math, GRE is a safer bet.

Integrated Reasoning:

This is unique to GMAT and many business schools are separately asking for the IR score if the student is applying using his/her GMAT score. So, if you are not good with the typical Data Interpretation or logical reasoning type of problems, you might have a problem here and it is safer to avoid GMAT and go for GRE.


Since this is an article targeting Indian students, I would like to generalize that most of us are not good at written communication. Both exam essays are equally difficult to ace. However, one should note that GRE asks two essays with 30 minutes each (total 1-hour duration) whereas GMAT asks only for one essay. So, if you enjoy writing essays then GRE it is and GMAT if you feel it is a tedious task.

Go for GMAT if you are strong in Quant, Logical Reasoning and Grammar.
Go for GRE if you typically do not favor Math, strong in Vocabulary and like writing essays
Caution: Of course, you will have to first check with the college for acceptability of the test scores in the first place!