Applying for graduate school is an exciting time, and a major step! However, the application is complicated and involves many different parts, including either the GMAT or the GRE. Lots of graduate or business schools will accept either test, but is one more important than the other? What exactly is the difference between the two, and which one is more difficult?
The GRE exam is for graduate school, whereas the GMAT is for business school. There are other major differences between the GMAT and the GRE, including how the test is structured and formatted, how the test is scored, and how often you can resit both exams. Which test you find harder will depend on your strengths and weaknesses. However, the GMAT will likely be easier if you are better at Quantitative Reasoning, and harder if you are better at Verbal Reasoning.
Don’t worry if everything isn’t totally clear yet. This article is here to provide you with all the information on the key differences between the GMAT and the GRE, and which one you might need more.
Table of Contents
What is the GMAT?
The GMAT is an online standardised test, like the GRE, that tests your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing.
The GMAT is designed as the entrance exam into business school (unlike the GRE, which is for graduate school in general).
Although the GMAT will be a focus for this article, I’d recommend reading this Think Student article for all the information you need on the GMAT first.
What is the GRE exam?
The GRE, which stands for Graduate Record Examinations, is a test that is part of the admission requirements for many USA and Canadian graduate schools.
The GRE is run by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The GRE general test is a singular exam that is designed to encompass knowledge you may need for law, business, or graduate school. You can read more about the GRE exam in this Think Student article.
What’s the difference between GMAT and GRE?
There are several differences between the GMAT and the GRE exam, including what you may need the test for, how the test is structured, how the test is formatted, and how the test is scored.
For example, you must sit the sections of the GRE – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing – in order. Whereas, for the GMAT, you are able to complete the sections in any order that you like.
However, this is only one of many differences between the two tests! Below, I’ll be taking you through these differences in detail. Please note that the information below is primarily sourced from this Think Student article that was also linked above.
Do you take the GMAT and the GRE for the same reason?
The GRE is an exam for graduate school in general: this means if you want to study something like law or business, you can take the GRE.
The GMAT is specifically for business school. If you want to go to a business school, such as Harvard Business School for example, then you might want to take the GMAT.
This is one way in which the GRE and the GMAT differ: you will probably need them for different things, so your reason for taking one exam over the other will be different.
The GMAT is also specifically validated to predict how a student might perform in the first year of an MBA program, whereas the GRE is a general test that is not tailored to predict future performance.
Do the GMAT and GRE have the same format?
The GRE and the GMAT are formatted very differently.
The GRE has three different sections: a 60-minute Analytical Writing section, a 60-minute Verbal Reasoning Section, and a 70-minute Quantitative Reasoning section.
The GMAT, however, has four different sections: a 30-minute Analytical Writing section, a 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section, a 62-minute Quantitative Reasoning section and a 65-minute Verbal Reasoning Section.
Not only are the timings of the exams different, but they are also structured differently. Despite the fact that the GMAT has an extra section, it takes 15 minutes longer to complete the GRE. This is as the GMAT lasts 3 hours and 30 minutes compared to 3 hours and 45 minutes on the GRE.
Furthermore, you also have the option to take the GRE in person, whereas you cannot do this with the GMAT.
As you can see, the GRE and GMAT are quite different in their testing process even if you can use either score in your application.
Is the GMAT and the GRE scored in the same way?
As the GRE and the GMAT are structured and formatted differently, they are also scored differently.
In the GRE, the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored from 130 (lowest) to 170 (highest), going up in 1-point increments.
In the GMAT, the composite score ranges from 200 (lowest) to 800 (highest) in 10-point increments.
This is a major difference between the two tests – it is a lot harder to move up an increment for the GMAT than it is for the GRE.
Despite this, there is one similarity between the scores of the GRE and the GMAT: both scores are valid for 5 years.
However, the resit time is different for both exams. For the GRE, you can resit it after 21 days since your last exam, whereas for the GMAT you only have to wait 16 days.
Which is harder: the GRE or the GMAT?
Which test you find harder will depend on your individual skills and your individual strengths and weaknesses.
The Princeton Review states on their website, “the GMAT suits those who have strong quantitative and analytical skills, who also excel at interpreting data presented in charts, tables, and text to solve complex problems”.
You can read more about this in this article on the Princeton Review website.
The article also says, “Strong editors may gravitate to the GMAT’s verbal section while test-takers with strong vocabularies may prefer the GRE.”
Therefore, if you have stronger mathematical skills than vocabulary skills, the GMAT might be easier for you. On the other hand, if you have stronger literary skills, you will probably achieve a higher score in the GRE.
Which test you take shouldn’t depend on which test you might do better in – you should take whichever test you think will be more useful!
Should you take the GMAT or the GRE?
As mentioned earlier, you should take whichever test you find more useful.
If you are considering going to graduate school, and not any particular business school, the GRE will probably be more useful to you. This is because the GRE is a test for graduate schools and isn’t specifically tailored to business school.
However, if you want to apply to a business school specifically, you should probably take the GMAT, because this test is an admission requirement for most business schools.
Business schools may also accept the GRE if you have a GRE score instead of the GMAT. In that case, if you want to apply to business school but you think you will do better in the GRE, you might still be able to take the GRE.
Is GMAT or GRE better for business school?
As reported by MBA.com, 9 in 10 applicants who applied to an MBA program at a university or college in the top 100 global MBA ranking applied with an admissions test score, and 7 in 10 used the GMAT exam.
This statistic and more can be found in this article by MBA.com.
This statistic shows that the GMAT is definitely more popular amongst business school applicants. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the GMAT is better.
In truth, whether the GMAT is better than the GRE or not is dependent on what you want to achieve at and after business school.
The skills you gain from taking both tests will help you in different areas of the sector, so think about your personal goals before you choose which exam to sit.
Does the Ivy League prefer GMAT or GRE?
Whilst most Ivy League colleges will either accept or ask for the GMAT or GRE as a requirement for admission, most colleges or universities will not have a specific preference.
For example, Stanford Graduate School of Business states on their website that, “Either the Graduate Management Admission Test or the Graduate Record Examination is required for admission. We have no preference for one test over the other.”
You can read more about this on their website, linked here.
Similarly, the Yale School of Management states on their website that, “We accept both the GMAT and the GRE […] The Admissions Committee has no preference between the exams, and we’re well versed in evaluating scores from each.”
You can read more about this on their website, linked here.
Does Harvard prefer GMAT or GRE?
As stated on the Harvard Business School MBA website, “We do not have a preference for either test.” You can read about this and more on the Harvard Business School website linked here.
This means that you can submit either a GMAT score or a GRE score as part of your application. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to take both tests – just whichever test you think will benefit you more.
As well as this, Harvard Business School also states that “There is no minimum GMAT or GRE to apply and we do not have a preference toward one test or the other.”
This can be found on this page of the Harvard Business School website.
Do you need the GMAT or the GRE for a master’s in the UK?
Whether you need a GMAT or GRE score for a master’s in the UK will depend on the university and the course you’re applying to. If you’re unsure, you should check the website of, or contact directly, the university you want to apply to.
Most of the time, however, a GMAT or a GRE is not a mandatory admission requirement for studying an MBA or a master’s in the UK. Although, if you’re looking at more competitive courses, the university will typically require one or the other.
While it does still depend on the university, if you don’t have a GMAT or GRE score, there will probably be alternative requirements.
If the GMAT is mandatory for the course you’re applying to, the average GMAT score requirement in the UK is around 600- 650. If the GRE is mandatory, you will generally need a score of at least 156 in the Verbal Reasoning section and 158 in the Quantitative Reasoning section.
Therefore, having a score close to or higher than this is a good target to aim for.
Does it take longer to study for the GMAT or the GRE?
How much time you need to spend studying for the GMAT or the GRE is really up to you, and how much time you think you will need to get the top scores.
However, it’s generally recommended that you spend around 120 hours in total studying and revising for the GMAT. This would typically be over about 10- 12 weeks.
You can read more about preparing for the GMAT in this article by Kaplan Test Prep.
Whereas for the GRE, the amount of time it takes to study varies a lot more. For the GRE, it will generally take anywhere between 50 and 200 hours, depending on the person.
This means that studying for the GRE can take a lot longer but may also be a lot shorter than for the GMAT. You can read more on preparing for the GRE in this article by Kaplan Test Prep.
Although both of these might seem like a lot, breaking it down into 1 or 2 hours every day will help you to stay consistent and motivated.
If you’re a student that is able to study quickly and has a good memory, it may take you less time. As I mentioned earlier, how much time you should dedicate to studying for these exams is dependent on your personal skill level.
However, it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared, so make sure you’re putting the work in!
*Please note that the facts and figures in this article are true at time of writing (December 2023) and may slightly change.