GMAT vs GRE: The only difference that matters

Let’s cut to the chase. If you take the GMAT vs GRE tests a few days apart, the percentile of both your scores will be very similar. So which one should you take?

Keep in mind that an improvement in the percentile on either test will be equally difficult because it is a test against a large number of self-selecting candidates. Even though the test structures are different, they both test almost the same skills:

Quantitative and verbal reasoning.

If you are struggling to decide which test to take for MBA applications, this post will help you decide.

If you’re pressed for time and cannot read the whole post, here is the summary:

The advantage of taking the GRE is that it does not count in the rankings of MBA business schools. Admissions therefore may be more flexible if you fail to achieve a certain score. So, if you are struggling to hit a target score on the GMAT or the admissions committee of a school you’re applying to recommended that you take the GRE, then do so.

GMAT vs GRE. Which is easier?

Neither.

About 200,000+ and 350,000+ young adults take the GMAT and GRE respectively per year. Any improvement you are hoping to make in either test requires that you become better than a certain number of either testing pool.

You have to consider the score percentiles. For example:

To improve from a 565 to 655 on the GMAT your score percentile has to increase from the 50th to the 90th percentile. You basically have to become better than 40% of the testing pool!

GMAT vs GRE

GMAT vs GRE test structure.

The GRE was changed to a shorter version in September of 2023 and is now 1 hour and 58 minutes long since then.

Test duration and structure

Section# of QuestionsTime (minutes)
Analytical WritingOne essay30′
Verbal ReasoningSection I: 12 questions
Section II: 15 questions
18′
23′
Quantitative ReasoningSection I: 12 questions
Section II: 15 questions
21′
26′
The table reflects the new GRE
Section# of QuestionsTime (minutes)
Data Insights2045
Verbal Reasoning2345
Quantitative Reasoning2145
The table reflects the new GMAT

Availability of material

There is an endless abundance of material to prepare for either exam, but I believe (and this is a biased opinion) that the official content available to prepare for the GMAT is better organized and easier to consume.

Cost

The GMAT costs ~300 USD and the GRE costs 220 USD.

The GMAT remains the standard

The GRE claims that business schools preferring the GMAT is a myth.

I disagree.

Even though the GRE is a great test, designed and administered to standards that are comparable to the GMAT, business schools do in fact still prefer the GMAT. Why?

Rankings. The average GMAT score of an incoming class is a metric used in business school rankings.

This is both a blessing and a curse for the GMAT.

It is a blessing because any candidate planning business school will default to the GMAT.

It is a curse because the GRE is becoming the life-saving option for candidates who cannot hit a target score on the GMAT. If the GRE does indeed become a standard for business schools and average GRE scores included in rankings, the flexibility an admissions committee shows in GRE scores is likely to end.