There is a question that looms over every MBA hopeful:  should I take the GMAT or the GRE?  The GMAT (or Graduate Management Admission Test), like the LSAT for law school or MCAT for medical school, has been a staple of the MBA application for over half a century.  The GRE (or Graduate Record Examinations) has existed for about the same amount of time, and while it has certainly had its place among a vast majority of graduate school apps, it has been absent from the MBA app.

Recently, this has all changed.  700 business schools (and growing) now accept the GRE in place of the GMAT as your aptitude test of choice.  Lest you be concerned that your dream school might not accept the GRE, here is a small sampling of top schools that do:

  • Harvard Business School
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Yale SOM
  • University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
  • Northwestern (Kellogg)
  • University of Chicago (Booth)
  • MIT (Sloan)
  • Dartmouth College (Tuck)
  • Cornell University (Johnson)
  • Columbia University
  • UC Berkeley (Haas)
  • Etc., etc.

You can find the complete list here.

The point is, the issue of “is this school going to accept the GRE?” shouldn’t be your main concern, since most do.  So, how should you choose, then?  Let’s look at some factors:


Both tests are around 3.5 hours long (depending on your speed), so the two are equivalent there.


Both scores are valid for 5 years after you take the test.  Again, no difference.


The GMAT is pricier at $250 (vs. the $195 for the GRE), but that shouldn’t deter you at all.  The $55 difference is a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll pay in application fees, enrollment deposits, and the program itself.

Flexibility (Schools)

This is a factor that definitely did weigh into my decision, and may very well weigh into yours, too.  Since the GRE is used at most grad schools, taking it keeps options open for you.  If you decide you’d rather do an MS in statistics or industrial and organizational psychology, you’re covered.  This is not the case with the GMAT.  If you take the GMAT and then decide on another program other than business school, you’ll have to take the GRE.

Math Section

The GMAT math section has been known to be more difficult than the GRE math section.  Having studied for both I can attest to this.  I think what makes the GMAT math a bit trickier is the prevalence of “data sufficiency” questions (see example below).  The questions give you a problem and then 2 statements underneath it.  Your job is to determine which of the statements are necessary to solve the problem (1, 2, both together, either alone, or neither).  So, not only are you solving the problem but you’re also then answering a logic question using that answer.  Personally, I like my math sections on tests a bit more cut-and-dried, so I opted for the GRE, which is essentially a ramped up version of the SAT in terms of math.

    Typical GMAT Math Problem                                        Typical GRE Math Problem



Verbal Section

Again, the GMAT tends to focus more heavily on reasoning.  The GMAT tests grammar, critical reasoning, and reading, while the GRE tests vocabulary and reading.  Knowing that I had time to study, I wondered which set of skills I would be able to improve more significantly in the time that I had.  I am an avid reader, so I knew I would be OK with either reading section, but I ultimately decided that it would be easier to improve my vocabulary than my grammar and critical reading skills (more on how I did that in this post).  Once more, it was probably my preference for the cut-and-dried feature of word recall over a more fuzzy critical thinking process that drew me to the GRE.

Typical GMAT Verbal Question                             Typical GRE Verbal Question

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 11.10.53 AM     Slide1


Integrated Reasoning Section

This is a section unique to the GMAT that combines math and logic.  If these areas are some of your strong suits, then that might tip the balance towards the GMAT for you.


Obviously, I am a little bit biased towards the GRE.  I think that the questions are more straightforward and that it is easier to study for in an efficient way.  However, these are just my opinions.  The only way you can really know which test is right for you is to take a practice version of each and compare the results.

Both Kaplan and The Princeton review supply free GRE practice tests:

Kaplan free GRE                         The Princeton Review free GRE 

and free GMAT practice tests:

Kaplan free GMAT                   The Princeton Review free GMAT

Once you have the results, you can also use the GMAT/GRE Comparison tool to compare your scores to both each other and also to the averages at the top b-schools.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 11.14.57 AM

Here are the GMAT scores for those top MBA programs listed above:

  • Harvard Business School:  730
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business: 732
  • Yale SOM: 715
  • University of Pennsylvania (Wharton): 720
  • Northwestern (Kellogg): 707
  • University of Chicago (Booth): 723
  • MIT (Sloan): 713
  • Dartmouth College (Tuck): 717
  • Cornell University (Johnson): 700
  • Columbia University: 716
  • UC Berkeley (Haas): 714

I developed a great deal of best practices and tips while studying for and taking the GRE.  You can read more about my experience and how I prepared for the test here.

2 thoughts on “GRE vs. GMAT

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