Should You Take the GMAT or GRE?

Should You Take the GMAT or GRE?

The GMAT has been the primary exam for business schools for decades, but now the GRE is accepted as an alternative by most programs. The choice of which exam to take is left in your hands.

For an initial answer of which test is best for your situation, work through the “quiz” below. Then we’ll discuss each of the scoring components, so that you will emerge informed and armed to make your decision.

Infographic: Compute Your GMAT vs. GRE Score

GMAT or GRE - GMAT Free 2

Analysis of Results

Got your score? Let’s walk through the factors and discuss the point assignments.

Are you considering non-business graduate school programs?While most business schools accept the GRE, most non-MBA grad programs do not accept the GMAT. Granted, many don’t take the GRE, either: law schools require the LSAT, and medical schools require the MCAT. But if you are considering a wide range of options, or if your future is a bit uncertain – for example, because you’re on the younger side, maybe still in college – then the GRE gets a little extra consideration, in the form of -2 points, because if you can use it for business school or for other programs, if you change your mind. Otherwise, if you’re 100% for business school, the GMAT has a slight edge, as it’s still the standard for business school, and therefore it gets a +1 point for this question.

Are you applying to business schools that accept the GMAT only? Certainly, if you are looking at a program that accepts the GMAT only, that’s a strong reason to take the GMAT and not the GRE – in that case, we adjust the running total by +3 to favor the GMAT. If you’re not sure, then the GMAT also gets a bump. However, there is no reason to be uncertain, because you can check this list of programs that accept the GRE, published by the makers of the GRE, ETS.

English grammar and English vocabulary.This two points together probably constitute the most-discussed difference between the GMAT and the GRE. The GMAT is heavy on English grammar, because grammar is tested directly in the Sentence Correction format on the Verbal section. And the GMAT doesn’t directly test English vocabulary, although some Reading Comprehension passages are rich with tough vocabulary. Meanwhile, the GRE doesn’t explicitly test English grammar, while it does test vocabulary – most notably, in Sentence Completion questions.

The key here is not whether you are better personally at English grammar or vocabulary; it’s whether you are better than the average test taker at either one of these or both. You might feel more comfortable with vocabulary than grammar, but actually have more of an advantage over other test takers in the subject area of grammar, for example.

This question should feel inherently difficult to answer, because you don’t really have any way of knowing how you stack up against the competition – that’s what the test is for. But make your best guess and put it into the total for an informed estimate.

Will you pursue consulting or investment banking? The point of this question is that employers in competitive fields such as consulting and investment banking will often look at your test scores as a measure of your intellectual readiness for their jobs. And there is a lingering sense in these communities that “the GRE is easy.” While that view is flawed in many respects (one one hand, it doesn’t matter which is easier, but rather what your percentile score is; and on another hand, the tests aren’t really designed for this purpose), it’s a reason to bump your score up for the GMAT.

Finally, how long will you prepare for the test?The point here, as always, is how you will stack up against the competition. The GRE is much easier to take “cold” and get a competitive result than is the GMAT. The reason is that the question formats on the GRE are all relatively intuitive, whereas a great portion of a GMAT score is informed by Data Sufficiency questions. The Data Sufficiency format is unique. Since it’s unlike questions you have answered before, you will certainly get better at these questions with practice. That means that, if you’re taking the test cold, the GMAT is a harder test to beat the competition. If you’re taking the test well-prepared, the GMAT is an easier test to beat the competition.

Simple Advice

Above all, review the information above, make a decision, and go with it. And your score on one test is likely to be similar to that on the other test, since both tests measure general skills, and scores on the test do correlate (indeed, if you have a GRE score already, you can use that link to see what GMAT score it’s roughly equivalent to).

Attempting to prepare for both exams is probably the biggest mistake you can make in this area, because you won’t have any actionable information until too late in the game, and you will have divided your efforts. When in doubt, go with the GMAT, but you can choose the GRE with minimal risk.

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