GRE vs GMAT: Which is better?

[Editor’s note: Don’t miss the new section towards the end, where we reveal the results of a GRE vs GMAT survey that we did in May 2021.]

With an increasing number of B-schools accepting the GRE exam scores, candidates with vague post-graduate plans may wish to opt for the GRE rather than the GMAT. This would enable them to go for an MBA or an M.S., dual degree program or even a Ph.D. Taking the GRE would widen their scope of post-graduate study options, so such candidates may feel the GRE a better and practical test option.

But what about candidates who wish to apply only for an MBA program? Should they even consider the GRE or straightaway take the GMAT? It’s worth discussing how the GMAT and the GRE differ in nature and the advantages or disadvantages of opting for either.

Our best admission consultants get the same question day in and day out. So we thought an article would help sort things out.
 

What triggered the GRE vs GMAT race

It’s good to start off with some background and historical developments.

The story dates back to 2006 when GMAT owned by GMAC (Graduate Management Admissions Council) which had partnered with ETS (Educational Testing Service) all the while to manage their tests decided to part ways with ETS and instead made a new contract with ACT-Pearson as reported on The New York Times.

ETS which already conducts the GRE, now started making attempts to capture another big market by convincing business schools about accepting the GRE score on the grounds that they would be able to widen and diversify their applicant pool. In fact the changes that took place in the GRE test format in August 2011 were made to make it more relevant to business schools.

On similar lines, changes in the GMAT in June 2012 brought into the picture a new section, the Integrated Reasoning to make the test more b-school friendly. As more and more schools start accepting the GRE score, the competition between the GMAT and the GRE is set to get tougher.
 

Choice of MBA programs that accept GMAT vs GRE

If a candidate is definitely going for an MBA, taking the GMAT would be an advantage. This would increase the options of business schools they can apply to.

How the colleges would view it?

The time-tested GMAT score has been considered a better indicator of a student’s capability and preparedness for a tough MBA program. This opinion would greatly vary, so candidates need to check the college website to see if they encourage candidates to submit the GRE score or not.

Increasing number of business schools have started accepting the GRE score and the numbers may go up in the future. For the business school, it serves the purpose of increasing the applicant pool as more candidates, especially from the younger age group, would be able to apply. A lot of top business schools including Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Duke, NYU-Stern and many more are now accepting the GRE score.

Read this interesting observation on the average GRE scores for top MBA programs at business schools.
 

Post-MBA career plan

A few industry recruiters take into account the GMAT scores. Especially for those applicants wishing to move into investment banking and management consulting, having a high GMAT score would prove to be an advantage.

In fact, many deserving consulting and banking aspirants fail the eligibility test for the elite consulting firms and investment banks, for the only reason that they don’t have a high enough GMAT score to clear the first hurdle.
 

Cost: GRE fees vs GMAT fees

The cost of taking a GRE is $195 whereas that of the GMAT is $250 – a difference of $65 between the two. Both the GMAT and GRE are computer-based test and can be taken throughout the year, however in areas where computer-based testing is not possible, GRE is available as a paper-based test up to thrice a year. Both the GMAT and the GRE scores are valid for five years.
 

Difference between GRE vs GMAT syllabus

Though there are similarities, there are also differences between the GRE and GMAT syllabus. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that studying for one will prepare you for the other.

Both the GMAT and the GRE have similar sections. While the GRE has the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing sections, the GMAT has the Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing Assessment sections. The Integrated Reasoning section is a new addition.

Many find the Quantitative section in the GMAT tougher in comparison to the GRE whereas the Verbal section in the GRE seems to be more challenging in comparison to the GMAT.
 

Comparative test performance – Finding GMAT tougher than GRE?

There may be candidates who in spite of repeated attempts at the GMAT may not be able to raise their scores or whose performance in the GMAT practice tests may not be up to the mark, so they may have got discouraged from taking their GMAT.

If such candidates find that their performance in the GRE far exceeds that in the GMAT, they may be able to submit their GRE scores. Such applicants need to check if the schools they’re interested in accept the GRE scores and whether the GRE score are considered at par with the GMAT score.

Read more about MBA applicants who succeeded despite low GMAT scores.
 

GMAT or GRE for Engineers: Which is easier?

Many engineers find the GMAT a little easier than the GMAT, since they find the quantitative section more familiar than the verbal section. This is why if you look at the GMAT score breakup for engineers, you’ll find that the quant score is generally higher than the verbal score.

The GRE has a greater focus on testing verbal concepts, including the need to have an expanded vocabulary of difficult English words. Many non-engineers prefer the GRE exam. You’ll also come across many engineers who prefer using the GRE score that they used for their masters (MS) admissions.

But don’t rely on these generalisations. It’s best that you look at a few sample questions for GRE and GMAT. Compare the GRE syllabus with the GMAT syllabus. Then decide for yourself if the GRE or GMAT is easier for engineers.
 

GRE to GMAT conversion

How do you know whether a specific GRE score is better than some specific GMAT score? if you have a GRE score and a GMAT score, which one is stronger?

It might seem as if we are talking about comparing apples to oranges, right?. B-schools that accept both might have the same question.

ETS provides a tool that facilitates GRE to GMAT conversion. However, whether bschools use this or have their internal process of comparing GRE to GMAT scores is an open question.

Did you face the GMAT vs GRE dilemma? Which test did you choose and why?
 

 

GMAT vs GRE survey results

(section added on 19th May 2021)

Eight years after we published this article, we’re still getting questions from applicants on which test works better. So we thought why not put the question back at them to find out what they’d prefer.

We posted a poll on our social media channels (LinkedIn and Youtube). We got over 3,000 responses making it a statistically significant sample size.

Since the discussion started almost a decade back, one would’ve expected a close fight between the two biggies. But the results were surprising.

GMAT still beats GRE hands down in the MBA race!

The results across the two channels were fairly similar.

21.2% voted in favour of GRE, while a whopping 78.7% gave GMAT the thumbs up.

The bottomline – 4 out of 5 applicants expressed a preference for GMAT over GRE.

It appears like GMAT, the big daddy of management exams, continues to have a strong support among new applicants. So GRE will have to work harder to expand its footprint in the management education space.

Here’s the breakdown between LinkedIn and Youtube responses.
 

gmat or gre survey

gmat vs gre statistics

Respondent opinions

Going beyond the objective data, if you’re curious to know the qualitative reasons behind the responses, here are some representative views shared by the survey participants.

In favour of GMAT

I will go with GMAT. GMAC has tracked academic performances and career progressions of many high GMAT scorers after the test was established. Their research has shown a strong correlation between a high GMAT score and a strong MBA performance/post career progression. GMAT has proven to be a very reliable indicator of a candidate’s future potential and it’s for this reason that schools value this score a lot!
– Shardul Pendharkar (India)

On the difficulty level

I’ve written both exams and I can tell you the GRE Quant is no longer as easy as it used to be. The difficulty level has increased, though it’s still not as rigorous as the GMAT Quant. So the conclusion is if you can score a 90th percentile on the GRE Quant you can do almost the same with the GMAT.
– Abdulmalik Abdulraheem (Nigeria)

In support of GRE

GRE in my opinion, because of its non-adaptive nature. You just have to perform well in the overall section and have the flexibility to skip. However if you are fine with the adaptive approach then I’d say, go with GMAT (especially engineers), as GRE verbal could be enigmatic. Regarding quant I agree with other comments, it’s not that easy anymore. If GMAT quant is 9/10, GRE is definitely 8/10.
– Archit Aggarwal (India)

Participant with neutral view

I think it depends on the applicant. The GRE is biased in favor of people with qualitative/social sciences backgrounds, and the GMAT privileges more quantitatively-oriented applicants. I also think we need both types of thinkers in business schools and in top management positions afterward: management is a messy business of numbers AND people, after all. Accepting both tests helps ensure that we have paths for each type of applicant!
– Andrew Foley (USA)

 
Learn more about the entrance exams and scholarships:
Everything you need to know about the GMAT exam
All you need to know about the GRE exam
List of business schools that accept GRE scores.
ISB admit with GRE score
MBA scholarship success stories
Are the top MBA consulting firms affordable?


Start here | Success stories | Reality check | Knowledgebase | Scholarships | Services

Serious about higher ed? Follow us:

           

Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

33 thoughts on “GRE vs GMAT: Which is better?”

  1. Hi Sameer Sir,
    1.when ideally should I start my GMAT preparation. (currently about to start my first year of engg).
    2.would it be ideal to give my GMAT in my second or third year?
    3.what kind of job exp. Is likely to increase my chances of getting into H/S/W/booth.
    4.how should I coordinate my GMAT and CAT preparation.

    Reply
  2. I am currently in one of those dilemma, but my gut feeling says that GRE is better for me even though I have never given GMAT. I am really not sure whether I want to do a MBA or MS. In fact, I am looking out for a program that perfectly strikes balance between Business Skills as well as Technical Stuff. So, GRE makes more sense for me. My options are wide open if I take the GRE. If I had decided to take the GMAT, I would be restricting myself to only B-Schools.

    And, I have been seeing that , Globally, Many B-Schools like MIT, Harvard, Stanford started accepting GRE/GMAT which is a good sign. But, In Indian B-Schools, only GMAT is considered. I had a talk with one of the IIMC professors and his view was the GMAT measures Quantitative and Analytical Ability better than the GRE and he says that GRE is typically for Engineering, not for business schools.

    Sameer,

    Would there be a shift in perception about GRE among the Indian B-schools anytime soon ?

    Thanks
    Arun

    Reply
    • I am currently facing the same dilemma, looking for a program that strikes a perfect balance between technology and business skills. I am currently pursuing 3rd year of B.Tech computer science and I have started preparing for GRE. It would be really great if you could tell me about your experiences and help me solve my dilemma.

      Reply
  3. @Pratik: Take the GMAT about a year earlier than your applications. That way you have some buffer to re-take it if the score is below your expectations.

    @Arun: You are right that the GRE has a wider net right now. The GMAT continues to be seen as a bschool specific requirement.
    The GMAT team has been lobbying in India more than GRE. If you are applying within the next couple of years, I wouldn’t hold my breath assuming the situation will change dramatically anytime soon.

    Reply
  4. Hi Sameer,
    i am from Pakistan, and currently doing BBA 3rd Year. i have one year left still…
    i am not really sure what should i do, but i have started doing GMAT, assuming that all business schools or majority will accept it..
    i am certain that i will do masters in Finance. but not sure about MS or MBA..
    can you please help me what should i do?

    Reply
  5. sir
    My gre score is 314 quant-165 verbal-149 ….i wana apply for mba courses ….i dont have work experience but i hv a gud profile ……wat r my chances for geting admits from us universities?????

    Reply
  6. My Profile:

    1995 X (SSC) 83% Maharashtra State Board
    1997 X+2 (HSC) 73% (Aggregate) Maharashtra State Board
    2001 BE Instrumentation & Medical Electronics 65% Mumbai University

    2001-2004 Worked for 3 years

    2004-2006 Post-Graduate Master’s in Management Studies from a very well-renowned and premier b school (India)
    (what my score does not emphasize is that I was in top 10 in class)

    2006-2009 Worked in a newspaper media firm. Role: Marketing & Sales Analytics. Website Analytics
    2009-2010 Worked in an education firm Role: Media Management, Marketing & Online Advertising
    2010 onwards Online Advertising Startup Role: SEO SEM SMM SMO Web Analytics

    In terms of career growth in corporations I think I have reached a plateau. The only way I can do something is by becoming an entrepreneur. I can grow the business of online advertising, etc.
    I know that for me to be a formidable force in this domain, I need work with the best in the business.
    I would like to work in some tech major but getting a breakthrough is difficult.

    What do you suggest in terms of careers abroad or study abroad options?

    Reply
  7. @Prasoon: For the top schools, you can’t have a good profile without work experience. Rather than applying to very low ranked bechools (that may skip the work experience requirement), you’d be better off working for a few years before considering international MBA programs.

    @Uday: Here’s why many bschool grads may never launch a startup. If you want to become an entrepreneur, start right now. Don’t depend on the expensive and uncertain MBA route to get you there.

    Reply
  8. chief,
    firstly kudos!
    i have been mostly just visiting and reading all the stuff that you write… your posts are very enlightening and am sure have enabled many to take decisions when at crossroads…
    thanks for your suggestions..
    let me add that I have already done an mba from a b school in India. One of the top ones or so called ‘premier ‘ ones. ..
    I have seen that about half a dozen of my mba batchmates have gone on to do their 2nd mba from very good schools in the USA.. e.g. of the ranks of michigan ross or marshall…

    I have suffered huge setbacks in my career… First it was the recession of 2008 and subsequent lay-offs … and then for the past 3 years have drifted in and out of roles … also made some wrong career moves and joined companies with little or no stability and hence got screwed..

    But have over a period of time built some good skill sets…

    I want frank advice from y ou on what to do…

    Sometimes I feel that this whole american MBA is ‘not a guaranteed’ thing… and sometimes i feel that it’s “now or never” and why miss the bus in such a case….

    What do y ou think?

    I would really want you to address all people sailing in the same boat as me by addressing this query…

    thank you….

    Reply
  9. Hi,

    Now I am in the same dilemma. Should i go for GRE or GMAT? I have done my UG in College of Engg,Guindy and work-ex of 1.5 years. I wanna pursue my masters in Finance(MiM). Though I have not given GMAT anytime,I have a feeling that GRE is easier than GMAT. Will i get through some top universities even if I give GRE?

    Reply
  10. @Uday: We have a few (not many) folks working with us who already have a top MBA from India. Their goals are pretty clear and they are aware of the risks.

    When you are in that situation, a second MBA makes sense.

    If there’s confusion, it means you shouldn’t blindly follow what the dozen odd classmates did from your batch.
    The post-MBA recruitment phase can be brutal, when you are in an alien country.

    Your top MBA from India already demonstrates that you have the potential. Why go through the agni pariksha all over again?

    If you’ve had setbacks, why not set the career back on track in India itself?

    @Prasanna: Check the website of the MiM programs you want to target and see what they prefer. The choice will be easy.

    Reply
  11. hi i am an electrical engineer with a mba degree. I am planning to pursue PHD could u please suggest me the right exam to take gre or gmat.

    Reply
  12. Varish: If the PhD is in a management related subject (like corporate strategy management), they’ll ask for a GMAT score. Check the website to be sure you are choosing the right exam.

    Reply
  13. Hi Sameer,
    I have given my GMAT once but got a very low score,after doing some research i felt GRE is quite different from GMAT and i felt that to score GRE is better than GMAAT, but i am not sure that the universities in canada accepts GRE for MBA program or not.
    which one is better to get into MBA in canada?

    Reply
  14. Hey Sameer,
    I want to make a career in advertising, I already have an MBA degree from a premium b-school in India. 7 months back, through campus recruitment I joined a manufacturing firm. I am working with the procurement department of this firm but my interest lies in the creative field.
    I want to take up the M.A program (advertising & public relations) offered by Moody college of communication (The University of Texas at Austin). Although I plan to do that 1 year down the line. Would it be a good idea.

    Reply
  15. @Ravikumar: Check out the websites of Rotman, Ivey, Schulich to see if they accept GRE scores.

    @Nigna: I don’t know about the program you are targetting. But it will have its risks as you are going there will very little exposure in the field. Think about why any employer would want to sponsor your visa, where there are local folks who can join without the same legal hassles.

    Reply
  16. Hi,

    I have got admission in one of the top 25 to 30 bschools in india. I have passed out in 2011. I have work ex of 1.5 yrs. But now I am not working. I really want to study at one of the premier b schools in India or do mba abroad. Since I m not workin i really dont have many options..like either join col here or prepare for gmat/gre and aplply in feb2014. Does this career break affect my chances abroad? Is it worth preparing and go ahead? I do have a career break but i have been part of volunteering activities and other extra curriculars. Please give your suggestion.

    Reply
  17. Reading is good “Passive” way of improving vocabulary, but when you are resorting to making lists, that is “Active” method. Problem with active method of learning words is that it is cumbersome and boring, and you doing retain and unless you use it in writing sentences to apply the word, very little chance is that you increase your lexical size.

    Reply
  18. Sir,
    I am in my second year of M.S (Surgery) in India. I completed my MBBS in 2013 and immediately enrolled for P.G. Recently I have been thinking to go for a M.B.A instead of MCh. Is health care MBA a good option for me. Will my M.S degree and medical bachground give me an edge and will my three years of residency in India considered as work experience. What should I prefer GRE or GMAT. This is a new path for Indian medical graduates so you can understand that I am almost clueless about the prospectives.

    Reply
  19. Hi ,

    I am currently working , and have a overall job experience of 1 year 8 months in IT sector. have been preparing for CAT lately. Have a few questions that are confusing me.
    1) With experience of 1 year 8 months, what is more suitable for me. GRE or GMAT , for MBA course. Need to go into good MBA college
    2) When is best time to take the exam GMAT /GRE .
    3) do GMAT colleges give scholarship.

    Reply
  20. i am about to start engineering in It sector. i wanted to pursue ms in us.what exams should i apply for?what are the best universities in us?in which year of engineering should i. Take the test?cost of exams?i am very much motivated about the information in your website. please sincerely reply me

    Reply
  21. Hi sameer

    I have finished my engineering in computer science and wish to pursue an mba abroad.I am not very sure whether i will be able to move abroad so I want to keep my option open for doing it in India too.So I m confused whether I should take up gmat or gre.I checked my options and saw that there are very few universities in India that accept gre scores for mba.But I feel that I may score better if I take up gre compared to gmat.Please help me out as I am totally confused about this.

    Reply
  22. hi sameer,

    i want to pursue mba from a reputed college. m a B.E. graduate from a state university. and went for a drop in order to prepare for entrence exams.
    but unfortunately the cat result didn’t come out to be in my favour. was thinking about pursuing mba from abroad but from a reputed university/college.
    now the problem is that i don’t have work experience and can’t wait to have either.
    so please suggest if gre or gmat?
    and what all university/ colleges would accept the scores without work experience…….
    please help in a big trouble :-(

    Reply
  23. Hello Sameer,

    I am in a dilemma. I have done BSc Life Sciences from Delhi University. MBA (HR & IB). After my masters I have been associated with technology sales. Oracle India Pvt Ltd (3.3 years) and NEC Corp (6 months). I want to go for a consulting role in IT, so decided to go for a Business Analyst kind of course.

    I would appreciate if you can suggest which test I should go for and may be with some colleges and course too.

    Regards,
    Akansha

    Reply
  24. Hi,

    Can some body help me ?
    Actually I stuck in these two big name GRE and GMAT.At present I am working with Wipro and I want to persue my higher study.But as i want to go towards mangerial side but many people told me that we did n’t get Scholarship or fellowship for GMAT program.That’s why some time i thought to go with GRE because my family condition is not so good.So can anybody suggest me what I have to do and if some one is experienced enough so that he/she can tell me a good idea about schorship.So please revert me on this post

    Thank you .

    Reply
  25. Y can’t we take up both GRE and GMAT tests?
    Suppose v pursue multiple courses in the same university and one course demands for GRE score and the other GMAT score??…..is that possible?

    Reply
  26. Hello ! Sir ,
    I am in 3 rd year of CIVIL ENGINEERING
    I want to do MBA from Harvard business school
    So please tell me what is the eligibilty criteria for it
    And which exam i have to pass GRE OR GMAT
    Sir , pls help me.

    Reply
  27. Sir,
    I have just completed my 2nd year engineering, and am sure that I wish to pursue an MBA at one of the top universities in USA. Here are a few queries:
    1) Do I need work experience? If yes, what is the ideal duration? Does the 1-month training count?
    I would not like to work for more than a year because I have heard that it is difficult to get back to rigorous studies.
    2) What is the maximum amount of scholarship granted by top b-schools? How feasible is the loan option? that too with all the recent recession and inflation scare
    3) Some b-school was boasting about placing a large umber of students for 3-months etc… What after that?
    Need some advice before plunging into the race

    Reply
  28. @Hardik: We’ve written about how to get into Harvard Business School. Read this:
    https://www.mbacrystalball.com/blog/2016/01/18/how-to-get-into-harvard-business-school/

    @Divya: The average work experience in the good MBA programs is 5 years.

    Applicants who apply to the right programs with a strong application can get partial to full scholaships covering 100% of the fees.

    Not everyone gets placed, and the 3-month statistics don’t reveal who got into what role. Many go back to the same industry, and even the same employer. So, it’s important to be aware of your expectations and whether those will be met after the MBA.

    Reply
  29. I may be wrong but in my view I think the survey is flawed. As the survey was done on LinkedIn and YouTube, the visibility of the post may be inclined towards MBA applicants. These are the ones who have attempted or preparing for GMAT only.

    Reply
  30. @Bhavishya: On both the platforms, the poll question specifies that we’re looking for inputs from ‘MBA applicants’ who’re choosing between GMAT and GRE. So there’s no demographic confusion.
    Here’s some more context. If you check out the application trends over the last several years, MBA applicants aren’t choosing just GMAT. Many are applying with GRE scores too. So it would be incorrect to assume that all MBA applicants are aiming for GMAT.

    Reply

Leave a Comment