February 2, 2012, by

Applying to business school? Trying to decide to take the GRE or the GMAT? Let me help you make the decision.
While both the GMAT and the GRE test similar concepts, one test may play more to your strengths than the other. Generally speaking, the GMAT may be better for those applicants with stronger quantitative skills, and the GRE works better for those with stronger writing and verbal skills. Calculators are allowed on the GRE but not on the GMAT. The GMAT might also be a better choice for non-native English speakers, in part because it does not test vocabulary in the same way the GRE does. The GMAT does, however, test both grammar in sentence corrections questions and logical reasoning in written passages.

So – which test makes more sense for you to take? If you are not completely sure you are going to apply to business school, preparing for and taking the GRE is a good way to hedge your bets while you decide. Both the GMAT and the GRE are good for 5 years after you take them, so your GRE scores would be useful for other graduate programs even if you decide that applying to business school is not the direction you wish to go.  However, if you are sure you want to go to business school, you can’t go wrong taking the GMAT, as all business schools accept it and some people argue it’s still the unspoken preference for business school admissions. Educational Testing Services (ETS) has compiled a list on their website of all business schools that currently accept the GRE as well as the GMAT. 

There are also some logistical issues that may steer you in the direction of the GRE over the GMAT. The GMAT is almost $100 more expensive per testing – if you are someone who might need to take the exam more than once, this could certainly add up fast.  Additionally, fee waivers are available for the GRE but not for the GMAT, although some scholarship programs and organizations might cover the test fees for students selected to participate in them. Depending on your region, the GRE, which is given to 675,000 people annually, may be offered at a more convenient location than the GMAT.

How do business schools receive the scores of one versus the other? Business schools use tools such as this one to compare one test’s result to the other.  Given the widespread acceptance of both tests now, it’s safe to say that you should take the test that you are more comfortable with and have a better chance of scoring strongly. All else being equal, this decision depends on your comfort level with the types of questions on each test. Look over practice tests for each exam or consult with one of our tutors to help you decide which direction to go.

The Nitty Gritty: 

Both the GRE and the GMAT test Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning/Ability. The GMAT has two 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment sections, a 75-minute Verbal section, and a 75-minute Quantitative Ability section. It takes three and half hours and costs $250.

The GRE has two 30-minute Verbal Reasoning sections, two 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning sections, and two 30-minute Analytical Writing (with two separately timed tasks – One “Analyze an Issue” task and one “Analyze an Argument” task). It also contains an “Unscored” or “Research Section” which varies in time length. The total time is around 3.5 hours depending on the extra section, and the test costs $160.

The GMAT is only offered as a computer-based test, and while the GRE also is primarily offered as a computer-based test as well, there is also a paper-based option (which varies slightly from the computer-based structure described above) offered internationally where the computer-based option is not available. The paper option is offered up to three times per year, and the next test date is February 11, 2012.

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