1. A crucial question faced by those who intend on pursuing Master’s-level education has a simple answer that I will make clear here. Whether to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) or the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is a question that must be answered swiftly and definitively.

    It is a new question, since some business programs have only recently (over the last several years) begun considering the GRE; traditionally, business programs only considered the GMAT.


    What are the GMAT and GRE?

    Both are tests used by Master’s-level programs as a means of predicting your future academic performance. They test your critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning skills.

    The GMAT especially tests your “mental flexibility” and how you can solve problems efficiently in a variety of ways.

    These tests are Computer Adaptive Tests (commonly referred to as CATs), which means that the tests adapt and change while you take them, according to your performance.

    Business school front

    Photo credit: pmorgan via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

    Test structures

    The table below displays the structure of the tests, according to time:

    Total test time The GMAT takes 3:30 hours and includes:

    1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)—Analysis of an Argument  – one writing task (30 mins)
    2. Integrated Reasoning- 12 multiple-choice questions (30 mins)
    3. Quantitative – 37 questions (75 mins)
    4. Verbal – 41 questions (75 mins)
    The GRE takes 3:45 hours and includes

    1. Integrated Reasoning – 12 questions (30 mins)
    2. Verbal – 14 questions (30 mins)
    3. Quantitative- 14 questions (30 mins)
    Analytical writing
    • 1 essay
    • Analyze an argument
    • 30 minutes
    • 2 essays
    • Analyze an argument & analyze an issue.
    • 60 minutes (30 min each)
    Verbal reasoning
    • 41 questions
    • 75 minutes
    • Emphasis is on grammar
    • 40 questions (20 questions in each part)
    • 60 minutes (2 parts of 30 minutes each)
    • Emphasis is on vocabulary and style
    Quantitative reasoning
    • 37 questions
    • 75 minutes
    • Considered more difficult than the GRE
    • 40 questions (2 parts with 20 questions each)
    • 75 minutes
    • Considered easier than the GMAT
    Integrated reasoning
    • 12 questions
    • 30 minutes
    • Is not part of the total score
    • No integrated reasoning section




    The GMAT adapts itself after each question, whereas the GRE  makes adaptations only between sections.



    Secure GMAT test centers are located around the world, and can be found on the official website, here.

    GRE is offered on computer only in some locations (find more information hereand can be taken year round.



    Total test scores for either test may be cancelled immediately after the test. For the GRE you may re-instate a cancelled score within 60 days for a fee of $50. If you do not cancel your GMAT score immediately you may do so within 72 hours for a $25 fee.



    The cost of the GMAT is slightly more than the GRE ($250 and $195, respectively). I do not believe this should be important to your decision. When you look at the big picture of the investment that you are making, in the form of time and money, and your potential return after earning an MBA or Master’s degree, this price difference is insignificant.


    Popularity of GMAT and GRE

    The GMAT is accepted by approximately 6000 MBA programs worldwide, especially the world’s best. The GMAT is a clear favorite in this field. The GRE has only recently become accepted by approximately 1100 business programs.


    Which test is best for you?

    In order to answer this question for yourself, you must answer another question first, which is perhaps more difficult: are you sure you want to study in an MBA program? And if so, where?

    At examPAL our philosophy is that your decisions regarding the GMAT should be made based on your life goals and not the other way around. If you have decided that you want to do an MBA, then the GMAT is almost definitely the speedbump (not wall) in your road to success.

    Success street

    So is it GMAT for MBA and GRE for other Master’s degrees?

    The real power of the GMAT is that it is only accepted by business programs. Thus, choosing the GMAT over the GRE shows dedication and a decision to study business. And this reflects well in an application, whereas admissions boards may see the submission of a GRE score as a sign of uncertainty in the candidate.

    There is one exception to the above: a candidate who has a very strong grasp of the nuances of the English language, particularly an exceptional vocabulary and intuition for style, and confirmed, weak quantitative abilities, should consider taking the GRE. Simply put: the verbal section of the GRE is harder than that of the GMAT and the opposite is true for the quantitative section.

    That might change in the future, as the guys at ETS, the organization behind the GRE, are working hard at persuading business schools to rely more on the GRE, but for now, the GMAT is a definite winner if you’re aiming for business schools.

    The GRE is suitable for those who want to study for a general Master’s degree. The GMAT, however, is not suitable for these people.

    If you want to study in a program that combines MBA and Master’s in some other field, then the GRE is most likely the exam for you. In this case, I advise you to check with your school(s) of choice to see which exam they will be looking for.

    If you are unsure of what you wish to study (general Master’s or MBA) then taking the GRE is a way to cover your bases, as you will likely be able to use it for both of your application types.

    Hanging books

    However, my personal advice to you is to decide which graduate course better suits your life goals and then take the more appropriate test.

    The wisest thing is for all candidates to find out which test is favored by their programs of choice; however, this information may not be readily available.

    If you decide to take the GMAT, then start your preparation intelligently by preparing effectively and efficiently with these tips.

    Rafael Kampel
    Senior GMAT Tutor at examPAL, is an experienced actuarial analyst who has been tutoring for the past 8 years in subjects including GMAT prep, financial statistics, english, physics, and accounting.

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