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GMAT vs GRE for an MBA: Making a Decision 

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: June 15, 2024

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: June 15, 2024

college students appearing for a GMAT exam

Deciding on the proper standardized test is crucial for prospective MBA students. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are widely recognized tests that business schools use to assess applicants.  

Historically, the GMAT has been the go-to test for MBA applicants due to its focus on analytical and quantitative skills crucial in business. However, the GRE has been gaining ground and is now accepted by a growing number of MBA programs, reflecting its broader academic application and flexibility. Each test has a unique structure and scoring system: the GMAT is admired for its integrated reasoning section that mimics real-world decision-making. At the same time, the GRE adjusts its difficulty dynamically as the test progresses, which can benefit test-takers who perform well under pressure. 

Understanding each test’s structure, scoring systems, and strategic implications can help candidates choose the one that best aligns with their strengths and goals. Let’s take a closer look at both of them. 

a college student confused between GRE and GMAT

What is the GMAT? 

The GMAT is structured to test skills that are specifically valuable for business and management. It includes four sections: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Each section is designed to assess different capabilities.  

For instance, the Quantitative section tests numerical analysis and problem-solving skills, while the Verbal section evaluates comprehension and critical reasoning. The Integrated Reasoning section measures how well test-takers analyze data and make decisions, and the Analytical Writing section assesses clear and effective written communication.  

Each section of the GMAT is carefully designed to test the skills that business schools consider essential for a graduate management education.  

What is the GRE? 

The GRE, on the other hand, is used for admission to various graduate programs, including MBA. It features three main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.  

The Verbal Reasoning section tests the ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information from it, the Quantitative section measures problem-solving ability, and the Analytical Writing section tests critical thinking and analytical writing skills. The test’s adaptive nature means that the difficulty level adjusts based on the test taker’s performance. 

The GRE is known for its adaptive test design. The difficulty of the second set of verbal and quantitative reasoning questions depends on your performance on the first set, making it unique compared to the more static structure of the GMAT.  

Main Differences Between the GMAT and GRE for MBA Studies 

Understanding the key differences between the GMAT and GRE can help prospective MBA students decide which test might better showcase their abilities to admissions committees. Here are some crucial distinctions: 


The GMAT is structured specifically on business-related skills, including a unique integrated reasoning section that tests your ability to evaluate information in multiple formats. The GRE, by contrast, follows a more conventional structure that evaluates general verbal and quantitative reasoning abilities. 


The GMAT’s quantitative section is more geared towards data sufficiency problems, which are absent on the GRE. This might appeal to those who prefer practical problem-solving that mimics real-world business scenarios. The GRE’s verbal section is generally considered more challenging for non-native English speakers, as it heavily focuses on vocabulary. 


The GMAT provides a composite score ranging from 200 to 800, while the GRE scores for each section separately — verbal and quantitative scores range from 130 to 170, and analytical writing from 0 to 6. This difference in scoring methodology can influence how admissions officers interpret scores. 

Calculator Usage 

The GRE allows a calculator for all quantitative questions, potentially making it more appealing for those less confident in their mental math skills. The GMAT allows calculator use only in the integrated reasoning section. 

Admissions Acceptance 

While historically, the GMAT was the preferred test for MBA admissions, the GRE is increasingly accepted by business schools. Some programs may still favor the GMAT for its business-specific focus, but this rapidly changes as programs seek to diversify their applicant pools. 

Preparation Materials 

A wide range of preparation materials supports both tests, including official practice tests, preparatory courses, and study guides. The choice of materials may depend on the specific sections or types of questions where a candidate feels they need the most practice. 

an OMR sheet being filled with a pencil

GMAT vs GRE – Which One Is Easier? 

Each exam presents unique challenges tailored to assess distinct sets of skills vital for success in graduate-level studies, including MBA programs. 

The GMAT may seem more manageable for some test-takers due to its structured approach and analytical and quantitative reasoning emphasis. Those with strong mathematical aptitude and a knack for problem-solving may find the GMAT’s quantitative section less daunting. Additionally, the GMAT’s verbal section, which focuses on logical reasoning and sentence correction, might be more approachable for individuals who excel in analytical thinking. 

The GRE offers its own advantages that may resonate with different test-takers. Its verbal section emphasizes vocabulary and reading comprehension, which could be perceived as challenging for some but manageable for others with a strong command of language. Furthermore, the GRE allows using a calculator for all quantitative questions, potentially alleviating stress for those who prefer computational support. 

Ultimately, the perception of which test is “easier” is subjective and contingent upon factors such as individual strengths, testing preferences, and familiarity with the exam format.  

Choosing a target between GRE and MBA

Choosing the Best Exam for Your MBA Studies 

Choosing the most suitable standardized test for MBA studies—whether the GMAT or GRE—involves strongly evaluating various factors to ensure alignment with personal strengths, academic goals, and program requirements.  

By carefully considering each exam’s content, structure, and admissions preferences, prospective MBA applicants can make informed decisions that optimize their chances of success. Adequate test preparation, strategic planning, and research are pivotal in enhancing one’s application profile and positioning one for admission to one’s desired MBA programs.  

Ultimately, choosing between the GMAT and GRE is a strategic decision that should be approached thoughtfully, considering individual strengths, program requirements, and broader career aspirations. 


GMAT vs GRE: Which Exam is Preferred by MBA Programs? 

Both the GMAT and GRE are widely accepted by MBA programs worldwide. While some programs may prefer one test, many institutions now accept both equally. It’s essential to research the specific requirements and preferences of the MBA programs you are applying to to determine which test aligns best with their admissions criteria. 

Do business schools equally accept GMAT and GRE scores? 

Many business schools accept both GMAT and GRE scores for MBA admissions. Admissions committees typically consider factors beyond standardized test scores when evaluating applications, including academic background, work experience, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. As such, candidates can choose the test that best represents their abilities and enhances their overall application profile. 

What are the major differences between the GMAT and GRE structures? 

The GMAT and GRE differ in their structure and content. The GMAT includes sections on analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. In contrast, the GRE consists of sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. Additionally, the GMAT is adaptive by question, whereas the GRE is adaptive by section, adjusting the difficulty level based on the test-taker’s performance. 

How do GMAT and GRE test preparation resources compare? 

The GMAT and GRE offer various test preparation resources, including official study guides, practice tests, and preparatory courses. The availability and effectiveness of these resources may vary depending on individual learning styles and preferences. It’s advisable to explore multiple sources of preparation materials and choose those that align best with your study needs and goals. 

Do GMAT and GRE differ in scoring systems? 

Yes, the GMAT and GRE use different scoring systems. The GMAT provides a composite score ranging from 200 to 800, combining verbal and quantitative scores. In contrast, the GRE scores each section separately — verbal and quantitative scores range from 130 to 170, and analytical writing from 0 to 6. Understanding these scoring systems can help applicants interpret their scores in the context of MBA admissions. 

Can calculators be used in GMAT and GREs? 

The GMAT does not allow calculators to be used during the quantitative section but provides an on-screen calculator for the integrated reasoning section. In contrast, the GRE allows using a calculator for all quantitative questions. Test-takers should familiarize themselves with the specific calculator policies of each exam and practice accordingly. 

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