GMAT OR GRE: Which Should You Write?

Updated: May 3, 2019

An essential aspect of the graduate school admission requirement is standardized exams and while a candidate’s sole performance on the exam is not fully determinant on the chances of one getting an admission, the exam scores, along with other requirements are taken into consideration. The GMAT and GRE are graduate school entry exams and together with other admission criteria determine if a prospective student gets admitted. They are standardized tests that evaluate students’ proficiency in grammar, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing.

GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test)

GMAT official website:

Fee: 250USD

The GMAT is a 3.5-hour computer-based adaptive test that assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal and reading skills and is administered by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). The GMAT is recognized by most business schools and especially by candidates willing to study graduate degrees in Management, Accounting and Finance.

The GMAT exam structure is as outlined below:

  • 30-minute Analytical writing section (1 question)

  • 30-minute Integrated reasoning section (12 questions) consisting of questions on graphics interpretation, table analysis, multi-source reasoning and two-part analysis.

  • 62-minute Quantitative reasoning (31 questions) consisting of questions on data sufficiency and problem solving.

  • 65-minute Verbal section (36 questions) consisting of questions on sentence correction, reading comprehension and critical reasoning all with an emphasis on grammar.

  • The exam has a combined score ranging from 200 to 800 in 10-points increments.

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

GRE official website:

Fees: GRE General test (Nigeria) – 220USD;

GRE Subject test (Nigeria) – 150USD

The GRE (Graduate Records Examination) is a 3.75-hour standardized test that assesses Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytics Writing skills. It is administered by the Education Testing Service (ETS). Like the GMAT exam, it is also considered by students seeking admission into graduate business programs as well as other non-business programs.

There are two aspects of the GRE- the GRE General test and the GRE Subject tests. The General

test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking an applicant will do in graduate or business school and gives a general assessment of an applicant while subject tests measure knowledge of a particular field of study and is usually used to supplement a candidate’s application as it emphasizes their knowledge and skill in a particular area. Subject tests are available in Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. The GRE exam structure is as outlined below:

  • 60-minute Analytical writing section (2 tasks)

  • Two 30-minute verbal reasoning sections (20 questions each) consisting of questions on sentence equivalence, reading comprehension, critical reasoning and text completion all with an emphasis on vocabulary.

  • Two 35-minute quantitative reasoning sections (20 questions each) consisting of questions on arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data interpretation and word problems as in the GMAT although the questions on the GRE are usually considered to be easier than those on the GMAT.

  • One experimental section (Quantitative or Verbal)

  • Scores in the Verbal and Quantitative sections range from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments and from 0 – 6 in half point increments for the Analytical writing section.


Although similar in structure and question style, there are a number of differences that exist between the GRE and the GMAT exams and these should be taken into consideration in deciding which to write.

  • Program/ School Preference

The GMAT is usually directed towards business school applicants and is accepted at virtually all business schools. The GRE is taken by business school applicants as well as by those considering other graduate programs. Most business school programs would require candidates to take the GMAT in place of the GRE but increasingly more school would accept both and show no preference for one over the other. For business school candidates most especially, if the school indicates a preference of GMAT over GRE, it is advisable to take the GMAT. While the GRE is required for admission to most graduate schools and a number of business schools, the GMAT is usually more applicable to those who have or are looking to study a more quantitative course. Ultimately, the decision on which of the exams to write depends largely on your desired program and on the school’s requirement.

  • Structure

The GRE General Test allows a candidate skip questions within a section, go back and change

answers and have the flexibility to choose which questions within a section to answer first. The

GMAT on the other hand has a ‘select section order’ which allows candidates select the order in

which to complete the sections.

Although both the GRE and GMAT are computer adaptive, the GRE is section level adaptive

while the GMAT is adaptive on a question-by-question basis. On the GRE, the difficulty level of

the sections depends on the candidate’s overall performance on the previous section. For

example, if for the Quantitative Reasoning section, a candidate does very well on the first

section, the second section of the Quantitative Reasoning will be at a higher level of difficulty. In

contrast, on the GMAT, the computer scores each question and uses the accuracy to determine

the level of difficulty of the next question- if a candidate answers the first question correctly, the

next question will be harder while if the first question is incorrect, the next question would be


The GMAT includes a section based on Integrated Reasoning. Integrated Reasoning measures a

candidate’s ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources.

These are skills needed to succeed in our technologically advanced, data-driven world.

  • Scores Reporting

The GRE test has a Score Select option that lets a candidate decide which test scores to send to

designated institutions. A candidate can send scores from the most recent test or from all of the

General Tests taken in the last five years and this feature is available for both the GRE General

Test and GRE Subject Tests. GRE test scores are individually reported. That is, the three section

scores are generally reported separately and not combined into a single composite score. The

GMAT on the other hand reports the individual section scores, as well as the total score. The

comprehensive total score allows designated schools to look at a singular number as a measure

of a candidate’s ability, while still retaining the flexibility to consider individual section scores.

In both GRE and GMAT test, the scores are valid for 5 years.

  • Math Skills

The quantitative aspect of the GMAT exam is considered more difficult than those on the GRE. Overall, students should select whichever exam best highlights their strengths. If a candidate is considering a program that values math and quantitative skills e.g. Data Science, Business Analytics, it is advisable to consider taking the GMAT

  • Career Goals

A few positions in Investment Banking and Consulting usually require candidates to submit GMAT scores. For students looking into roles in any of these fields, taking the GMAT would be a more advisable option.


While graduate schools would rarely set a benchmark on what scores they deem as acceptable, a good GRE score would be one that gets a candidate accepted into the graduate program of his/her choice. What counts as good, then, depends on the program and the field. It is important to note that the Verbal and Quantitative portions of the GRE are scored between 130–170, and the average score falls somewhere around 150-152, while the Analytical Writing section of the GRE is scored between 0 and 6 in half-point increments, thereby the average hits somewhere around 3.5. However, based on an assessment of required scores from certain universities and MBA programs, a score above the average is necessary. Therefore, a good GRE test score would range from 160 upwards for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning and 4.5 upwards for the Analytical writing section. Prospective students are usually advised to aim for a score as high as possible.

With regards to the GMAT exams, score ranges between 200 – 800. The criteria for a good score cannot exactly be determined. This is because of the different expectations and requirement by business schools. For example, in many schools a 600 would be a very low GMAT score. At top MBA programs, the average GMAT score of incoming students is above 720. However, a very

important assessment for schools would be the GMAT percentile rankings which are provided on a candidate’s score report. It gives an insight into how a candidate performed on the exam as a whole and on every section of the exam in comparison to other test-takers. For example, if a total score of 650 gives a percentile ranking of 75%, this means that the candidate got a higher total score than (or equal total score to) 75% and a lower total score than 24% of fellow GMAT test- takers. Hence, a 650 score may be regarded as a good starting benchmark for a high GMAT score as it usually hovers around the 75% percentile ranking spot.


A good performance on the GRE and GMAT exams, like any other exam, requires both time and effort on the part of the candidate. Although most of the questions on the test are based on concepts that a candidate may have studied in the past, it is necessary to review these concepts and practice as many questions as possible few months before taking the exam. There are a number of free and paid resources- tutorials, e-books and discussion forums available online to assist in preparing for both tests. Some of these resources also help in assisting students map out a study plan.


  • ETS Powerprep Online Tests

The official GRE website comes with free online practice tests that are accessible to students after registering for the exam. These practice tests give candidates a fair idea about the content of the test and have been built to provide a simulation of the test.


  • ETS Essay topic pools, Argument and Issues

The test makers also provided an entire pool of tasks from which the essay prompt will be chosen. Practice with these essays will have a candidate prepared for the one on the test.


  • Economist GRE Tutor

  • Qs Leap (

  • Manhattan GRE Practice Test (

  • Kaplan (

  • Manhattan Review (

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  • Kaplan (

  • Princeton Review (

  • Crunch Prep

  • Manhattan Review (


  • GMAT official starter kit/practice exams (

  • Qs Leap (

  • Manhattan GMAT practice Test (

  • Khan Academy (

  • Manhattan Review (

  • Prep Scholar (

  • Tractrain (

  • Manhattan Review (

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  • The Economist (

  • Princeton Review (

  • Prep Scholar (

  • Veritas Prep-

  • Magoosh’s Complete Guide to the GMAT

  • Khan Academy-

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