What’s Easier and Better: GRE or GMAT?

Posted by on February 4, 2017 in About the GRE | 8 comments

Every year during graduate applications season, prospective applicants everywhere in Pakistan face one rite of passage looming ahead; a standardized graduate admissions test. For people applying to the US, the big question is whether to go for a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). These tests are used for admissions in MS, MBA & PhD programs in the US, and are also required by several non-US universities including LUMS in Pakistan. To crudely differentiate between the two tests, the GMAT is required almost exclusively for MBA and some other management related graduate programs, while the GRE is used for a broad range of other disciplines such as engineering and humanities. Now lets dive into some important aspects you need to consider before choosing between the two.

GRE or GMAT: Which test is suitable for what program?

The GMAT is required solely by Graduate study in Business, Management, Finance, and Accountancy. Examples of such programs are MBA (of course), Masters in Finance (M. Fin), and Masters in Accountancy (M. Acc) etc.

The GRE is required for various disciplines including Sciences, Engineering, Social sciences, Humanities, and now recently, Law programs (University of Arizona Law school recently started accepting the GRE along with the traditionally favored LSAT).

Although MBA and other management related programs rely predominantly on the GMAT, an increasing number of schools are now also accepting the GRE for these programs. Here is a list provided for by ETS for universities in the US that accept GRE for these MBA programs. However, even though many such universities accept the GRE, the GMAT is often given more weight in MBA applications. For instance if you take the GRE exam, the universities are going to use the GRE to GMAT score converter which penalizes students with GRE scores – for example, a 320+ is as difficult to get on the GRE as is a 700+ on the GMAT but the converter grades a 320 on the GRE to a 650 on the GMAT.

Moreover since many MBA programs have relied heavily on the GMAT in past decades, they are a bit skeptical in relying on the GRE in selecting students for their programs. But other programs such as LUMS in Pakistan accept both GRE and GMAT equally. So if you are applying to LUMS you can easily chose either one of the two tests.

To sum it up, the GRE should be your test of choice if you have not finalized your area of graduate study, due to its broad applicability and increasing acceptance to MBA programs as well. The GMAT on the other hand, should be opted for if you are set on applying for an MBA program only. If you are applying to other management related programs such as Finance, Accounting etc. then GRE is fine as well.

Differences in structure

The GRE is given over a total duration of 3 hours and 45 minutes, and is scored on a scale of 260-340. The test consists of the following sections:

• 2 Quantitative reasoning sections (20 questions each and 35 minutes each)
• 2 Verbal reasoning sections (20 questions each and 30 minutes each)
• 1 analytical writing section (two essays, 30 minutes each)
• 1 experimental section (either verbal or quantitative, 30-35 minutes)

The GMAT is taken over a total duration of 3 hours and 30 minutes, and scored on a scale of 200-800. It consists of the following sections

• 1 Analytical writing section (one essay 30 minutes)
• 1 Quantitative reasoning section (75 minutes)
• 1 Verbal reasoning section (75 minutes)
• Integrated reasoning section (30 minutes)*

*The integrated reasoning questions on GMAT are similar to the data analysis questions on the GRE, however IR is more calculation and computationally intensive.

Which test suits which aptitude?

The GMAT is more suitable for people who have an aptitude for mathematics. This because GMAT questions on quant are tougher than the GRE due to questions such as data sufficiency. Also, calculators are not allowed on the GMAT, which means that the GMAT quant section requires much more mathematical brain power than the GRE, on which calculators are allowed.

The GRE on the other hand, is heavy on language skills. It employs a lot more vocabulary, and people who are naturally inclined towards languages, find it easy to learn new vocabulary, and have a habit of reading, have a better chance of scoring on the GRE verbal. The reading passages on the GRE are much dense and convoluted than those on the GMAT. On the other hand, GMAT verbal section does not use any vocabulary power – it only tests basic to medium reading ability, logical reasoning and some grammar knowledge.

The GMAT question adaptive algorithm versus the GRE section adaptive algorithm also makes things harder on the GMAT – with the difficulty level of each question on the GMAT changing constantly, the GMAT gets harder to tackle than GRE. Moreover, on the GRE you can skip, edit and return to unanswered questions later but you cannot do that on the GMAT. On the GMAT you have to answer a question before moving on and then you cannot return to the question again.

So if you have a choice between GRE and GMAT, I would definitely favor the GRE over GMAT overall. But if your verbal skills are far worse than your quant skills then you can definitely consider the GMAT over GRE. Also remember, GMAT takes longer to prepare than GRE does – on average students take 4 months to prepare for GMAT whereas on the GRE they take 3 months. So whichever test you chose eventually do weigh in all of the above mentioned considerations. Good Luck!


  1. Avatar

    Hi Talha,
    I took the GMAT with one month preparation and scored a disappointing 500 (Q38 V20). I was getting similar scores in Mock CATs also with my highest score being 550. I am now inclined towards GRE and feel more at home while practicing it but I cant’ still make up my mind of which test to go for. Part of me want’s to continue with the GMAT prep as I already know the structure but at the other end I feel that I can make it to a decent business school even with a reasonable GRE score. Other aspects of my profile are pretty strong (GPA 3.1, Work Experience 4+ years in Oil industry , Institute NUST, IELTS 8).
    What would you suggest?

    • Avatar

      Hello Talal, Replied to you on text.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Talha,

    I’m a business undergraduate (majors : marketing) graduating this July. I am looking for a MS in management or marketing etc. from US or Norway ( they don’t usually require GMAT or GRE though).I don’t have an MBA in my mind and I am particularly looking for an MS.
    I am also aiming for Fulbright but I am so unsure about which test to take. I haven’t started preparing for any of them yet. I am also not so confident about my quant skills but I do like to read and write. Can you please guide me which test to take considering my situation, I have a GPA pf 3.7/4.


    • Avatar

      Hello Eza, Well for FB you need GRE and since you are not applying for an MBA you will need only GRE test. I ll advise you to look into GRE prep guides by Manhattan – they are really good for applicants who struggle with quant.

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    Just to get a sense of the competition, in your estimation, how many students from Pakistan score 337 or higher on the GRE each year? Thank you

    • Avatar

      Well in 2017, there were 7 students

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    Sir if i want to get 700+ in gmat how much hours i have to study daily. And do you know any institution which is best for preparation of gmat in lahore

    • Avatar

      Hello Aneeq, It depends on the initial level – you can take a sample diagnostic exam available at http://www.mba.com. If you score between 500-600 level then you will need 3-4 months to bring it to 700+.

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