GMAT vs GRE: Which Should You Take?

bookandpencil2.jpgThe Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the standard graduate assessment for business and MBA programs. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is an assessment exam geared for students of graduate and business programs across all disciplines. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Which should you take in your quest for an MBA program?

Well, the answer depends on the school you’re applying for, as well as on your specific circumstances.

The GMAT Measures Quantitative and Verbal Skills in a Business Context

The GMAT is divided into three sections: quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing. The writing assessment is first, consisting of two essays — one addressing an issue typically having to do with business or the professional environment, and the other addressing an argument in a similar context. The quantitative section is next, involving a variety of basic mathematical concepts. The verbal section is last, with questions surrounding various passages, as well as general grammar and vocabulary-related questions.

The GRE Assesses Quantitative and Verbal Skills in a Multi-Disciplinary Context

The GRE is also divided into quantitative, verbal and analytical writing sections. The writing section is first, consisting of two essays — one addressing a social or philosophical issue, and the other addressing an argument in a similar context. The verbal and quantitative sections follow, though the sections can appear in either order. The verbal section consists of questions dealing with sample passages, grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary. The quantitative section involves comparison problems in which two quantities are compared in terms of size, as well as multiple-choice and problem-solving questions involving various mathematical concepts.

The General Understanding Between the GMAT and the GRE

Generally, the GMAT is taken by business students entering MBA programs and other master’s degrees in business and management. Most business schools see the GMAT as a fair assessment of a student’s ability to handle a graduate-level curriculum in a business or professional context.

On the other hand, the GRE is traditionally taken by students entering graduate programs outside of business, in fields such as Philosophy, Engineering, Mathematics, Liberal Studies and many others. However, the skills measured by the GRE include those required by business programs, so it can also stand as an accurate gauge for business program aptitude.

Some Business Schools Accept the GRE

These business programs have accepted the GRE as well as the GMAT for admissions. If you are considering any of these programs, the GRE is a potential option to replace the GMAT. This list continues to grow as more business schools aim for applicants from more diverse academic backgrounds.

Strengths and Weaknesses Between the GMAT and the GRE

The GMAT

Strengths:

  • Analytical writing questions deal with professional or business-related issues, which may be more comfortable for business majors
  • Verbal questions are in the context of a sentence or passage, where meaning is easier to grasp
  • Not counting essays, the GMAT is worth 800 points for 78 questions. This makes each wrong answer slightly more “affordable” in terms of score than in the GRE

Weaknesses:

  • Quantitative questions on the GMAT are slightly more advanced than on the GRE
  • The GMAT is more expensive at $250
  • GMAT is offered at fewer testing centers

The GRE

Strengths:

  • The GRE is more affordable at $160
  • Testing locations are more widespread, for those who can’t travel to a GMAT testing facility
  • The quantitative section of the GRE is known to be less challenging than that of the GMAT, since it is meant for test takers of a wider variety of educational backgrounds. However, this may soon change.
  • Analytical writing questions are more philosophically or socially based, which may be a stronger arena for MBA applicants from backgrounds other than business

Weaknesses:

  • Many verbal questions are without context, where the question’s meaning can be unclear
  • Because of the GRE’s multidisciplinary approach, business schools will be looking for higher percentile scores from MBA applicants
  • Not counting essays, the GRE is worth 1600 points for 58 questions. This makes each wrong answer slightly more “expensive” in terms of score than in the GMAT, though final score also depends on the difficulty level of each question answered.

Which Should You Take?

The GMAT is better suited for students with business backgrounds, stronger math skills, weaker English skills, more financial resources, or who are applying to MBA programs not mentioned on the list above.

The GRE is better suited for students with academic backgrounds other than business, stronger English skills, weaker math skills, fewer financial resources, or who are applying for other graduate programs as well as MBA programs.