GMAT vs GRE: Comparison and Strategies

GMAT vs GRE: Comparison and Strategies


Are you confused about taking the GRE or the GMAT? In this article, we not only cover the basic comparison between the GRE and the GMAT, but also discuss the specific strategies you might want to employ. Let's quickly compare between the GMAT and the GRE. While the GMAT is accepted only at business schools, the GRE is for getting into grad schools but it can also be used to get into most business schools. 

Make sure to check with your prospecting B schools for the requirements. The GMAT focuses on logic, reasoning, and grammar. If your logic is strong, then you will do well on the GMAT. For the GRE, it focuses on academic skills and vocabulary. Remember that the GRE is for getting into grad schools, so it tests whether you are fit for academic settings. On the other hand, the GMAT is testing whether you are good with reasoning and if you can survive the first year of MBA. 

Let us look at the structural aspects of the GMAT and the GRE. For the GMAT, within a section, you cannot skip a question. For every question, you have to solve or guess it. You cannot skip, save, or come back to a certain question. For the GRE, within a section, you can skip a question. So it's actually possible to skip all certain types of questions and then come back to them later. 

Both the GMAT and the GRE have on-screen calculators. For the GMAT, it doesn't have a calculator in the quantitative section, but it has a calculator in integrated reasoning. For the GRE, you can use the on-screen calculator for all quantitative sections. So you can see that the GRE is focused more heavily on number senses, since it allows the calculator. What about retaking the exam? For the GMAT, you can retake after 16 days. 

For the GRE, you can retake after 3 weeks, or 21 days. The biggest difference would be the section ordering. For the GMAT, you can choose one of the three section orderings. For the GRE, you cannot choose the section ordering, and the sections are random. Let me elaborate more on this section ordering. For the GMAT, you have 3 options. Before beginning the exam, you are given one minute to select the section order. The first option is essay, integrated reasoning, 8 minutes break, quantitative, another 8 minutes break, and verbal. 

The second option is verbal, 8 minutes break, quantitative, 8 minutes break, essay and then integrated reasoning. The third option is quantitative, 8 minutes break, verbal, another 8 minutes break, essay and then integrated reasoning. So you can strategically select the most comfortable section order. Normally I recommend practicing starting with the verbal section first, because oftentimes the GMAT weights more on the verbal score than the quant section. If you are aiming for 700+, the verbal section is the key for high scores. For the GRE, you cannot choose the section ordering. The two essays will always be the first part of the exam. 

After writing these two essays, it will be randomly chosen either verbal or quant. But you will never get two consecutive sets of the same type. Therefore, it will be most likely in either of these two orders. Verbal, Quant, a break, and then verbal, quant, verbal. Or, you will have quant, verbal, a break, and then quant verbal and quant. 

One of the sections will be an unscored experimental section, but you will never know which one it is. So it is the best if you try your best for every section. Now, let us compare the focus between the GMAT and the GRE. For math, the GMAT focuses more on logic, reasoning, and word problems. It is interesting to note that recently the GMAT is on the trend of mixing two or more concepts. 

For example, a question might involve triangles, descriptive statistics, and fractions. You can see this multi-topic trend in the latest GMAT Official Guide 2019. The GRE focuses heavily on your ability of playing with numbers, geometry, and graphs. Since you can use a calculator for the GRE, the questions tend to be more focused on math techniques. For the verbal part, the GMAT focuses more on grammar. If you have a "native ear," then you can learn quickly the rules of grammar with logic and reasoning.

Of course, if you are weak with logic, you might do better with the GRE. The GRE focuses more on vocabulary. Have you heard of these vocabularies? Innocuous Garrulous Obsequious Specious Ephemeral Believe or not, these are the basic vocabularies that the grad schools expect you to know when you graduate from the undergrad. If you have never heard of these vocabularies, well, just know that GRE tests these kinds of vocabs! There are different sections for the GMAT and the GRE. 

The GMAT has an integrated reasoning section which tests your reasoning. The IR section is not that hard and you can master them easily with practice. You can even use an on-screen calculator for the IR. Also, you have Data Sufficiency for the GMAT when you do a quant section. Data Sufficiency is a question that asks whether a given piece of information is enough to calculate the data. 

The GRE has two essays. It has one Issue writing and one Argue writing. The GMAT, on the other hand, has only one essay writing. So, not sure whether to take the GMAT or the GRE? Take a look at the following sample decision making table. These are meant to be for reference only, so make sure you consider your context and situations. If you are a native English speaker, I think taking the GMAT is better.

You can use your "native ear" to tune to grammar errors. Unless you are terrible with logic, the GMAT is a good bet. However, if English is not your first language, I think taking the GRE is better. The GRE is focused more on vocabularies, and because it is likely that you are weak with reading comprehension, if you study vocabulary you will have a better chance at getting a higher mark in the GRE verbal part. 

If you are strong with math, stick with a test that gives you a clear advantage for the verbal part. Assess yourself with free prep software offered by both the GMAT and the GRE test institute. 


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