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The GRE or GMAT – Which to Take?

This article appeared in the Fulbright newsletter in August 2015

For those considering a postgraduate degree in the USA, an important part of the application is likely to be an entrance test – usually the GRE or GMAT. In fact, more and more graduate programmes worldwide are asking for scores in one of these tests; even in the UK, universities such as London Business School require you to submit scores in one of the tests to gain entry to many of its programmes.

It used to be the case that business schools and financial programmes would ask for the GMAT, whereas for other types of graduate degrees (such as PhDs or Masters in other subjects) the GRE was commonly used. Nowadays, however, it’s usual for business schools to accept both the GMAT and GRE, since they know that students apply to more than one programme and might end up having to take both.

This raises an interesting question: if the schools you’re applying to accept both tests, which should you choose? To answer this, let’s look at some of the main differences between the two tests.

The GRE comprises two essays, two Quantitative Reasoning sections, and two Verbal Reasoning sections. The GMAT, however, has one essay, one Quantitative Reasoning section, one Verbal Reasoning section, and one Integrated Reasoning section.

The most obvious difference is the Integrated Reasoning section in the GMAT, which only has 12 questions in it. Here, students are asked to interpret data from lots of different sources such as tables, graphs and passages, and infer the correct answer to a question. This section has only been introduced fairly recently and is used by some business schools and companies to garner extra information about a candidate’s ability. Many schools and colleges, however, don’t include this score in their requirements, so students don’t necessarily have to worry about it too much.

The other point is that the GRE has two essays – if you really don’t like writing, this might be an important consideration!

At UES, we find that most GRE and GMAT students say that their weakest area is the Quantitative Reasoning, normally because they haven’t studied maths in a while. The GMAT Quant is definitely harder than the GRE Quant: you have to know more formulae on the GMAT and there is a section called ‘Data Sufficiency’, which is quite different to anything students have seen before. Moreover, you can’t use a calculator! (On the GRE, you get a simple online calculator.)

With regards to the Verbal Reasoning sections, both the GRE and GMAT test your critical reasoning and reading comprehension skills. However, the GRE has questions that focus solely on vocabulary and understanding, whereas the GMAT includes a grammar test.

The high levels of logical reasoning on the GMAT mean that it might favour those with a maths or science background, whereas the GRE, with its focus on content and vocabulary, might better suit those with a humanities background.

Regardless of the above, you should always check with the schools to which you’re applying to find out what test they accept. It may turn out that all of them accept the GRE and only some of them accept the GMAT, for example, in which case the GRE would be a sensible choice!

Whatever test you choose, remember that neither test is straightforward. You should take the time to prepare as much as possible in the lead up to the test – practice is the key!

Whatever test you're thinking of doing, we can help you prepare properly. Contact us now for free advice.
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