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GMAT vs. GRE : Compare the GRE and GMAT

It's a Test: Is the GMAT or the GRE the correct answer?

Students choose to further their postsecondary education by attending graduate school for a variety of reasons -- they want to broaden their responsibilities in their current position, or they wish to change fields, for example -- but whatever the motive, all must pass an admissions test for acceptance. Currently there are two exams being used to admit candidates to graduate school (although specific graduate programs, such as law or medicine, have their own admission tests), the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Both tests assess verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and writing, notes The New York Times.

Find out the similarities and differences between the two to determine which test you should take.

The GMAT: an overview

For more than 55 years, the GMAT has been the exclusive test administered to candidates applying to business schools with management programs and is used for 5,400 programs offered by more than 1,500 universities and institutions in 83 countries, according to Babson. The test was designed by business school deans in order to predict how well candidates would perform in an MBA program. According to David A. Wilson, head of the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), which administers the GMAT, "High scores on the test correlate well to success in the first year of business school," reports The New York Times. The fact that the GMAT has long-term validity studies for business students may be one reason it is accepted at more business schools than the GRE.

The GRE: an overview

The GRE was created and administered by ETS (Educational Testing Services) in 1949 and received a major overhaul in August 2011, resulting in what is now called the GRE revised General Test. A growing number of MBA programs -- more than 700 -- now accept GRE General Test scores for admission, notes The Princeton Review. Unlike the GMAT, it can be used for admission to both business school and graduate school.

How they compare*

GRE

GMAT

Who takes it?

Those seeking admission to most graduate schools and an increasing number of business schools

Those seeking admission to most business schools

Test structure

A 75-minute Analytic section with two essays, two 30-minute Verbal sections and two 30-minute Quantitative sections. Also a 30-minute experimental section that can be either math or verbal.

A 30-minute Analytic section with one essay, a 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section, a 75-minute Quantitative section and a 75-minute Verbal section

Test format

Available in paper-based and computer-adaptive by section formats

Computer-adaptive

Scoring

Verbal & Quantitative scores from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments

Overall (composite) score ranges from 200 to 800 in 10-point increments

Cost

$150

$250

Testing time

3+ hours (depending on format)

3.5 hours

How long scores valid

5 years

5 years

*subject to change. Check directly with GMAT and GRE for the most up-to-date information.

Source: The Princeton Review

Which test should you take?

Simply put, you have the option of taking the GMAT or the GRE (or even both) if you are applying to business schools -- provided the business school you are applying to accepts the GRE -- but you only have the option of taking the GRE for non-business graduate school. This would appear to make the GRE the more flexible choice if you are unsure of where you're headed after graduation.

Ultimately, says Babson, with those schools accepting both tests -- and with both tests generally containing similar questions, content, and format -- it's advisable to research which is the preferred test for the institution(s) to which you're applying. And then, according to The Princeton Review, "The best way to determine whether the GMAT or GRE is better suited to your abilities is to get your feet wet with a free practice test for each exam." Those who struggle with math skills may find the GMAT test more "daunting," whereas those with strong vocabulary and word usage skills may be more comfortable with the GRE verbal section.

Finally, a study by Kaplan Test Prep offers some hard data that could sway a decision one way or the other: 69 percent of 265 business school admission officers surveyed are now offering applicants the option of submitting either GRE or GMAT scores, with 69 percent also saying that both test scores are viewed equally and 29 percent reporting that applicants submitting GMAT scores have an edge over those submitting GRE scores.

Sources:

GMAT vs. GRE, The Princeton Review, 2013, http://www.princetonreview.com/gmatvsgre.aspx

GMAT vs. GRE, Babson, 2013, http://www.babson.edu/admission/graduate/apply/preparing-for-gmat/Pages/GMAT-vs-GRE.aspx

"The G.R.E. vs. the GMAT," Christine Lagorio, The New York Times, December 23, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/education/edlife/strategy-t.html?_r=0

ETS (Educational Testing Service), GRE, 2013, http://www.ets.org/gre

GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), The GMAT Exam, 2013, http://www.gmac.com/gmat.aspx

ETS (Educational Testing Service), GRE, Preparation for the Computer-based GRE® revised General Test, 2013, http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep2

MBA.com, Free GMATPrep® Software, 2013, http://www.mba.com/the-gmat/download-free-test-preparation-software.aspx

ETS (Educational Testing Service), GRE, 2013-14 Institutions & Fellowship Sponsors Approved to Receive GRE® Scores, http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_aidi_fellowships.pdf

MBA Programs Accepting the GRE, The Princeton Review, http://www.princetonreview.com/uploadedFiles/Sitemap/Home_Page/Business_Hub/Opinions_and_Advice/MBAAcceptingGRE.pdf

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