How to Decide Between the GRE and the GMAT

By Christine Ascher on May 12, 2017
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The GRE and the GMAT are both possible entrance exams for business school. While they do have some similarities, each test emphasizes slightly different areas.

For instance, the GRE focuses more on writing by requiring two analytical essays, compared to the one essay required for the GMAT. The GMAT includes an Integrated Reasoning section that is not included in the GRE.

When it comes to deciding between the GRE and the GMAT for your business school application, the obvious first step is to check if the schools that you are applying to accept both tests. While more and more MBA programs accept both tests from applicants, this is not necessarily true for all schools.

If the majority of the schools that you’re interested in only accept the GMAT, it’s probably easiest if you stick to that; however, if you’re given the freedom to choose, you’ll want to go with the test that will give you the best results. Unfortunately, that choice is not always straightforward. If you’re unsure, here are some strategies to help you choose.

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Check with your prospective schools

Make a list of the schools that you want to apply to before deciding on which test you want to take; that way, you can go through and systematically check what each one wants to see. You might also want to check with the schools that you’re interested in to see what test scores they typically like to see; that way, if you take some practice tests, you can better assess where your score on each test would place you in their respective applicant pools.

Make sure you take this into consideration not only with your top-choice schools but also with any other ones that you’ve considered applying to; you’ll be in a difficult position if later on you decide that you want to apply to a new school that requires the GMAT and you’ve only taken the GRE.

Research the companies that you’re interested in

When it comes time for you to apply for jobs, some companies may want to see your GMAT score. According to Varsity Tutors, “some companies in industries like consulting and investment banking may ask for candidates’ GMAT scores during recruiting season,” as they “are looking for MBA associates who can keep up with the analytical demands of their culture.”

You don’t want to learn post-graduation that your dream company wants to see a GMAT score that you don’t have. For this reason, while you’re researching the requirements of MBA programs, it wouldn’t hurt to also check out the preferences of some companies that you might want to work for in the future. If they’re going to ask for the GMAT, you might be better off taking it even if it’s not necessary for your graduate program.

Determine your preferred test-taking strategy

Both the GRE and the GMAT are administered by computer. The GRE also offers a paper test, but it is much less commonly administered. If you prefer taking tests on paper and believe that you’ll do better this way, the GRE paper exam might be the best choice for you.

In addition, when taking the exams by computer, you might find that the administration of one appeals more to you. For instance, when taking the GMAT you’ll only be able to move forward; once you answer a question, you can’t go back to change it. This could make the test easier, as you won’t waste time second-guessing yourself and going back to change answers.

The GRE, on the other hand, gives you the freedom to move back and forth between questions. If you tend to skip around when taking exams, the GRE might be a better choice for you.

Determine which test your classes have prepared you for                           

Depending on the classes that you’ve taken, you might find that you’re better prepared for one exam over the other. If you’ve done a lot of writing, for instance, you might be more comfortable with the GRE. If you haven’t taken math since high school, this might also make you more hesitant to take the GMAT, given that it has a stronger focus on quantitative and analytical skills. If, on the other hand, you’ve had more analytical or mathematical courses, the GMAT might be a better fit.

Test yourself

The easiest way to determine which test to take is to practice both. Though it can be difficult to force yourself to sit through a three-and-a-half hour practice exam, doing so will significantly improve your chances of choosing the right test for you. Ultimately, you won’t know which test is the best fit until you take it.

In addition to seeing which one you score higher on in a practice round, you’ll be able to determine which one you feel more comfortable with. Feeling at ease with the types of questions offered on a test will help you go into the actual test with more confidence.

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By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a junior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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