Should I Take the GMAT or GRE?

If you’re applying to graduate school, you’re probably thinking about taking an entrance exam as part of your application. For law school, it’s the LSAT. For medical school, it’s the MCAT. For other graduate programs, the choice may not be as straightforward, especially if you’re applying to business school. This may lead you to ask, “Should I Take the GMAT or GRE?”

Deciding if you should take the GMAT or GRE ultimately depends on a number of factors. In addition to the GMAT, most MBA programs now accept the GRE as well. So which exam should you select? Here are four areas to consider:

1. What are your GMAT and GRE strengths and weaknesses?

Both the GRE and the GMAT contain sections that assess similar abilities in the following areas:

  • Analytical Writing

  • Verbal

  • Quantitative

However, they are different tests that work for different test-takers. For example, for students who aren’t fond of writing, the GMAT has only one essay, compared to the GRE, which has two essays. For students who are excel at vocabulary words, the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE plays to that strength.

Next, the Quantitative sections on both tests essentially call upon high school math skills, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. However, the Quantitative questions on the GRE might be seen as easier, especially since the GRE provides an on-screen calculator for those sections. The GMAT only provides an on-screen calculator for Integrated Reasoning, a section which may benefit students who are particularly skilled at analyzing and synthesizing different information. At the end of the day, there are tradeoffs for each exam when it comes to utilizing your strengths and weaknesses.

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2. How do past test-taking experiences relate to what you’ll face on the GMAT and GRE?

The GMAT is computer adaptive by question. You can only move forward in a section once you answer the question in front of you—and you can’t check your previous answers. So, if you can answer a question on an exam and move on to the next without further thought, you may be more comfortable with the structure of the GMAT.

Conversely, the GRE is computer adaptive by section. Your performance on your first Verbal section determines the difficulty of your second Verbal section. Same goes for the Quantitative sections. However, when working within a section, you can skip questions in that section and check your answers in that section. Therefore, if you need time to review your answers and skip harder questions, the GRE may work better for your test-taking style.

3. Do the programs you are applying to accept the GMAT or GRE?

Most business schools accept both the GMAT and GRE, and many schools view them with equal weight. Look at the GMAT and GRE score ranges of each school and see how you would fit in. Then, check with your schools to learn which test they prefer, and which test they prefer from you. For instance, applicants with mathematical backgrounds like engineering or computer analytics may not need to further prove they can handle the quantitative rigor of an MBA program by earning a high score on the GMAT—but an applicant from a more creative background might be encouraged to display his or her mathematical ability through their GMAT performance. Admissions committees want to know that the students they accept will have the necessary skills to succeed in business school.

4. How could the GMAT or GRE affect the career you are pursuing?

Some companies in industries like consulting and investment banking may ask for candidates’ GMAT scores during recruiting season. These companies are looking for MBA associates who can keep up with the analytical demands of their culture. So, before applying to business schools, do research on companies you want to work for after graduation, and find out their requirements. This research can also help inform your MBA applications as well as your career exploration while in your program.

With all of this in mind, should you take the GMAT or the GRE? If all things are equal, go with the exam with which you simply feel more comfortable. Take GRE practice tests and GMAT practice tests to get a feel for them—look at your results, consider what your schools are looking for, think about how that score will fit into your application package, and determine whether you would like to move forward with the GMAT or GRE. Whichever test you select, prepare for it well in advance so you can perform your best on exam day!