Applying to business school? Many schools, including Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton, accept either the GMAT or the GRE. Which one should you take, and how can you decide? We’ve talked about this topic before, but we’re revisiting it because the launch of the Next Generation GMAT is imminent (there’s a good GRE word for you).
There are two aspects to consider: whether you would have a significant scoring advantage on one test versus the other, and whether certain schools have shown a preference for one exam over the other. We’re going to address the first aspect in this article; we’ll leave the second consideration for the admissions consultants.
Both exams consist of multiple-choice quantitative and verbal sections, as well as an essay-writing section. The GMAT also includes an Integrated Reasoning section. Let’s take a look at the structures of the tests and discuss what is tested.
The two exams test high-school level math (including number properties, algebra, geometry, and statistics) and have some similar question types. Both tests have standard problem-solving questions “ the basic math multiple choice questions that appear on any multiple-choice math test. The tests also have questions that combine elements of quant content and mathematical logic; on the GMAT, these are called Data Sufficiency and, on the GRE, these are called Quantitative Comparisons. Within its quant section, the GRE also includes a small number of Data Interpretation questions, which include a table or graph, as well as some pick all that apply and fill in the blank question formats.
The general consensus is that GRE quant is more straightforward than GMAT quant; I’ve taken both exams and agree. If math is your weaker area, then put a plus in the GRE column. (This is especially true if we also take into account the new Integrated Reasoning section on the GMAT; more on this topic down below.)
The Reading Comprehension questions on the GRE correspond fairly well to the Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions on the GMAT. The rest of the GMAT verbal section, though, tests grammar (via sentence correction questions) while the GRE tests vocabulary (via text completion and sentence equivalence questions).
If verbal in general is your weaker area, then decide based on this. Is your grammar great? The GMAT may be easier for you. Is your vocabulary so awesome that your friends regard you as their personal dictionary? The GRE is your test.
This section is specific to the GMAT. It consists of a cross between quantitative and verbal reasoning skills “ one question may ask us to infer something, similar to Critical Reasoning or Reading Comp, while another may ask us to calculate two values, x and y, given various parameters. The actual material tested (math formulas and rules, reasoning skills, etc.) is the same as on the quant and verbal portions of the test, but the question formats are quite different both from what is currently on the test and from typical standardized test questions that you’ve seen in the past.
If you haven’t taken a look at these yet, you may want to do so before you make up your mind. Do you like this kind of question structure? Are your executive reasoning skills strong? Or do the questions hurt your brain? (Note: expect them to hurt your brain at first: you haven’t studied these yet, so you shouldn’t find them super-easy. If, on the other hand, after examining them a bit, you continue to find them bewildering, you might decide to take the GRE.)
Of course, nobody cares as much about the essays (because the schools don’t). The GMAT requires one essay while the GRE requires two. Other than that, the only thing I have to say about the essays is this: you aren’t going to base your decision (about which test to take) on the essays, so there’s nothing else for us to discuss!
As a general rule, GRE quant is somewhat easier than GMAT quant. On the verbal side, the GMAT is better for those whose grammar skills are stronger, while the GRE is better for those with a big vocabulary.
Still not sure what to do? Take a practice test! Two, actually. Take both a GMAT and a GRE under 100% official conditions, including the essays. Take them several days apart; don’t give yourself an artificial handicap on one by taking it later in the same day.
Take either the official practice tests provided by the official test writers, or take two tests made by the same company (so that you don’t introduce the possibility that you’ve happened to take a much harder or easier version of one). If there’s a significant difference in your starting percentile ranking, your question has been answered.
Let us know what you decide and how you decided; your fellow students will appreciate your insight. Good luck!