GMAT vs GRE- the showdown

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I’ve had around 50 students either switch from the GMAT to the GRE or attempt both of them while tutoring with me or prior to meeting me. The most common problem is that they are struggling to break through the GMAT ceiling, and it’s gotten in their head. The prospect of a different test sounds refreshing. While I don’t believe there is a tremendous difference in the outcomes for those waffling between the GMAT and the GRE, here are some key things to consider:

1.  Format – on the GMAT you cannot navigate forward or backward through questions within each section. If you think it’s helpful to be able to skip around and revisit questions within a test section, as you do on the GRE, then the GRE is more for you. Other people prefer the slightly shorter length of the entire GMAT exam.

2. Difficulty – this is a big one. The general mythology says that the GRE is easier than the GMAT. I’m not so sure about this. While the GMAT does have harder questions, the scoring is more forgiving. Both exams are computer adaptive. If you are answering problems correctly, you get harder problems. What I find is that the questions on the GRE are slightly easier but the scoring is more forgiving. Some of my clients score Q50 and miss 10 out of 31 questions- they just miss the really hard ones when they reach that level. On the GRE, virtually every mistake costs you a point. I would say that any difference in difficulty is negligible.

3. Question types – The content of both exams is mostly identical on the Quantitative sections except for the question format- the GMAT has Data Sufficiency questions and the GRE swaps these for Quantitative Comparison. These are similar questions testing whether the test taker has enough information to answer the question at hand. The main difference comes with the Verbal section. Both have Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning in common, but for the GMAT you’ll then have to correct grammar with Sentence Correction, while on the GRE you show off your vocabulary with Sentence Completion and Equivalence questions. Are you good at memorizing words and up for 800 new ones? The GRE is for you. Do you have a natural ear for grammar and clean expression? Go with the GMAT

Overall, I think the biggest thing to consider is which test is better for your graduate school goals. The GRE opens more doors to different programs and paths, but the GMAT is still king for MBA candidates. If one exam has gotten into your head- switch. If you have invested a lot and are gradually improving with one- stay. Or just ask me about it!

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