The GRE vs. The GMAT

Graduate programs across the nation require prospective students to submit either a GRE score or a GMAT score. Although the GMAT is always used in the business school application process and the GRE is usually used for other graduate majors, some programs give applicants the option of submitting the results of either exam. If a university gives you the opportunity to choose between the two exams, pick the one you can master most easily. Since the two tests are both given on computer and contain the same basic sections, you must examine the contents of each test in order to make the best choice. To begin, compare the sections on each test:

Quantitative Section
45 min 75 min
Question Types
Word Problems
Quantitative Comparison
Word Problems
Data Sufficiency
Verbal Section
30 min 75 min
Question Types
Sentence Completion
Reading Comprehension
Critical Reasoning
Sentence Correction
Reading Comprehension
Writing Section
75 min 60 min
Question Types
Issue Task
Argument Task
Analysis of Issue
Analysis of an Argument

Each test has Quantitative, Verbal, and Writing components, but as you can see from the table, the types of questions within each section are not always the same.

Quantitative Section

The Quantitative sections of each exam cover extremely similar concepts, and both tests contain high school level arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. Word problems are math problems where each question presents a problem and offers five answer choices. Here is an example:

If 2x + 4 = 16, then x =

(A) 2
(B) 3
(C) 4
(D) 5
(E) 6

The correct answer is (E). There is one major difference between the two quantitative sections: the GMAT has an additional problem type called Data Sufficiency and the GRE offers an extra format called Quantitative Comparison.

Data Sufficiency questions on the GMAT consist of a question followed by two different statements, numbered (1) and (2). For example:

Is the integer x odd?
(1) x is the product of two different prime numbers.
(2) x is divisible by 7.

The answer choices test you ability to evaluate whether the information in the two statements is sufficient to lead to a solution to the problem:

(A) if (1) alone is sufficient to solve the problem
(B) if (2) alone is sufficient to solve the problem
(C) if both statements together are sufficient to solve the problem
(D) if each statement alone is sufficient to solve the problem
(E) if the statements together are not sufficient to fully answer the question

The answer above is (E). While this problem is considered to be at the easier end of the spectrum, data sufficiency problems get progressively more difficult throughout the test, incorporating algebra, arithmetic, and geometry.

The GRE offers its own unique math problem—the Quantitative Comparison. “Quant Comp” questions are unique because you do not have to solve them; you simply must compare two values to determine which is greater. Each problem contains two columns, labeled Column A and Column B. In each column is a number, a statement, a variable, or a problem:

Column A   Column B
1/5 of 65   6/11 of 31

If the quantity in Column A is greater, select (A) as you answer. If the quantity in Column B is greater, choose (B). Should the quantities in the two columns be equal, pick (C). And finally, if the relationship cannot be determined from the given information, select (D). The answer to the problem above is (B). Quantitative Comparison questions test arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.

Most students find that both Data Sufficiency and Quantitative Comparison questions are challenging at first, but with practice you should become more comfortable with their formats. It is generally agreed, however, that Data Sufficiency is more difficult to master.

Verbal Section

The only similarity between the verbal sections of the GMAT and GRE is the Reading Comprehension question type. Reading Comprehension questions present a 100 to 400 word passage, followed by three or four multiple choice questions.

The GMAT has two additional Verbal question types: Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction. Critical Reasoning questions present a short statement or argument (two or three sentences), and then test your ability to use logic to evaluate the statement. These questions have multiple choice answers. Sentence Correction questions contain a sentence in which a part of the sentence is underlined. The answer choices will analyze your ability to identify and correct errors in grammar and usage in the underlined portion.

The GRE contains three additional Verbal question types: Analogies, Antonyms, and Sentence Completions. All of these question types have multiple choice answers and are vocabulary-dependent. Analogies test your ability to recognize relationships among words (“A banana is to yellow as a cucumber is to…”). For Antonyms, each question provides a single word and you must pick a word from the five answer choices that has a meaning most nearly opposite. Sentence Completion questions contain a sentence with one or two words or phrases missing. From the answer choices, you must pick the missing words that best fit the meaning of the sentence.


The GRE and GMAT essentially have the same writing sections. Both exams give you two prompts: one prompt asks the student to analyze an issue and the other asks the student to take a position on an issue and present an argument for the issue. In the Issue prompt you are asked to give your opinion on a statement; in the Argument prompt you are asked to analyze the logical validity of a short argument.


Both the GRE and the GMAT use a Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) format. The CAT format chooses which questions to ask test takers based on their ability to answer questions with varying difficulty levels. Although both are CAT exams, each provides scores differently. The GRE gives three different scaled scores:

  • Verbal Score on a scale of 200 to 800
  • Quantitative Score on a scale of 200 to 800
  • Analytical Writing Score on a scale of 0 to 6

The GMAT provides four separate scores:

  • A Quantitative Score on a scale of 0 to 60
  • A Verbal Score on a scale of 0 to 60
  • A Total Score on a scale of 200 to 800
  • An Analytical Writing Assessment Score on a scale of 0 to 6

For the GMAT, the Quantitative and Verbal scores are section scores, and these two section scores are combined to create the Total Score. The Total Score is the one most familiar to GMAT test takers, and it is given on the famous 200 to 800 scale, with 200 being the lowest score and 800 the highest score.


The current price to take the GMAT is $200, while the GRE costs $115.


You should now a have a better understanding of the differences between the GMAT and the GRE. If you are trying to decide between the two tests, consider the following:

  • If you have an excellent vocabulary, consider taking the GRE.
  • If you have very strong math skills, consider taking the GMAT.
  • If your verbal and math skills are about equal, consider taking the GRE.
  • If you are applying to a program focusing specifically on your Quantitative or Verbal scores (such as Engineering or English), consider taking the GRE.
  • If English is your second language, consider taking the GMAT.

If you choose to take the GRE or GMAT, PowerScore offers preparation and counseling for the GRE, GMAT, and we offer nationwide graduate school admissions assistance programs.

Programs that accept both GRE and GMAT results

Listed below is a sampling of programs that accept both the GRE and GMAT. When applying to a program, we recommend contacting the school for information on the exams required for admission.

University of Mississippi:

Master of Arts - Economics
Doctor of Philosophy - Economics
Doctor of Philosophy - Business Administration- All areas
Master of Science - Pharmaceutical Sciences- Pharmacy Administration
Doctor of Philosophy - Pharmacy Administration

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

System Design and Management Program
Master of Engineering in Logistics

University of Nevada – Las Vegas

Hospitality Administration (M.H.A.)
Hotel Administration (M.S.)
Public Administration (M.P.A.)

Purdue University – Krannert School of Management

Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management (OBHR)

Harvard University

Kennedy School of Government

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