GMAT or GRE for MBA admission: How to decide |

GMAT or GRE for MBA admission: How to decide

By Karen Turtle

Updated January 19, 2024 Updated January 19, 2024

Should you take the GMAT or GRE for MBA admission? While the GMAT is designed specifically for business school applicants, the GRE is a test that can gain students admittance to graduate programs across almost all subjects, including the MBA.

Traditionally, the GMAT has taken precedence over the GRE. However, these days, a great number of international business schools will accept both tests. Here's a look at the value of each exam, and some of their core differences.

What are the GMAT and GRE?

For ease of reference, Kaplan Test Prep has accumulated all the necessary information for business school applicants to compare the GMAT and GRE exams.

The GRE is accepted at Business Schools worldwide. Its Unique Quantitative Question focuses on quantitative comparisons, while the GRE’s Unique Verbal Questions look at Sentence Equivalence & Text Completion. This test is better for creative/flexible thinkers.

The GMAT is accepted by all business schools. Its Unique Quantitative Question focuses on Data Sufficiency, while the GMAT’s Unique Verbal Questions look at Sentence Correction & Critical Reasoning. This test is better for number-crunching thinkers.

What are the differences between the GMAT and GRE?

With 'management' forming part of its acronym, you might expect the GMAT to hold some sway over its GRE counterpart, if MBA admissions and related business master’s programs are the main goal. The test does place a heavier focus on quantitative and analytical skills - interpreting data presented in text, charts and tables to solve complex problems, for example. Tasks are therefore customized to evaluate skills seen as being specific to business managers.

The GRE, as a more versatile test, has less of a focus of math and includes a calculator for its quantitative problems. However, for those for whom English is not their first language, the verbal section may be more challenging than the GMAT's, as it places an emphasis on vocabulary rather than on grammar.

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test - this means that the questions you answer correctly, or incorrectly, determine the difficulty level of the questions that follow. During the GMAT, students can't go back and review their previous answers. The GRE, meanwhile, is not a computer-adaptive test and allows students to check their previous answers. 

Here is a table that outlines the principal differences between the GMAT and GRE:




  • Analytical Writing section with one essay: 30 mins
  • Integrated Reasoning section: 30 mins
  • Quantitative section: 62 mins
  • Verbal section: 65 mins

GMAT verbal places greater emphasis on grammar, logic and reasoning. GMAT quant is harder if math isn't your strength.
  • Analytical Writing sections: 2x30 minute essays
  • Verbal Reasoning sections: 2x30 mins
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 2x35 mins (computer-delivered version: timings vary slightly in the paper-delivered test)
  • 30-35-minute experimental section that can be either math or verbal

GRE places more focus on vocabulary, making it easier for native versus non-native English speakers.

If math isn't your forte, the GRE could be more suited to you.

Format Computer-adaptive test Computer delivered or paper delivered
Test time 3 hours 30 minutes 3 hours 45 minutes
How it's scored Total scores range from 200-800. The mean score among 750k test takers between 2013 and 2015 was 552, while a score of 700 would have put you in the 89th percentile Scores from 130-170 in 1 point increments for verbal and quantitative reasoning sections; scores from 0-6 in analytical writing
Cost US$250 US$205
Score validity 5 years 5 years
Source: GMAT and ETS (GRE) websites

Do business schools prefer GMAT or GRE?

Top schools take a holistic approach to the MBA admissions process

Most business schools opt to accept GRE scores as an alternative to the GMAT so as to widen their pool of applicants, and bring in students from backgrounds outside of the ‘traditional’ norm – those with backgrounds in finance, accounting, economics and so on. Diversity, in all of its forms, matters and is therefore positively encouraged at top business schools.

'Holistic' is a word commonly used by institutions to describe their approach to reviewing MBA applications, and one which manifests itself frequently in our MBA Admissions Q&A series. The GMAT and the GRE are therefore just one element of the evaluation process - academic background, personality, experience, and the effort you invest in the application process are all just as important.

The key to choosing the GMAT or GRE for MBA admission is to first identify which of your chosen schools require which test. If you think a school might accept both, but could prefer one test over the other, email, phone, or chat online to find out.

Playing to your strengths is also a factor. If your dream school can confirm that it values both tests equally, simply choose the one you think you'll do best in. Lastly, whether you’re taking the GMAT or GRE for MBA admission, make sure you go into the test fully prepared!    

if you’re still unsure, meet leading test preparation centers & admissions directors to compare the two and to identify the ideal test for you.

Frequently asked questions

How do I prepare for the GMAT or GRE?

The preparation methods mentioned on the official GRE methods include practice tests, practice test review sessions, prep videos, official books, maths books, maths reviews and Kahn Academy instructional videos.

GMAT offers an official prep programme complete with two practice exams, a podcast and an 8 week study plan. They also offer books which partners with a website and app where students can put their knowledge into practice and learn the exam content from anywhere.

How do I register for the GMAT or GRE?

You can register to take a GRE test online or in person by creating an account on the EST website and registering online. Please note that the basic test fees are $220 USD (around £175 GBP) for most places in the world with exceptions in China and India (check the EST website for more information about those locations). You will be required to show a valid photo-ID in physical form when registering to confirm your identity.

A registration request for the GMAT can also be submitted on the official website for the test to be taken online or in person. The price of the GMAT varies depending on your location but full information is available on their website for each country. The US price is $300 USD for an online test and $275 USD for in person. In the UK, it costs £250 GBP for an in person test and £275 GBP for an online test. Valid ID must also be shown for these tests. Again, regional identification requirements are available on their website.

What formats are GMAT and GRE?

GMAT and GRE tests can both be completed in a test center or online. When registering, browse the different test centres available to see if there is one that suits you or if completing the test online would be a better option.

Which test is better, GMAT or GRE?

Both tests can serve as preparation test for students hoping to be admitted into a graduate programme. The price, scoring methods, cost and validity are very similar. The difference is that the analytical writing and reasoning sections of the GRE are almost double those required in the GMAT and the verbal section in the GMAT is almost double that required in the GRE. The GRE places greater focus on vocabulary use which may benefit native english speakers as well as a lesser focus on mathematics. The GMAT places a learger focus on reasoning and mathematics which may benefit non-native english speakers.

Traditionally the GMAT is the most widely accepted test by business schools internationally, however, the GRE has become increasingly popular in recent years, is also widely accepted and may be a better option for you if the content of the exam allows you to exhibit your strengths more.

This article was originally published in May 2019 . It was last updated in January 2024

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