The question types almost completely overlap, with only a few differences. Although GMAT Data Sufficiency and GRE Quantitative Comparisons have different rules, they both test your ability to work with mathematical logic, rather than purely crunching numbers. Both tests look at how well you can read graphs, although the GRE includes this as part of the Math section, while the GMAT makes it a completely separate part of the test. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the GMAT tests English grammar, while the GRE tests your vocabulary. Vocabulary and grammar are both useful on both tests, but each test heavily emphasizes one over the other.
It’s unlikely that these differences will make one test much harder for you than the other. Even if one problem type is especially tough for you, that problem type will only make up a fraction of the entire test. The one exception might be if you’re primarily concerned about your Verbal score, and you’re much stronger at vocabulary than grammar, or vice versa—but in most situations, that shouldn’t force you to take one test or the other.
GMAT vs GRE: Content and Skills
The math content between the two tests is very similar as well. The GMAT emphasizes tricky story problems more than the GRE; GRE Math problems are often easier to understand but involve more calculation. There’s also an on-screen calculator on the GRE, but not on the GMAT (except on the Integrated Reasoning section).
The GMAT Quant section can be more forgiving of careless errors than the GRE, although careless math errors aren’t a good thing on either test. Because of the difference between the scoring algorithms, you really want to get as many right answers as possible on the GRE. Missing two or three problems due to careless errors can cause a major drop in your Quant score. On the GMAT, however, you have a chance to ‘recover’ from a careless error by consistently answering the following questions correctly.
There are a few math topics that are more heavily emphasized on one test than the other. For instance, the GRE focuses more on geometry and on certain statistics topics (such as quartiles) that rarely or never appear on the GMAT.
The difference is more dramatic on the Verbal side. Both tests include Reading Comprehension, as well as problems that test your ability to understand a brief argument (on the GMAT, these problems are called Critical Reasoning; on the GRE, they’re Logical Reading Comprehension). However, the GRE includes problems that require a knowledge of academic vocabulary. In contrast, the GMAT requires you to know grammar rules.
If you suspect that one or more of these differences will make one of the tests much easier for you, start by learning the basics of each test—the problem types and the basic format. This information is available on the GRE website and the GMAT website. Then, take a practice version of each test.
Do Business Programs Care Whether You Take the GRE or GMAT?
Many programs outwardly claim to give identical consideration to the GMAT and the GRE. That said, the statistics show that there’s a small but consistent difference between successful applicants’ GMAT and GRE scores. On average, successful applicants who took the GRE tend to be accepted with lower scores than applicants who took the GMAT. In other words, it looks like you can “get away with” a lower score on the GRE than on the GMAT.
There are a number of reasons this could be true, and in fact, it might not be meaningful at all—for instance, GRE applicants might have simply been stronger applicants in other ways. However, there are reasons to believe that taking the GRE might help you out if your score is marginal, especially if you have a non-traditional background.
What If I’ve Already Started Studying for the GRE or GMAT?
Switching from one test to the other won’t necessarily improve your score overnight. But learning the format of the other test and then taking a quick practice test will only take a few hours, and it might give you valuable information. If you’re having a tough time with one test, give the other one a try. Compare your goal scores on each test to where you are with each one right now, then make your decision. Don’t fall for the sunk cost fallacy, though—the right test to take is the one that will help you impress business programs the most, not the one you’ve sunk the most time into already.
Hopefully this information helped you make your GRE or GMAT decision! If not, we recommend chatting with an admissions counselor about your specific situation. mbaMission offers a free half-hour consultation, which is a fantastic resource if you have a complex situation or if your concerns weren’t addressed here. And once you’ve picked your test, check out a free trial session of the Manhattan Prep GRE course, the Manhattan Prep GMAT course, or both! ?