Play to Your Strengths: GRE vs GMAT Test – Which test should I take?

GRE vs GMAT Test - Which test should I take?

The decision to attend graduate school comes with a multitude of questions to answer. Should I attend part-time or quit my job and spend two years in a full-time program? Should I enroll in a MBA program, or would a MS be a better option? Should I take classes online or drive to campus each day? Should I look at public schools or can I afford a private university? Unfortunately, these questions complicate the application process.  And now, there is a new question that students, especially those looking to enroll in a MBA program need to answer: Should I take the GMAT or the GRE?

Until recently, the answer was a very resounding “GMAT.” However, as the GRE has gained more acceptance in universities throughout the country, this question is a valid one for many potential students. For the most part, the tests are considered equal, but there are a few factors to take into consideration before studying for one or the other.

For those students who may not know exactly what they want to do with their lives, the GRE provides greater flexibility when it comes to graduate school applications.  While the GMAT is designed exclusively for business schools, the GRE is the required admittance exam for most other graduate programs, for everything from the M.S. in Environmental Biology to the Ph.D. in Russian History.  For students who may be considering a program outside of the traditional MBA, the GRE will permit you to apply to other programs, which is particularly helpful for those seeking a dual degree. That being said, this can also be seen as a red flag to business schools because it may signal that the potential student is uncertain about his direction in life.  The GMAT shows that the student is confident in his decision to enroll in a business program.

That being said, even for those students who are 100% sure they want to attend business school, but who struggle with quantitative subjects, the GRE may be the better option, as the GMAT has a more difficult mathematics section.  The GRE also provides students with an on-screen calculator, where calculator use is not permitted on the GMAT.  However, for those who find the verbal sections more difficult, the GRE is not your friend. The GMAT tests reading comprehension, critical thinking, and the elements of standard written English, while the GRE focuses more exclusively on knowledge of vocabulary.  Particularly for those students who learned English as a second or third language, the GMAT tends to be the best option for business school.  In addition to a tougher verbal section, the GRE requires two different essays, while the GMAT has only one; for students who do not enjoy writing, the GMAT may be easier.

However, for students who like to see exactly what they should expect on the test, the GRE allows test takers to skip questions and come back to them later.  Because it is section adaptive rather than question adaptive like the GMAT, the test permits students to skip questions that they may not know and return to them as time permits. In contrast, students must progress through the GMAT question by question and will not be permitted to return to questions that they may have missed later in the test. Thus, the GRE allows for different time management and pacing techniques that some students may find useful.

Students trying to decide between the two tests should consider the following:

  •      If you have strong quantitative skills but weaker English skills (particularly vocabulary), consider taking the GMAT.
  •      If you have very strong English skills and your vocabulary is better than your grammar knowledge, but have weaker quantitative skills, consider taking the GRE.
  •      If your verbal and math skills are about equal, consider taking the GRE.
  •      If English is your second language, consider taking the GMAT.

So which should you take? It’s important to play to your strengths, and the only way to really know which option is best is to take a practice version of both.  The GMAT provides the GMATPrep software that allows students to attempt two real practice exams using the same software as is available on the test.  The GRE has a similar program titled PowerPrep II.  In order to determine which test a student should take for their business school applications, Success Prep encourages you to download both versions of the software and attempt a practice test on each.  These scores will help to determine which test is the better option, and will give you a feel for each of them before the exam.  Remember that the decision is really up to you – you are the only one who knows your strengths – now take advantage of them.

Success Prep teaches classes for both exams.  For additional help and individualized instruction, please check out our GMAT course offerings here and our GRE course offerings here.

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