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Choosing between the GRE and GMAT: Which is more difficult?

You might have heard that many who take the GRE are also taking the GMAT, or vice versa. You may be wondering which test is easier, or which is better if you plan to get your MBA. If you are wondering exactly what the GMAT is and how it differs from the GRE, then this post should answer all your questions.

Which test should you take? Use our new infographic to decide!

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What is the GMAT?

The GMAT is the standardized test for Business school. Like the GRE, it consists of a Verbal and Quantitative section. Unlike the GRE, the two sections are combined to give a composite score of 800.

The GMAT cannot be used in place of the GRE, so unless you are going to business school, do not take the GMAT.

What does business school have to do with the GRE?

Unlike the GMAT, which only those applying to business school sit for, the GRE is accepted by many accredited business schools (ever hear of Stanford or Harvard?). That is not to say all the top business programs accept a GRE score. Always check with the business program to see which ones accept GRE scores.

Is the GMAT more difficult than the GRE?

It depends. That is, it depends on who is taking the test. For those with strong Quant skills the GRE math will seem easy. The GMAT math is definitely more daunting. So if you struggle with Quant the GMAT will seem very difficult.

On the other hand if you struggle with the nuances of vocabulary and style, the GRE verbal section may be very difficult. That is not to say that the GMAT verbal is easier. But the Sentence Corrections section is more of the science of grammar, and those with logical minds tend to be more adept at quickly sifting through a morass of words to find grammatical errors. The GRE Text Completions and Sentence Equivalence questions, by contrast, are testing the art of word usage, a skill most humanities majors have been honing for years.

So which should I take?

For those applying to business school, first make sure that your program accepts the GRE. If so, then ask yourself which test better shows off your strengths. If you are unsure, you can always take an official GRE practice test and an official GMAT test (both are free). If you score significantly better on one, then the answer is clear. If there isn’t much difference, spend a week getting a feel for each test to see which one suits your skill set better.

For more information about the GMAT, check out our Magoosh GMAT Blog!


About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

49 Responses to GRE vs. GMAT

  1. Tim December 30, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I got a Quant 41 / Verbal 39 on the GMAT for a 650 overall and recently took the GRE and got a 161 Verbal / 162 Quant. Do you have an opinion on which of these I should submit to business school programs? Bonus fact: my GMAT score report will also show a cancelled score since I got that 41/39 because I tried again and didn’t do well and I also took it in 2010 and got a 640 (42/35) so my GMAT report looks pretty shady.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 31, 2014 at 10:53 am #

      Hi Tim,

      I haven’t ever heard anyone describe their GMAT report as “shady” :). I like that!

      I don’t think it is that shady–though it’s not as “innocent” as your GRE score report. According to the conversion table your GMAT and GRE scores match up perfectly. That would tilt things in favor of your GRE scores, but some programs–whether they say it or not–favor the GMAT more than the GRE. This is esp. true for programs that favor quant.

      I’d do a little more research into the schools/programs you are looking at (maybe see what the average GMAT and GRE scores are).

      Hope that helps!

  2. Bianca December 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    thanks for the succinct and insightful article!

    My question is as following:

    I’ve already taken the GRE in 2010 for my Master’s, and my scores were: Quant 800 (94%) Verbal 570 (80%) Analytical Writing 4.0 (45%).

    I’m now planning to apply for MBA programs (Round 2, Fall 2015 entry), and am targeting the top 10 programs (particularly Stanford, Berkeley and Columbia). From what I know, my GRE converts to a 690 on GMAT.

    Therefore I’m wondering whether it makes sense for me to take the GMAT as well, given that there are all these nuances involved in the question “GRE or GMAT”?

    Thank you so much in advance!
    Best wishes!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 9, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi Bianca,

      Given your strong quant ability, you should definitely take the GMAT. That may allow you to truly shine, esp. because the verbal section is more logic based than vocabulary based.

      Take a practice GRE and a practice GMAT test (both official questions), and compare your percents.

      Hope that helps!

      • Bianca December 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

        Hi Chris,

        thanks for that insight! Yes, I’ve noticed how the verbal part on GMAT seems so much more reasonable than that on the GRE. Just need to brush up on my Quant skills though. Let’s see how the GMAT results will be like in the end.

        Thanks for your helpful and prompt reply,
        wish you a great holiday season!

  3. Raj December 5, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    Hi Chris

    I took the GMAT in Dec 2012 and scored a 700 (Q46, V40) – clearly based on the percentiles (quant ~ 70%, verbal ~ 91%), my quant is shaky. I am targeting a top 10 business school in the US for 2016 applications. Given my stronger orientation towards verbal, I am inclined to take the GRE in order to improve my score to submit a more competitive application. Would you think this is sensible decision? I will take a few diagnostic tests to get an actual feel of the GRE quant. One of my major issues with the GMAT quant has been timing….

    Thanks in advance!

  4. James November 24, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m submitting testing for an MBA.

    My GRE Score converts to the same score as my GMAT. However, the percentiles of my GRE are significantly better than those of my GMAT.

    Do you have any advice for this situation?

    Thank you for your time.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 4, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi James,

      That’s a good question, and the answer may depend on who is looking at your scores. Some programs weigh GMAT higher than the GRE–though they’ll never say so. In that case, you’d want to submit your GMAT scores, even if the percentile is not as impressive.

      Conversely, some schools may weigh the two equally, in which case the GRE would, perhaps, be the better test to submit. The only reason I say “perhaps” is some schools may be aware of the discrepancy and not accord greater status to the higher GRE percentiles.

      When in doubt, submit the GMAT scores. They tend to–even when the percentiles are taken into account–look stronger from a b-school point of view.

      Hope that helps (somewhat!) :)

  5. Gaurav November 24, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I am planning for MBA from US or UK next year and i am confused between both the exams. Can you help me in finding my best fit.
    Strong Areas: Reasoning,Quant,DI
    Weak Area : Grammar and Vocab

    Which one should i take ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 24, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Gaurav,

      Based on your strengths, I think GMAT would be a better fit, since a strong score on GMAT quant impresses b-schools a lot more than a strong score on GRE.

      Based on your weaknesses, you might want to stay away from the GRE. That said, vocabulary is very learnable, but you will have to put in a lot of time and effort. Finally, the Sentence Correction accounts for about a third of the GMAT verbal, where vocabulary is really a constant across the GRE verbal, except for a couple of logic-based questions.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Yazan October 22, 2014 at 2:43 am #


    Thank you for this article; it’s very helpful.

    I am planning to purse an MBA mainly in Canada or Spain, English is not my Mother tongue. I started 2 weeks ago studying for the GMAT but a friend recently recommended the GRE as he did both (twice GMAT) and got higher score in the GRE (once).

    After reading this article, looks like the GRE needs a great deal of vocabulary but the GMAT math side is harder. so what do you recommend ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 27, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      Hi Yazan,

      Presently, it seems that many international b-school programs only accept GMAT. You’d want to look into that before seriously considering the GRE :).

      If the programs you are interested in do accept the GRE, then you should try taking a mock GRE test (Powerprep test) and a mock GMAT. If the percentile rankings differ significantly, the choice is clear.

      As for prepping, the GMAT will require more rigorous quant studies; the GRE will be more vocab intensive.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Natasha October 4, 2014 at 4:57 am #

    Hi! I found your article of much help in understanding but I’m still confused wether to take a GRE or GMAT. I’m currently doing mathematics honours and want to go abroad for further studies.. I’m good at verbal English and also math but I think GRE offers wide choice to choose between whereas GMAT offers only MBA. And I cannot make up my mind wether to pursue a master’s degree or management. Please help. What would be more apt for me? Keeping in mind my bachelor’s degree in math.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 6, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Natasha,

      Taking the GRE may be the best for you, since, as you mentioned, it keeps many doors open. My only reservation is that some quant-heavy programs will still probably favor the GMAT over the GRE (even if they accept both). In other words, a 51Q on the GMAT is more impressive than a GRE 170 (at least that’s my guess).

      Hope that helps shed some light :)

      • Natasha October 6, 2014 at 11:50 am #

        Thanks for your reply Chris! Much help!

  8. priyanka September 4, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I went through this page. It was of great help.
    :) :)

  9. Paolo August 28, 2014 at 3:36 am #

    Hi all,

    I´m not agree with the article. I´m preparing for a MPA or an International Relations Master Program and in most of them accept GMAT too.

    Both GMAT and GRE are accepted in most of the Master degree of US, Harvard included.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Paolo,

      It seems that international institutes have been a bit slower to adopt the GRE–so you’re right: both the GRE and the GMAT are accepted in most US b-schools, but not in most international schools.

      Thanks for confirming this :)

  10. Ankita August 20, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    I just loved your write up. One of the best I’ve read from my searchings from past 6 months and seeing your replies i am hopeful I shall get a reply too.
    See I am very sure I want to do an MBA but am just off from college and wish to do so now.So I want to know whether getting a two years experience will be necessary/important or I should apply directly. As they are expensive exams I have to be very sure.
    Secondly, I am poor at complicated maths so I guess GRE will be easier but I don’t understand in multiple answers of a GRE question do I have to select all the three like in the question given above or choosing 1 or 2 of the rights will also be considered as the right answer?

  11. New member August 19, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    I still struggling with my issue.
    I am interested in applying to US, so that means GRE and GMAT are the only choices. So, far so good. But, I am indifferent between a few courses, like I want to apply to both MBA and Finance and select one when the admission is granted. I am not a native English speaker, so I think GRE would be a bit difficult. In case, I go for GMAT, would I still be able to apply for courses like Finance and Economics? Also, a quick questions, two students with same percentage score in GRE and GMAT with one seat available, who will be preferred?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 19, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      Hi New Member,

      Good questions! Though I’m not sure I’m really equipped to answer all of them :).

      So, the GMAT is ONLY good for b-school. If you want to do an MBA with a emphasis in finance, you are fine. If you want to get a masters in economics or finance (or a Ph.D. for that matter), then you can ONLY take the GRE. The GRE, however, is fine for b-school. As to who that final seat would go to? If it is a quant-heavy program, GMAT, probably. If it is a school that has long accepted the GRE (Harvard, Stanford), then the answer isn’t really clear.

      Hope that helps (at least somewhat :)).

      • new member August 20, 2014 at 2:54 am #

        Thanks a lot for your reply. It was significantly helpful. You are a genius.
        So, if I go for GMAT, MBA will be the only option for me. Right?
        On the other hand, GRE can take me to Masters in Finance and possibly MBA too. Correct?
        Thanks again for your help.

  12. Amanda August 18, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    I’ve heard that the scores for the GRE last for 5 years. I am not planning to start my MBA for a couple years still, but I would like to focus on preparing to take the test in the next 6 months or so. Do the scores for the GMAT last as long as the GRE? From what I have read on this page, I think I would do better with the GMAT. I would prefer to take that if my scores will still be valid in 2 years when I am applying for grad school. Let me know if you have any suggestions for me!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Amanda,

      Yes, GMAT scores also last 5 years. Since many MBA programs just started accepting GRE scores, the assumption is that they are accepting scores for the revised GRE (which debuted in Aug. 2011). If your GRE scores are from before that time, I would recommend definitely taking the GMAT. Since you sound stronger at the GMAT this shouldn’t hopefully be a bad thing :).

  13. Omair August 5, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    Hi there!
    It was really helpful but I am still confused with GRE and GMAT because I am preparing the GMAT for the last two months and now I realize that if I had gone for GRE I can apply to any program locally and international so can someone help me with this?
    As I am good in english grammer then vocabulary and not good in math. But GMAT has few parts in verbal and quantitative section.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 6, 2014 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Omair,

      If you are already prepping for GMAT, taking a GRE practice test shouldn’t be too bad. Get a sense of what you percent rankings are. With the GRE, doing better might largely come down to vocabulary and reading more advanced texts (The Atlantic and The New Yorker). Ending up taking both tests will give you a lot more options. And you might do significantly better on one test, something you can only know by having a go at both.

      Hope that helps :)

  14. Sufyan August 4, 2014 at 3:24 am #

    I want to apply in Business courses,and don’t have much grip over my Maths abilities. Which test should I take? And please tell me that whether Business Schools will accept GRE?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 4, 2014 at 12:08 pm #


      Most business schools will accept the GRE. Some say that certain schools may weigh the GMAT more than the GRE, but that is hard to substantiate. So if your math is shaky and you have strong vocabulary/reading skills, I’d recommend the GRE.

      Good luck :)

  15. John July 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm #


    Where did you get that a 326 combined GRE score is 90th percentile? I haven’t found any published information about percentiles for combined scores, but 326 seems too high (based on the published information about percentiles for math and verbal and reasonable estimates of correlation between the two sections).

  16. Animish June 23, 2014 at 4:42 am #

    The cost for GRE is now $195; not $185.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 23, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks for that helpful update :)

  17. Non native speaker May 27, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    apologies and little correction here:

    So if asked for non native speaker students, GMAT is easier coz, this test puts us in relatively equal position with native speakers as higher standard of language and vocabulary is not required.

    • Margarette
      Margarette May 27, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      Thank you for both of your comments :). We have a lot of non-native students for bot the GRE and the GMAT, and we haven’t really found that either one is universally easier for them! It really depends on your strength: some non-native English speakers are better at learning and applying grammar rules (GMAT), and others are better at learning and using vocabulary words (GRE). Additionally, the students who are stronger in Math tend to favor the GMAT, since the GMAT has more difficult math content and they can really let their talents shine. So I would say you should evaluate your individual strengths, since there really isn’t a test that’s easier for non-native speakers. I hope that helps! :)

      • Non native speaker May 28, 2014 at 1:40 am #

        Thank you Margarette. Personally, I agree with your comment. But seeing from different perspective the admission process is competitive. In my view it is like giving same exam paper to 10th grade and 8th grade students in case of GRE. But in case of GMAT, Math is universal and basically it is a matter of understanding the question correctly.

        Also I must admit that the discussion here is giving me lots of color on what i should do however, can i ask you and other guys one more question. While going through different information in the internet, I am getting sense that the B-schools prefer to receive GMAT score rather than GRE score even though they do not openly state it. Does this information have any merit? My intention is just to make sure I do not miss any chance. Below is one of the couple of examples i found.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele May 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

          Hi, I just thought I’d chime in here :).

          I think that post had some merit at the time (I remember reading it on GMAT Hacks a few years back). Since then, the GRE has become more popular amongst b-schools and is now an inevitable piece of any b-school decision: which test should I take?

          I’d say your main focus should be determine via a mock test which test you perform better at in terms of percentile. If you score about the same, then take the test you feel you will be able to improve out more readily. Do you like studying vocabulary? Are you stronger at quant? That sort of thing.

          Good luck!

  18. Non native speaker May 27, 2014 at 6:46 am #

    Hi guys,

    Looks like you guys having good forum here. I have been googling about it and spent whole week for deciding which test to take. So, reading through all the stuffs, my first impression is:

    The both exams are designed for native speakers as i understand and English is not my mother tongue. So if asked for non native speaker students, GMAT is easier coz, this test puts us in relatively equal position with native speakers as higher standard of language and vocabulary is required.

    Please kindly comment if i am wrong or anything to be added.

  19. Sanyam Kaushik May 25, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Very helpful info. And the best thing is that, a lot of information about the two has been covered very briefly and effectively…..

    • Margarette
      Margarette May 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks, Sanyam! I’m glad you liked it! :)

  20. beth May 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    couldn’t decide on which one to take this helped a lot!!

    • Margarette
      Margarette May 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi, Beth! I’m glad we could help! :)

  21. Flynn May 11, 2014 at 4:10 am #

    Thanks a lot Chris.. The details and visual explanations did make things very simple and cleared all possible doubt !

    A question tough : As I am planning to pursue my MSc in Hospitality & Operations Management GRE is the best option right? I have checked with the University, they have left the option to me either GRE or GMAT ? Please advice.

    Once again a BIG thank you and god bless !!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 12, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      Hi Flynn,

      Glad the infographic was helpful!

      Regarding your question: take whichever test you feel more comfortable at. If you are very strong at math, then that may be the GMAT. If you like vocabulary and reading passages, then the GRE is the test for you.

      Good luck, and hope that helps :)

      • Sreejeta June 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

        Hi Chris:

        I am contemplating business school for myself and was collecting all kinds of useful study resources for GMAT. I have never been great in standardized tests, esp. the GRE and during graduate school I didn’t really get a good score(although a respectable one to get through school….thankfully) :) .
        Now with GMAT I definitely want to devote my time productively to get through a reputable business management evening school.
        Based on your tutoring experience, do you think a bad GRE past score has ever showed any correlation or relativity with a GMAT performance .

        My maths is not that great, can you suggest some good study resources to survive the GMAT. Also what does Magoosh has to offer in Integrated reasoning?

        Thanks a lot in advance.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

          Hi Sreejata,

          I would say there is a little bit of correlation. But people do change. And knowing that you can do significantly better on this test can actually make a big difference :).

          That said, the GMAT does have a more difficult math section. As long as you work hard, and prep with more vigor than when you took the GRE, I’m sure you can make significant improvements.

          Magoosh does offer Integrated Reasoning. We’ve got quite a few questions, so you’ll have plenty of practice.

          I hope that helps, and let me know if you have any more GMAT-related questions :)

  22. Vishal April 18, 2014 at 8:10 am #


    Magoosh has been of great help. I hope to sign up soon. Keep up the great work. :)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 18, 2014 at 10:31 am #

      Thanks, Vishal :)

  23. Kamal March 25, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    Great Blog! Understood everything about GRE vs. GMAT in 10 mins :D

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 26, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Awesome! I’m happy this infographic is resonating with others. It really simplifies things :).

      • Lily December 26, 2014 at 10:47 am #

        Hi Chris, I took GRE for my current master program at Stanford. I did only Okay (160/162) and am thinking about a dual MBA/JD program in the future (will go to work for a couple years after I graduate from Stanford). I know that I should finish all tests while I’m still at school. So I’m just wondering should I retake my GRE or consider taking GMAT if my targets are Stanford, Harvard, etc.. I would say that I’m equally good (or bad:) at quant and verbal. Thank you so much!!!

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