Navigating Your MBA Journey: Choosing Between the GRE and GMAT

Stanford University

Embarking on the path to business school is an exhilarating venture filled with critical decisions, one of which is selecting the right entrance exam. In the realm of MBA admissions, whether to take the GRE or GMAT has become a question almost every applicant considers.

This comprehensive guide is tailored to help you, a prospective business school student, navigate this decision with clarity and confidence.

Understanding the GRE and GMAT

First, let’s demystify these two exams:

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test): Crafted explicitly for business school applicants, the GMAT is owned and administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC. The GMAT evaluates analytical, quantitative, logic, and reading skills in business-oriented contexts.

GRE (Graduate Record Examination): Is owned and administered by the Education Testing Service ETS. The GRE serves a broader array of graduate programs, including business and some law school and tests your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills.

Choosing between these tests can influence your MBA application journey profoundly. Here’s what you should consider:

What Are Your Personal Preferences?

Committed to an MBA or considering other options? The GRE is your ticket if you’re eyeing multiple graduate programs besides an MBA. Its scores are widely accepted across various disciplines.

Section vs. question adaptability? The GRE is section adaptive, which allows you to mark, skip, and change as many answers as you see fit within a section. The GMAT is question adaptive. That means you must submit an answer before proceeding to the next question. You are allowed to flag questions for review and may go back and change answers on the GMAT, but you must complete the section first, and you can only change your answers to a maximum of three questions. Given these differences, the flexibility of the GRE might align better with your test-taking style.

Math or verbal? Are you more comfortable on the math or verbal side of the aisle? The GRE tends to be better suited for those whose strengths lean towards verbal reasoning. The text complexity and vocabulary of the GRE are quite difficult to navigate, especially for non-native English speakers. Furthermore, the GRE, unlike the GMAT, provides an on-screen calculator (its helpfulness is debatable 😅) for its quant section. On the flipside, if your strengths lie in quantitative reasoning and data analysis, then the GMAT’s intense Quantitative and Data Insights sections might be more up your alley.

Can you take either test?: Nowadays, it’s almost unheard of for a business program to have a preference for the GMAT over the GRE. Thus, your choice of school will unlikely limit your test options. However, it’s always wise to check the preferred tests for your target programs.

Essay vs. no essay? GRE test-takers will begin their tests with a 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). GMAT test-takers will not have to compose an essay as the GMAT does not include an AWA.

(Slightly) shorter or longer exam?: The GRE takes just under two hours and consists of one essay, two Verbal Reasoning sections and two Quantitative Reasoning sections. The GMAT takes just over two hours and consists of one Verbal reasoning, one Quantitative reasoning, and one Data Insights section.

The Deciding Factors for Your business School Journey

Self-Assessments: To truly know whether you should opt for the GRE or GMAT, put yourself to the test, literally! Practice tests can be a goldmine of insight. Your comfort with each test’s format and questions should play a significant role in your decision. Of course, you want to be sure to take high-quality practice tests like Magoosh’s Free GRE practice test and Magoosh’s Free GMAT practice test, which closely mimic the official exams.

Preparation Strategy: Take an honest look at your study habits, how much time you have to devote to study, and whether you are already someone who is more comfortable with verbal versus quantitative subject matter. The requisite time commitment, your access to preparation resources, and applicable test-taking strategies might align better with one test’s structure over the other.

Alumni and Network Insights: Speaking with current students or alumni about their experiences and how their test choice impacted their MBA journey can provide valuable perspectives.


Your decision between the GRE and GMAT should be informed by a deep understanding of each test’s nuances and how they align with your strengths as a test taker. Whether you choose the GRE’s flexibility or the GMAT’s business-oriented focus, your decision is a step toward realizing your MBA dreams.

Here’s to making an informed choice that paves the way for your success in business school!

Happy studying, and best of luck on your MBA journey!


  • Linnea Newman

    Over the last 15 years, Linnea has worked with students of all ages and abilities in the U.S. and abroad, trained new teachers for the classroom, and written curricula for various test types. Her past experience includes tutoring TOEFL, ISEE, SSAT, ACT, SAT, GRE, LSAT, and GMAT students for The Princeton Review and working as the Director of Instruction Management for The Princeton Review Taipei. Her expertise runs the gamut of standardized tests, but there’s a special place in her heart for the verbal and essay components. Looking for a way to help more students, especially those who were unable to afford access to expensive test prep programs, Linnea joined Magoosh in 2019. She is a member of the Content Team, who connects with students as a blog contributor and through various lessons and other content on the Magoosh platform.

More from Magoosh