Have you decided to pursue your post-graduate studies abroad? If yes, congratulations! However, those who plan to apply only for an MBA program might be still debating between the choices of entrance tests available — GMAT and GRE— for the admissions to business programmes. To decide on an exam in which you can perform well, you must first understand the key differences between GMAT and GRE syllabus.

This article will provide a comparative analysis of these two exams and explain the key differences between them. 

GMAT vs GRE – Key Differences

When deciding between the GMAT and GRE, it is integral to have detailed knowledge on the purpose, format and structure of both the exams. This will help you avoid confusion and make the right choice. To start with, here’s an overview of GMAT and GRE Exams.

  • GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardised multiple-choice entrance test required for admissions to business schools across the globe. The exam, administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is computer-adaptive, which means each question you answer correctly or incorrectly determines the difficulty level of the following question. Every year more than two-lakh aspirants like you (including working professionals and students) appear for the exam. This, along with the quality of the questions asked, makes the GMAT exam hard to crack. Besides, the syllabus and the questions of the test is consciously designed to assess your critical thinking and reasoning skills. Hence, performing well in the exam can improve the chances of your admissions to business schools.

  • GRE

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardised computer-based entrance test created and controlled by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to measure your academic readiness for graduate school programs (including business and law). GRE has two test formats — General Test and Subject Test. While the General Test syllabus mainly focuses on general topics such as analytical writing assessment, verbal ability, and quantitative reasoning, subject tests measure your knowledge in a specific field of study. Besides, the level of importance on the scores varies among the colleges and departments within the schools. 

Given below is a table to help you understand the significant differences between GRE and GMAT.

Features GMAT GRE
Purpose of Test Required for admissions to business schools (especially for MBA) Required for  admissions to a wide variety of graduate school programs (including business programs)
How many schools accept the test? Over 7,000 business programs at 2,300 universities around the world Accepted at thousands of graduate schools and universities
Test Format Computer-adaptive Computer-adaptive (section wise)
Test Structure Four sections — Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning Three sections — Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning
Test Duration 3 hours 30 minutes (including two optional 8-minutes breaks) 3 hours 45 minutes (with a 10-minute break following the third section)
How is it scored? Total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800, in 10-point increments Each section is scored separately. It cannot be combined to form a total score
Test Dates Year-round Year-round
Test Fee $ 250  (INR 18400 approx) $ 205 (NR 14965 approx)
Score Validity 5 years 5 years
Number of Attempts Five attempts in a rolling 12-month period (twice for online exam) and no more than eight times in lifetime. However, there should be a gap of 16 days between the retakes  Once in every 21 days, for up to five times within a rolling 12-month period
Online version Available Available

GMAT Syllabus

GMAT tests your skills in four areas —  Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. 

Here’s a detailed explanation of the four GMAT sections.

1 . Analytical Writing Assessment – The Analytical Writing Assessment section or AWA tests your ability to think critically and convey your ideas through an English essay. For this, you must write an essay by analysing a given argument. The question could be based on any topic — related to business, or a variety of other subjects of general interest. However, specific knowledge of the argument topic is not mandatory, as the section only assesses your analytical writing skills. The score range for the section is 0-6, with increments of 0.5. 

2 . Integrated Reasoning –  Integrated Reasoning consists of 12 questions designed to measure your ability to evaluate data presented in multiple formats. The question presents data in different formats — graphics, text, and numbers, etc. You need to use your critical thinking and logical reasoning skills to interpret data and derive meaningful conclusions from it. However, you only get 30 minutes to complete this section. The questions are categorised into four types:

  • Multi-Source Reasoning – The questions in this section are presented in the form of text, tables, graphics or combinations of three. By carefully analyzing the data presented in multiple sources, you must determine whether the provided data is relevant to answer the questions. Besides this, the questions may also ask you to identify discrepancies among the given information or draw inferences from them.
  • Graphics Interpretation – Graphics Interpretation questions measure your ability to interpret the data and make inferences from them. The questions are followed by two statements with multiple options to choose from. Here, you have to interpret the information presented in the form of graphical representation (scatter plot, x/y graph, bar chart, pie chart, or statistical curve distribution) to answer the questions asked based on them. 
  • Table Analysis – Here, the questions are asked based on the data given in tabular format. You must sort and analyze tabular data, similar to a spreadsheet, to decide whether the provided information is sufficient to answer the questions and meets certain conditions. 
  • Two-part Analysis – The format of the questions asked in this section are structured in a versatile way to cover a wide range of content. It could be quantitative, verbal, or a combination of both. Your ability to solve complex problems, such as simultaneous equations and discerning relationships between two entities is measured here. 

The scoring for this section is on a scale of 1-8, with a one-point increment.

3 . Quantitative Reasoning – The Quant section of GMAT evaluates your ability to analyse graphic data, reason mathematically, and solve quantitative problems. The questions are mostly based on high school level mathematics. Hence, you can easily score high in Quant by practising and revising the basics. Besides, you get 62 minutes to complete 31 questions. These Quant questions are of two types:

  • Problem-solving – These multiple-choice questions assess your ability to solve mathematical problems using your logical and analytical reasoning skills. The questions follow a traditional format, where you are expected to solve the problems and choose the best answer from the options.
  • Data sufficiency – The Data Sufficiency questions aim to measure your ability to analyse a Quant problem, recognise if the given data is relevant, and determine if it is sufficient to solve the problem. Each question presents a problem followed by a question and two statements. You must apply your knowledge of math and real-life facts, to determine whether the questions can be answered with the provided data.

The scoring range for the Quant section lies within 6-51, with 1 point increment.

4 . Verbal Reasoning – The 36 multiple-choice questions from this section measures your ability to read, comprehend and critically analyze an argument or written material. You get 65 minutes to complete this section that mainly asks 3 types of questions: 

  • Reading Comprehension – These questions assess your ability to read and comprehend the words and statements from a passage. It also tests your ability to understand the logical relationships between the points in the passage, draw inferences from them, and follow the development of quantitative concepts incorporated in the text. Here, your ability to read and understand the main and supporting idea, the logical structure, style, etc. of the passage is measured. Besides, the topics of the written discourse could be anything, ranging from social sciences and humanities to physical and biological sciences, or a business-related field. 
  • Sentence Correction – Sentence Correction questions test your language proficiency in two categories — Correct Expression and Effective Expression. Here, your ability to identify grammatically correct sentences is measured. If there’s an error in the sentence, you must also fix it in the best way. Each question presents a sentence, part or all of which is underlined, followed by five answer choices. By paying attention to grammar and structure, you must choose the option that produces the most effective sentence.
  • Critical Reasoning – Critical Reasoning questions measure your ability to create and evaluate arguments and formulate a plan of action. Each question provides a passage — usually of 100 words or fewer— with a question and five answer choices. By critically analysing the text, you have to choose the best answer choice that strengthens or weakens the argument, strongly supports or damages it or tells why it is flawed.

The section is scored within a range of 6-51, with one-point increment.

GRE Syllabus

GRE evaluates your interest and intelligence based on the six sections —  one Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) with two tasks, two Verbal Reasoning sections, two Quantitative Aptitude sections and an unidentified/unscored section. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Aptitude of GRE are section-level adaptive, which means the computer selects the second section from each part based on your performance in the first section. Unlike other competitive exams such as the GMAT, GRE lets you skip the questions within a section, go back and change the answers later. Besides, you can also choose the questions within a section you want to answer first in this test. 

Let’s have a look at the sections included in GRE.

1. Analytical Writing – GRE Analytical Writing — which always appears as the first section in the paper — is designed to measure your critical thinking and analytical writing skills. This section consists of two separate 30 minutes writing tasks, and each task tests your ability to articulate and support complex ideas. Besides, it also tests how well you construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion. The tasks are of two types:

  • Analyze an Issue – This task tests how well you critically think about a topic of general interest and express your thoughts in writing. Each Issue topic presents a claim that can be discussed from various perspectives or applied to different conditions. It is followed by specific instructions on how to address it. You must evaluate the issue based on the instructions, write a response based on your thoughts on the issue, and provide reasons or evidence to support your response. 
  • Analyze an Argument – This task measures your ability to understand, interpret and evaluate arguments. It also tests how effectively you convey your evaluations based on these arguments in writing. For this, each topic provides a brief passage in which the author makes a case for some course of action or interpretation of events by presenting claims backed by reasons and evidence. You must critically examine the reasons and evidence presented to support the author’s claim and write whether the claim is logically correct. 

Both these tasks are complementary. The first task allows you to construct an argument and provide evidence to support your view, while the other requires you to analyse someone else’s argument by assessing and evaluating its claims and evidence. This section is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 point increments. 

2. Quantitative Ability –  The Quantitative Reasoning section of GRE consists of two sections with four question types. You’ll get 35 minutes to complete 20 questions (from each section). Here, the questions aim to assess your basic mathematical skills and  your ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems — mainly from Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry and Data Analysis. There are 4 types of questions asked that could be either from a real-life setting or based on pure mathematics. However, you can easily ace this section by revising and practising all your high-school level mathematics. 

  • Quantitative Comparison Questions – Each Quantitative Comparison question presents two quantities; sometimes accompanied by a diagram, coordinates, an equation, or a short description centring around the quantities given. You must carefully compare the two quantities and select one of four possible answer choices.
  • Multiple-choice Questions (Select One Answer ) – These are classic multiple-choice questions; the type which you might have seen in other competitive exams. Here you are given a question (word problems, equations and more). By solving that, you must select one answer from the five answer choices. 
  • Multiple-choice Questions ( Select One or More Answer) – This section is more complicated than the usual MCQ questions as you have to  select more than one answer. Here, you will get credit only if all your selected answers are correct. Besides, some questions specify how many answers to pick, while others leave that up to you. 
  • Numeric Entry Questions – GRE Numeric Entry questions have no answer choices. Instead, you have to type the correct answer in the box given. If your answer is an integer or a decimal, you must type it in a single box, and if it is a fraction, you’ll be given two separate boxes — one for the numerator and one for the denominator. 

Apart from these four question types, the Quantitative section of GRE has a set of questions called the Data Interpretation set. Each question from the set is based on the same data presented in tables, graphs or any other data representation. Here, the types of problems asked may be Multiple-choice (both types) or Numeric Entry. You must interpret and analyse the data to find the correct answer. 

3. Verbal Reasoning – Verbal Reasoning, which consists of two sections, measures your ability to analyse and evaluate written discourse and integrate the information obtained from it. The questions from this section also assess your skill to recognise connections among parts of a sentence and relationships between words and concepts. You get 30 minutes to solve 20 questions from each section of GRE Verbal Reasoning. The questions are of 3 types:

  • Reading Comprehension – Reading Comprehension questions are designed to test a wide range of your abilities to read and understand written material like — the meaning of individual words and sentences, drawing conclusions from the information provided or summarising a passage. Each question from this section is based on a passage of one paragraph or more. The topic of the written discourse could be anything general, and you must answer the questions (MCQs, or any other type) by carefully reading the passage.  
  • Text Completion – Text Completion questions measure your ability to interpret a text, evaluate it and reason from what you have read so far. It also assesses how well you create an impression by reading the data given and continually revise it as you get more information. The questions feature a short passage with three to five sentences and with crucial words eliminated. You must fill in the blanks by selecting the most appropriate answer from the choices.
  • Sentence Equivalence – Each question from the sentence equivalence section consists of a single sentence with just one blank and six answer choices. You must choose the two best choices that fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce sentences of equivalent meaning.

The Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale of 130-170, in 1-point increments. 

Differences between GMAT and GRE Syllabus

Both GRE and GMAT have the same goal —  assessing skills necessary for graduate management programmes (such as MBA). However, before deciding on which test to take, ask yourself  questions like, which exam is more compatible with your skills, where is it accepted or which exam is more flexible etc. To find out which exam is suitable for you, you need to have a clear idea about the differences between GRE and GMAT syllabus.

Below is a basic comparison between the syllabus of these two exams. 

Verbal Section

The Verbal sections of the GMAT and GRE have some similarities. Both test your skills in Reading Comprehension. However, they differ in terms of content, format, and the way your skills are tested. The questions in GRE Verbal require you to draw conclusions from the given information, whereas, GMAT expects you to analyse the provided information in most of the cases. 

The two other question types in the verbal section of GMAT are Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning, whereas, in GRE, it is Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion. As we mentioned earlier, solving the GMAT verbal questions requires you to be well-versed with grammar and have critical thinking skills. Unlike GMAT, you could answer most of the questions in the GRE verbal section if you have a good English vocabulary. In short, GMAT verbal questions tend to place more emphasis on grammar while GRE questions are designed to test your expertise in vocabulary.

In comparison, the GRE verbal section is considered to be difficult as it includes challenging vocabulary and reading passages that could be hard for a non-native speaker to understand. 

Quantitative Aptitude

The quantitative sections of the GRE and GMAT are fairly similar in the concepts they cover. But, their approach to these concepts differs in more than one way. One of the prime differences between both exams is that GRE allows you to use a calculator during the exam, while GMAT does not.

Moreover, the questions from both the tests are based on your high school-level maths.  However, GMAT tends to focus more on your critical thinking and problem-solving skills while GRE asks straightforward questions like multiple choice or numeric entry, but the GRE’s scoring algorithm is complex. In the GRE, your performance in the first section decides the difficulty level of the whole second section. However, the GMAT is more flexible in that case as the difficulty level of each question changes based on your response to the previous question. 

The math questions in the GMAT exam are considered to be more advanced; hence, your  basics should be strong and you should have good logical skills to solve them. If your math skills are exceptional, we would recommend you take GMAT, as most of the business schools accept the test. However, the decision entirely depends on your comfort level. 

Analytical Writing Assessment

Both GMAT and GRE tests your writing skills in English. The major difference between the two lies in the number of tasks given. GMAT asks you to write one task based on a topic of general interest whereas GRE has two separate analytical writing tasks (analyse an issue and analyse a given argument). The time and effort required to complete this section in GRE and GMAT are more or less the same. 

To sum up, deciding whether the GMAT or GRE is the better option really depends on your skills and knowledge level. For this, you need to evaluate your skills, knowledge, and weaknesses, and compare that with the syllabus of both exams. This article will help you understand the differences between the GRE GMAT syllabus and help you decide which exam matches your capabilities. If you are planning to pursue an MBA degree, we would recommend you to take GMAT. On the other hand, if you are looking at a Masters in any other field of study, then the GRE is the test to take! However, as we have mentioned, the choice is yours and entirely depends on your requirement. This article is to help you understand both the GMAT and GRE syllabus and what differentiates one from the other.

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