Which Exam Is Tougher: GMAT Or The New GRE?


Most institutions will accept two entry exams: the Graduate Record Examinations General Test, or GRE, or the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT.

You have the option to choose either the GMAT or GRE and highlight one to showcase your academic potential.

Naturally, your first question might be, “Well, which one is more difficult?” Wouldn’t you want to take the easier test? The answer is slightly more complicated. The two exams are similar in most ways but have significant differences in specific skill sets.

What’s it Like Taking the GMAT?

For many students hoping to gain admission into a business school, taking the GMAT or Graduate Management Admission Test are the first step. The GMAT is a test measuring your understanding of algebra, arithmetic, grammar, and geometry, as well as critical thinking.

While the exam does consist of multiple-choice questions, there are also sections for analytical writing and communication assessment, integrated reasoning and data interpretation, quantitative mathematical abilities and literacy, and verbal reasoning of comprehension and editing skills.

The writing assessment section is scored from zero to six in half-point increments. The reasoning section is scored from one to eight, in one-point increments. The last two sections have a scaled score from zero to sixty, combined for a 200-800 scale score, with ten-point increments. The combined score is distinct from the writing and reasoning scores.

The test is computer-based and adaptive, in the sense that the computer either increases or decreases the difficulty of Quantitative and Verbal questions based on your answers. The test starts each section with a medium difficulty question, and students cannot go back once they begin.

GMAT – A Business Decision

Completing the GMAT is typically a requirement for earning a Master of Business Administration degree. The Graduate Management Admission Council administers the test, which is made to ensure that students adhere to an international standard of graduate-level academic work.

Whenever students apply to a business school, their GMAT exam is evaluated to make sure they can handle the difficult task of completing an MBA program.

If you’re going to take the MBA-friendly GMAT test, prepare for 12 questions for integrated reasoning, 37 questions for quantitative abilities, 41 verbal questions, and a 30-minute essay for writing. The exam lasts approximately three and a half hours. For more information about GMAT self study, check out our reviews of the best GMAT prep books you can buy today.

What’s It Like Taking the (New) GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is similar, it being a predecessor to business or graduate school. Like the GMAT, the GRE is a computer-based standardized exam, usually required for admission into MBA programs, and adheres to an international standard.

The GRE General Test has multiple choice questions, as well as a user-friendly design that lets you skip questions, go back and change answers, and choose the questions you want to answer first before moving to more difficult sections.

The GRE test also measures the same components: writing, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning, which are important for various fields and business careers; hence, the GRE General Test distinction.

The main difference between the two tests is that the Educational Testing Service administered the GRE and first established in 1936, compared to the GMAT, which was established in 1954. Prometric Testing authorizes the GRE computer test.

The test has six components: writing, two verbal reasoning sections, two quantitative reasoning sections, and an experimental/research section. The last section does not count towards the student’s overall score.

The test consists of twenty questions for verbal reasoning, twenty for quantitative reasoning, two timed tasks for analytical writing, one “analyze an argument” task and variable tasks for the experimental section. Don’t miss our roundup review of the best GRE study prep books available right now.

The New GRE Gives Students a Break

The GRE is now a multistage adaptive test, where the difficulty increases or decreases according to answers. However, the difference between the GMAT’s adaptive exam and the GRE is that the GRE is adaptive by section, not question by question.

Recent overhauls to the “New GRE” included a new grading scale (130-170), new adaptive questioning, longer testing time, and enhanced focus on reasoning and critical thinking. Other changes included an online calculator and the elimination of questions related to antonyms and analogies.

The test takes approximately three hours and forty-five minutes.

What Are the Key Differences Between GMAT and New GRE?

Firstly, the GMAT exam is more beneficial for students hoping to attend business school. In contrast, GRE works for many careers – even if you haven’t decided on your graduate program yet.

In terms of school preference, 93 percent of surveyed schools (by Kaplan Test Prep) stated that applicants could submit GRE scores instead of GMAT scores. When asked if GMAT was preferred over GRE, 88 percent stated that GMAT students have a slight advantage. However, the majority of schools state that either exam is acceptable, and there are no preferences.

Is the GMAT More Difficult Than the New GRE?

The two exams are similar in some respects, especially in structure and format. However, when students on Quora were asked about difficulty levels, some said that the GRE has more complicated questions


In the verbal section of the test, students claim the GRE has questions with rarely used words, which could stumble non-native English speakers. Comparatively, the GMAT is more concerned about proper grammar and not so much on vocabulary.


For mathematics, some have found that GMAT is more business-centric, asking for questions on numbers and equations, whereas GRE is more focused on geometry. For data interpretation, GMAT is naturally more complex than the GRE because of the business focus.

GMAT’s focus appeals to accountants, engineers, and business trainees more so than the GRE because GRE applicants could easily choose a field less concerned with business training and more specialized study in a humanities field. According to the Princeton Review, the GRE math section is more straightforward, and they even provide an online calculator for help.


The quantitative section of the GMAT is also said to be more difficult than the GRE. The GMAT has more analytical and critical thinking-oriented challenges that some students will enjoy, but others may find it difficult.


The GRE requires two tasks in the writing section, compared to the GMAT’s one essay in 30 minutes requirement. The GRE requires two essays, with thirty minutes for each task. If you enjoy philosophy, critical thinking, and picking arguments apart, you will excel at the GMAT verbal section.

The GRE also lets you preview questions in a passage before you read, unlike the GRE, which requires students to only answer questions one at a time. If you plan on preparing for your exam, some believe the GMAT is easier to study since there are fewer practice questions and tests for the GRE.

In conclusion:

Students Said of GRE:Students Said of GMAT:
More vocabulary questionsMore concerned with grammar rules
You can handle numbers at high-school level mathYou’re not afraid of puzzles and are comfortable with core math concepts
You can use an online calculator to solve problemsNope
Skip questions and back to them later
No skipping – read fast and answer quickly

Contemplate Your Future

While some believe the GMAT is more rigid and traditional, others still feel that the GRE presents its unique challenges, and in some ways, it asks even more of the student.

The logical thing to do is to spend some time considering your future and the career field that calls to your passion in life. Prospective students could even ask their target institution for guidance on which exam is more appropriate for their educational path.

While there may be limited options to take official practice questions from the two institutes, you can get help from a college prep course online and gain an advantage.

Was this article helpful? Share it!
Michelle Tsou

Contributor at ExamCave. Michelle graduated with a BA in English from Portland State University. She hopes to one day run her own test-prep organization.