Back in October of last year, ETS (the GMAC of the GRE) posted an important press release on its website regarding the increasing popularity of the revised GRE for business school admissions: http://www.ets.org/newsroom/news_releases/gre_acceptance.
Now that MBA programs at top schools like Stanford and Harvard are accepting GRE scores as well, many students are weighing the relative difficulty of the two exams, especially for the Quantitative sections.
Both the GRE and the GMAT test math. What’s the difference? There’s a lot to consider when assessing the GRE versus the GMAT. Well, first of all, the GRE is a more verbal test — after all, it’s a test for poets and literary critics, people who live for obscure words and impenetrably sophisticated phrasing. Correspondingly, the GRE has a truly stratospheric level of vocabulary. By contrast, vocabulary is not a huge issue on the GMAT. The GMAT is for folks going to business school, so it tends to have more difficult math than does the GRE. Someone with stronger verbal skills might therefore contemplate taking the GRE for business school, but if you choose this somewhat unconventional path, you should check whether each school on your list accepts the GRE.
The question formats
Part of the difference on the Quant sections of these two tests involves questions of different formats. Both feature five-choice multiple choice questions — no surprise here, as every standardized test in your life since before puberty has featured these same questions! Beyond that common format, the tests diverge. The GRE features a three specialized math question formats: Quantitative Comparison, Multiple Answer, and Numerical Entry; each of these demands a slightly different set of skills, so overall, studying for GRE math involves great intellectual agility.
The GMAT, on the other hand, has a unique math question format: Data Sufficiency. This question, using basic math as the subject matter, tests skills that are pertinent to the delegating mindset of a good manager. In addition to the Quant section, the GMAT also demands math-type skills in a whole other section: the GMAT Integrated Reasoning. Studying for GMAT math involves learning these questions types as well as the demands of the sections.
In addition to the format of individual questions, there’s another important different in the format of the test overall. The GMAT Quant section employs Computer Adaptive Testing: as you move through the section, the difficulty of the questions will dynamically adjust to how you are doing. If you are doing very well, you get harder questions on average, and if you are struggling, you get easier questions. This has the direct consequence: once you answer a GMAT math question, it’s gone forever — you can’t go back to it. By contrast, the GRE gives you a whole Quant section at once, fixed once you get it, so you can jump around, skip questions and come back to them later.
The content of the Quant sections
There is tremendous overlap in the content of the GRE and GMAT Quant sections. Both test basic number properties, fundamental algebra & geometry, and basic probability. The GMAT goes a little more in depth with difficult algebra (e.g. variables to powers) as well as with word problems about rates, mixtures, work, and interest. Percents are huge on the GMAT, because they are huge in the business world. The GRE has Data Interpretation questions mixed into the Quant section, so a GRE Quant section will have more on graphs and charts than will the GMAT Quant section — but, then again, the GMAT test taker will see that material on the GMAT Integrated Reasoning section.
Anyone studying for one of these tests could certainly gain some insight from the practice materials for the other. If you haven’t done math since some time in high school, you have a good deal of math to relearn for either test, and with the right test prep material, you should master the Quant you need to know!
This article originally appeared at http://howtomba.com/a-tale-of-