Now that over 7,000 MBA programs worldwide accept GRE scores, you may be seriously debating just which test to take: the GRE or the GMAT. Crucial to the GMAT vs. GRE decision is which test will allow you to put your best academic foot forward. Indeed, you may be wondering exactly how the two tests differ in terms of the verbal section.
Grammar vs. Vocabulary
At a very high level, the main differences between the two tests can be summed up as grammar vs. vocabulary.
The GMAT stresses grammar; there is a section called Sentence Correction, in which you have to spot the grammatical errors and choose an answer that is free of any such mistakes. Oftentimes getting a good GMAT verbal score means being good at grammar.
The GRE verbal, on the other hand, relies heavily on vocabulary. Half of the twenty questions in each verbal section require filling in the blank(s) with the correct word. Even the reading comprehension on the GRE focuses more on vocabulary. A special type of question call “vocabulary-in-context” requires you to replace a word in the passage with the answer choice that is most similar in meaning. Having a strong vocabulary means you are well on your way to a good GRE verbal score.
I should mention that GRE vocabulary can be technical and esoteric. Knowing the word ‘esoteric’, for example, isn’t the same as knowing far more difficult words, such as ‘benighted’ and ‘portentous.’
As for GMAT vocabulary–this doesn’t mean that you can get by with shoddy vocabulary. But if you made it through undergraduate courses you should have no trouble with GMAT verbal section.
The Reading Comprehension
Overall, the reading comprehension section doesn’t differ too much between the two tests. The GRE reading comprehension offers a little more variety. The passages can be anywhere between 90 words and 450 words. There are a few question types as well. For instance, one question has three answer choices, any of which can be correct. Meaning, all three could be correct, or only one (for the non-math inclined this works out to a 1:7 odds of guessing correctly).
The GMAT passages—like those found on the GRE—come from a wide variety of fields. The five-answer multiple choice is only one question type. And even here the range of the questions isn’t as vast as that found on the GRE. You’ll mostly get main idea questions, inference questions, and line reference questions.
The Critical Reasoning
The real major difference between the two tests is that a question type on the GRE reading comprehension that plays only a bit part—the paragraph argument—gets an entire section. This difference should not be underestimated. Paragraph argument questions are tough. The GRE will only have a sprinkling of them (about four per test), whereas an entire section on GMAT—Critical Reasoning—is devoted to the paragraph argument. You’ll see as many as fifteen test day. (In the GMAT vs. LSAT department, the LSAT has fifty paragraph argument questions).
My advice: if you dread these questions—and many do—then you might seriously want to consider taking the GRE (given you don’t have an equal aversion for vocabulary).
There are significant differences between the GMAT and GRE verbal section. If grammar is not your thing, or you excel at vocabulary, taking the GRE for an MBA is probably the right decision.