How Does Scoring Differ Between the GMAT and the GRE?

SAT/ACT

It’s a new year, and thus a good time to undertake a new intellectual challenge. For me, this challenge will take the form of teaching new classes on GRE preparation. Because the test has changed so much over the years, I thought it might be interesting to delineate my impressions of the newer incarnation, both in terms of how the GRE differs from the GMAT and in terms of how the GRE has evolved over time.

Observation 1: The formats are different.

 The GRE has two Quantitative sections and two Verbal sections of 30 minutes each, while the GMAT has a single Quantitative section and a single Verbal section of 75 minutes each. Moreover, while the GMAT is adaptive by the question, the GRE is adaptive by section.  Do well on the first GRE Quantitative section and the entire next section will escalate in difficulty. (My impression: while the GRE does adjust from section to section, it does so in a way that feels significantly subtler than the GMAT exam.)

Observation 2: The two Quantitative sections on the GRE are much easier than the one Quantitative section on the GMAT.

This is typically the most conspicuous difference test-takers notice. In our GMAT courses, we have a skill-builder section that allows students to re-master the basics before delving into a discussion about the types of higher-order thinking the GMAT will require. In other words, it’s not enough to simply recall the various rules, axioms, and equations we’ve forgotten from high school – those foundational elements will need to be applied in creative ways. While the GRE does require some higher-order thinking, on many quantitative questions simply having the foundational skills is enough to arrive at the correct answer. The strategic element is more about how to arrive at these answers in a timely manner and how to avoid panicking on the few hairier questions that will likely come your way.

Moreover, in lieu of the GMAT’s dreaded Data Sufficiency questions, the GRE has Quantitative Comparison questions, in which a test-taker is asked to compare the relative magnitude of two quantities – it’s possible that one quantity is larger than the other, that the two quantities are equal, or that it’s not possible to determine which quantity is larger. After grappling with knotty Data Sufficiency questions, a test-taker is likely to find Quantitative Comparison to be blessedly straightforward. Better yet, the GRE will allow you to return to questions once you’ve answered them, granting test-takers more opportunities to weed out careless mistakes. If that weren’t enough, on the GRE, you’ll have access to an on-screen calculator. So there are perks.

Observation 3: The GRE’s scoring algorithm is much less forgiving than the GMAT’s.

Of course, there’s a rub. The GRE’s Quantitative section might be easier in terms of the difficulty level of the questions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easier to score well. If you’re able to ascend to the more difficult question levels on the GMAT, you can miss many of them and still do well. Not so on the GRE, where you need to be pretty close to perfect to achieve an elite score.

Observation 4:  The Verbal on the GRE can be trickier.

Like the GMAT, the GRE has a Reading Comprehension component. But unlike the GMAT, the GRE questions will often ask you to select “all that apply,” meaning that you may need to select as many as three correct assertions in order to receive credit for a question. Select two of the three? You get the question wrong. No partial credit. And while the GRE doesn’t have any Sentence Correction questions, it does have Sentence Completion questions, and these questions often come down to either recognizing somewhat obscure vocabulary words or utilizing more familiar words in less familiar ways.

Ultimately, in my experience, most test-takers will score at comparable percentile levels if they were to take both exams. Choosing which test is better for you might be a question of fit or comfort more than anything else. And while there’s a fair amount of overlap between the two exams, they feel different enough that you wouldn’t want to prepare for one and simply assume that you’re ready for the other. Each test has its own strategic texture and its own idiosyncrasies, so you want to be sure that you’ve worked through a curriculum specifically designed for the test in question before you sit for the exam.

Regardless of whether you take the GMAT or GRE, Veritas Prep is committed to helping you prepare to do your best on test day! Jump start your prep by taking advantage of Veritas Prep’s various free GMAT resources and free GRE resources to determine which test is right for you.


This article was written by Veritas Prep instructor David Goldstein. Be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter for more helpful articles like these!