Is the GMAT or GRE easier? Comparing the Difficulty of GMAT and GRE

by Maximilian Claessens
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Is the GMAT or GRE easier - Comparing the Difficulty of GMAT and GRE

If you’re someone who’s ready to start applying for masters degree programs, then you’ve probably already looked into the viability of both the GMAT and GRE university entrance exams. You probably already know the logical details about how the exams are structured and why each is beneficial for different reasons depending on your field of study and career goals.
But there’s one question that not a lot of people take the time to answer, and it might be the most important question of all: Which exam is easier? Is the GMAT or GRE easier? We all want to make the smartest choices, but with the stress of everyday life and pressure from family, responsibilities, work, and study, sometimes we just need to know which option is going to make life simpler. So let’s take the time now to discuss each exam and finally come to a conclusion once and for all about which is the easier option.

English Skills

If you struggle with English or are not a native speaker, then the point has to go to the GMAT as the easier option. The GRE focuses on testing vocabulary, whereas the GMAT is far more focused on grammar. This is important because it relates to how efficiently you can study both of these areas of focus. Let’s say that you study hard and add fifty words to your English vocabulary, or you use the same study time to learn 20 rules of grammar. Those grammar rules are far more applicable across all of English than those fifty words, which may not come into use in the exam at all. If you’re not working with an excellent or native grasp of English, then you’re definitely going to find the GMAT an easier exam for these reasons[1].

Math Skills

The quantitative portion of the exam focuses on math, and again, there is a large difference between how each exam chooses to focus on this area of study. The GRE is geared towards people who will be either double majoring in business with another area of study or those who aren’t studying business at all. Because of this, the exam keeps the math portion light and focuses on math skills you may already be familiar with, such as general geometry and straightforward math problems. The GMAT, however, is exclusively business-focused and assumes that you’ll need an excellent grasp of math to succeed in your career. Hence, the exam features many difficult math problems that require creative thinking and sound mathematical logic skills. The GMAT also doesn’t allow you to use a calculator on math problems, whereas the GRE does[2]. Therefore, the GRE is the easier choice all around because the math questions are simpler and a calculator is allowed, but the GMAT math portion shouldn’t be a problem for those that are already skilled at math.

Essay Portions

GMAT Essay Portion

You might think that the essay portions of each exam are only there to test your English ability, but that’s not the case. Each exam features at least one essay portion, with the GRE featuring two; and each has different goals in what they’re trying to examine in the test participant. The GMAT essay, which is called the analytical writing assignment, tests your ability to make rational conclusions using the evidence provided. They’re testing your analytical thinking by examining the way you write and checking that you can back up all arguments with solid evidence.

Testers are not interested in your opinion or thoughts you may have; they want efficient writing that gets immediately to the point. The test taker will be marked down for using language that the tester believes is redundant, and sentences that don’t go anywhere or waste time. They’ll also mark test-takers down for points made that are vague or assume knowledge or values from the reader[3].

This type of essay isn’t well suited for the type of person that wants to make a statement, voice their opinion, or feel heard on a particular issue. It’s built for those who think analytically and can make a solid point quickly and effectively. Basically, this is the type of writing style of someone who is far more of a math person than a creative writer.

GRE Essay Portion

The GRE essay portion is quite different, mainly because the testers want to hear your opinion and want to know that you can express it clearly and efficiently. The GRE essay portion is structured much like a debate competition. One essay will ask you to analyze an issue, while the other will ask you to analyze an argument.

First, you need to argue your position on a topic of general interest. You’ll need to write compelling arguments that are backed by evidence and convince the tester to take your side on the issue. They want to see that you think analytically but also want to know that you think creatively, that you have a well-supported opinion, and that you’re able to stay focused and compel the reader to believe you[4].

The second essay is your chance to read someone else’s opinion and try to write a rebuttal that argues against their opinion. You’ll need to find flaws in what they’ve written and prove to the tester that you can change the mind of someone who has an opposing viewpoint to you. This type of essay style is more suited to someone with an excellent grasp of English and also for those who think creatively and enjoy speaking their mind.

Conclusion: Is the GMAT or GRE easier?

To sum it up, deciding whether the GMAT or GRE is easier isn’t difficult, but is based on what type of person you are. Are you an analytical math person that can solve complicated equations without a calculator? Can you read information, find evidence, and create a streamlined argument that proves a solid point? Can you retain logic-based information in your mind and provide that information in a test setting? If so, you’re going to find the GMAT easier.

However, what about the creative types? Do you find English easier than math? Do you enjoy voicing your opinion and feeling as though you’ve been heard? Do you feel satisfied after hearing someone else’s argument, then being given a chance to change their mind with your own well-supported opinion? If so, then you’re going to find the GRE easier.

Let’s summarize this in the table below.

 Creative Person – GREAnalytical Person – GMAT
English TestingGRE focuses on vocabulary which is great for native or excellent English speakers.GMAT focuses on grammar which is easier to memorize.
Math TestingGRE tests basic math and allows calculators.GMAT tests advanced, logic based math and doesn’t allow calculators.
Essay TestingGRE tests creative thinking, problem solving, and evidence-based opinions.GMAT tests logical assessment of the evidence and efficient, no-nonsense writing.

To learn about more differences between GMAT and GRE, see our separate article on that topic.

Determining whether the GMAT or GRE is easier isn’t hard, but it entirely depends on which type of person you are and which type of brain you have. So, which is it for you?

[1]Ghinai, Sam, GMAT Verbal: Tips for Non-Native English Speakers. Graduate Management Admission Council. 2021.

[2] TPR Education IP Holdings, LLC. GMAT vs GRE: Which Test is Right for You? The Princeton Review. Accessed 2022.

[3] Vincia Prep, Which is Easier – The GMAT or the New GRE? Vincia Preparation Centre Paris. Accessed 2022.

[4] Vassilev, Valentin. What do GMAT and GRE Essays Assess? Unimy Prep. 2018.

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