GRE vs MAT: Which Test Should You Take?

by Maximilian Claessens
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GRE vs MAT Which Test Should You Take

When it comes to the GRE vs MAT, many budding business students are in the dark as to which one to take. Does one give you a better chance at your dream business school or job? Is one easier than the other? Is one better regarded? Deciding between GRE and MAT can be challenging.

It can be a little tricky trying to figure out the differences between the two tests, and which one you should take. In this article we plan to take a look at both tests, go into the differences between GRE and MAT and their merits/disadvantages to help you decide.

If you are looking for other tests, also see our guides on GMAT vs SAT and GMAT vs GRE.

What is the GRE?

Before contrasting GRE vs MAT, let’s explore what the GRE actually is. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a multiple-choice standardized test that is often a prerequisite for admission into graduate-level business programs such as the MBA. It’s used by admissions officers, along with your academic history and supporting documentation, to ascertain your eligibility for enrollment onto graduate courses.

Bottom line: the GRE directly impacts your ability to get into the business school or graduate course of your choice. Ace your GRE, and the world is your oyster.

What Areas Does the GRE Cover?

The GRE covers a multitude of topics, but it chiefly focuses on algebra, arithmetic, data analysis, geometry and analytical writing. Logic is favored over florid prose when it comes to the latter, so stick to sound reasoning rather than embellishments in order to score well.

The GRE has 3 sections, and lasts for about three hours and forty-five minutes. The three sections are as follows:  

Analytical Writing

The analytical writing section of the GRE asks the candidate to write two essays. You’ll have 30 minutes for each essay, for a total of 60 minutes.

The first essay is an ‘argument essay’; this involves reading someone else’s argument and critiquing it, with special attention paid to the weaknesses and presumptions made in the argument. The arguments given are always flawed in some way, and the candidate is always expected to criticize the argument made (as opposed to favoring it). Candidates are also expected to offer suggestions for how the argument might be amended or strengthened.

The second essay is a more classical short essay of 5-6 paragraphs. You will be given a statement that makes an assertion for a particular position; you will then be tasked with arguing for or against that position (your choice) and supporting your thesis with supporting arguments and evidence. It doesn’t matter which side you take, so long as you take one and support it.

Verbal Reasoning  

The verbal section is broken down into three separate sections: Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence and Reading Comprehension. Candidates have 30 minutes and a total of 20 questions across all three sections. 

Text Completion

This section relies upon the candidate possessing a college-level vocabulary and the ability to recognize and use context clues. Candidates will be asked to read a sentence with a number of missing words, and use the appropriate words to complete the sentence.

Sentence Equivalence

Sentence Equivalence is similar to Text Completion, in that the candidate will be choosing words with which to complete a sentence. The difference is that the candidate will choose two separate words that will both be used to complete the sentence, and that will both make logical sense (if not necessarily resulting in the exact same meaning).

Reading Comprehension 

Reading Comprehension is exactly what it sounds like: read a text and then answer several comprehension questions about it. The passages may be short (1 paragraph) or long (2-3 paragraphs). There are a total of 10 questions across 5 passages.

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning is the math section of the GRE. It is divided into two sections, each of which has 20 questions and lasts for 35 minutes. While it is less intense than the GMAT quant section, it is still challenging. There are four types of question in Quantitative Reasoning:

Quantitative Comparison

In this section, the candidate will be asked to compare two quantities and articulate the relationship between them. These are multiple-choice questions.

Problem-Solving Questions

Problem-solving questions present the candidate with a scenario and ask them to choose the correct answer from five choices. Occasionally, the candidate may be required to manually type their answer as a number. 

Data Interpretation Questions

Data interpretation questions are similar to problem-solving questions, but the candidate will be presented with a table or graph and asked to interpret data from it.

What is the MAT?

Before going into GRE vs MAT differences, let’s understand what the MAT is. The Miller Analogies Test (MAT) is a standardized examination that assesses the candidate’s capacity for analytical thinking. It’s a useful tool for graduate admissions officers when assessing an applicant’s abilities beyond simple rote memorization and regurgitation of facts.

The MAT was created as a sort of IQ test. It measures the candidate’s ability to recognize relationships between ideas, and covers a broad swathe of general knowledge including the social and natural sciences, humanities, and mathematics.

There are no separate sections on the MAT. Every question is an analogy, with three examples given and the fourth left to the choice of the candidate. An example follows:

Plane : Air : Car : (a. Motorcycle b. Engine c. Land d. Atmosphere)

The candidate’s first task is to ascertain which two parts have a relationship between the three already given. In this case, the relationship is between ‘plane’ and ‘air’. The second is to figure out the nature of that relationship (a plane travels in the air). With this information, we can now deduce the remainder of the analogy – if a plane travels in the air, then a car travels on (c.) land.

The MAT has 120 questions and lasts for 60 mins. Candidates are only actually graded on 100 of those questions; 20 are for research purposes and are ungraded. Candidates are not made aware of which ones are research questions.

Because the MAT revolves around general academic skill and the ability to make deductions, it’s not possible to ‘cram’ in preparation for it. Candidates must simply familiarize themselves with the way the test works.

Solving MAT Analogies  

There are, effectively, four steps in solving any MAT analogy:

  1. Read the three given phrases closely;
  2. Determine which two of the three have a relationship, and what the nature of that relationship is;
  3. Before looking at the possible answers, try to guess what the answer could be yourself;
  4. Look at the answers and ascertain which one is, in your estimation, the likeliest match.

If you follow this pattern, chances are you’ll do well on the MAT.

GRE vs. MAT: Key Differences

Both the GRE and the MAT are used for applications to business schools or to graduate courses, but they’re far from the same test. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the two examinations – GRE vs MAT.

Test Duration

The MAT is much shorter than the GRE, clocking in at only an hour. Compare this to the GRE, which takes three hours and forty-five minutes!

Number of Sections

As we covered, the GRE has 3 overarching sections and six sub-sections. The MAT has no discrete sections, and the types of question that you’ll encounter are randomly ordered.

Time Per Question

Although the MAT is shorter, the average time you’ll have per question is much less. There are 120 questions over 60 minutes, which means that you’ll only have 30 seconds per question – not much time at all.

GRE questions are much more complex and varied. Some require the reading and comprehension of long passages; others still require the candidate to analyze graphs or tables and then make deductions from that data. Due to this complexity, more time is required – you’ll have an average of one minute forty seconds for a single GRE question.

Structure of the Test

Though the MAT lacks sections as such, it does have four distinct type of questions. These are:

  • Semantic: focusing on word definitions
  • Mathematical/logical: revolving around math puzzles or equations
  • Association: involving the relationships between two discrete ideas
  • Classification: examining how words are subordinated under distinct and separate umbrella terms or ideas

Conversely, the GRE does have separate categories (as we pointed out earlier). Those three sections are Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. Each of those sections has its own internal structure that is independent of the others, including number of questions, types of questions, and subcategories.

Verbal vs. Math Focus  

The choice between GRE vs MAT makes a big difference when it comes to their focus. The two tests have very different emphases, and when doing the GRE you’ll find many more math questions than you will in the MAT. That’s not to say that the GRE is weighted in favor of math questions; it is divided down the middle between verbal questions and quantitative (math) questions. The MAT, on the other hand, has four types of questions, only one of which (logic/mathematical) revolve around math.

Long-Form Questions

There are two long-form questions in the GRE in the form of essay questions; both of these fall in the ‘Analytical Writing’ section.

Conversely, the MAT has no essay questions at all – the whole test is multiple choice only. Whether or not this makes it easier is ultimately a question of personal taste.

Passage Analysis/Summary

The Reading Comprehension section of the GRE requires that the candidate read several passages, whether short one-paragraph pieces or longer ones of 2-3 paragraphs, and then answer questions about those passages. This requires the ability to quickly analyze or summarize texts.

This is not necessary in the MAT, which is always the same sequence of three phrases with a fourth to be chosen. This necessitates deductive skills, whereas reading comprehension requires analytical skills.


This one is very simple: when taking the MAT, no calculators are allowed (just as on the GMAT). During the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE, however, you will be permitted the use of an onscreen calculator. This means that, though there is much less emphasis on math in the MAT, you’ll have to be much sharper with your mental arithmetic for when it does arise. This could be an important factor for deciding between GRE vs MAT.

Test Fees

The MAT is generally cheaper than the GRE, although this may vary at individual test centers as they set their own prices. The GRE, on the other hand, has a standardized cost of $205. Though it’s more expensive, it’s also more widely recognized by grad programs and business schools.

Though the cost of the MAT varies, expect to pay around $100. Three test score reports to be sent to grad/business schools are included in the cost of the MAT, while you’ll get four thrown in with your GRE fee.

Frequency of Test Spots

The GRE is a much more popular test; accordingly, it has more test centers and more times available. After creating an account on the ETS website, you’ll be able to look at test centers near you and available dates/times. The GRE is offered at around 1000 test centers globally and throughout the year.

Conversely, the MAT is relatively US-centric in comparison. There are about 500 test centers offering the MAT, almost all in the US. MAT tests are scheduled by each individual test center, and so it can be a little more difficult to find a time and date that suits you. You’ll often need to contact test centers directly to get more information about their scheduled MAT tests.

Where Your Test is Accepted

It’s a simple fact that the GRE is much more widely accepted than the MAT. The GRE is internationally recognized and is accepted by almost all business schools and grad courses in the US, so you can rest assured that your grade will put you in good stead in almost any school you apply to.

The MAT, by contrast, is a much more niche examination. Though of some use in social science and humanities courses, it tends to be less useful when applying for business schools. Those seeking a business school education should therefore stick to the GRE.

Scoring Criteria

The MAT is a single, simple score of between 200-600. The average score is 400.

Conversely, the GRE has a more complicated scoring system. You’ll receive one score per section, for three scores in total:

  • A score of 0-6 for Analytical Writing, scored in half-point increments
  • A score of 130-170 each in Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning

Scores that are considered good for the GRE are 152-158 (for Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning) and 4.0 (for Analytical Writing).

GRE vs MAT: Which Test Should You Take?

Generally speaking, the GRE is more widely acknowledged and will stand you in better stead if you’re looking for a qualification that will benefit you the most overall. However, the GRE won’t be your best shot in every case. Therefore, consider what you want to achieve when contrasting GRE vs MAT.

You Have a Strong Aptitude for Analogies: Take the MAT 

Analogies aren’t for everybody, and it takes a certain type of mind to make the deductive leap necessary to figure out some of them. This will make a good MAT score very illustrative for certain grad courses that you might apply for – more so than a GRE result might.

You Prefer Shorter Tests: Take the MAT

Some people cannot handle the marathon of an almost-four-hour test, and the stress can lead to low scores and/or burnout. Neither of these help you get onto your chosen course.

The MAT, however, is only an hour long, and has much fewer questions. If you’re the kind of test-taker that does better with something that’s short and sharp, then consider sitting the MAT.

You Need/Prefer a More Widely Accepted Qualification: take the GRE

Not only is the GRE more accessible for test-takers due to the huge number of test centers, it’s also far more widely accepted. Chances are that any grad course or business school you’re considering applying to will recognize the GRE, and will look favorably upon a good score when considering your application.

The MAT, on the other hand, is much less recognized – and when it is, it’s usually only in the US. If you want a more highly regarded qualification, do the GRE.

Grad Programs Know and Understand the GRE

The GRE has been around a long time and, as noted, is widely recognized and acknowledged. That means that admissions officers are familiar with it and how it works, and it means that they can quickly look at someone’s GRE scores and have a solid idea of what kind of candidate they are.

The MAT is, for many, an unknown quantity. That means that even if your chosen grad program accepts it, the admissions officer may not be familiar with it (or even know it), and they might be more likely to pick a candidate with a good GRE score, over one with a good MAT score.

Conclusion: Should You Take the MAT or the GRE?

Although the question GRE vs MAT very much depends on the course you’re applying for and your own personal preferences, the fact of the matter is that you’ll almost certainly find the GRE much more useful in a wider variety of situations. Although the test is much longer and much more mentally strenuous, these very facts contribute to the fact that the GRE is so much more respected and universally recognized. An admissions officer looking at a good GRE score knows what they’re looking at – and respects it. With the MAT, it’s really a toss of the coin. Therefore, you should consider wisely before choosing between GRE and MAT.

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