GRE vs. GMAT Math — What’s the Difference?

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GRE vs. GMAT Math — What’s the Difference?

GRE vs. GMAT math

The most cited reason for taking the GRE instead of the GMAT for applying to business school is math. It’s no secret that it’s easier to achieve a high quant score on the GRE than it is on the GMAT.

The GMAT was created specifically for business school applicants. Since business is all but founded on numbers, the exam expects a higher degree of mathematical ability. The GRE, on the other hand, serves a range of disciplines, many of which don’t require math, so its quantitative section is less challenging and its grading curve more forgiving. However, the key difference between the quant on the two tests has little to do with content.

GMAT vs. GRE Quantitative Content: Almost identical

Don’t confuse “easier” with “easy.” The GRE is no cakewalk, and its quant section tests largely the same concepts that the GMAT tests. Listed below are the main math subjects and associated concepts found on the GMAT and on the GRE.

GMAT Math

Math Subject Concepts
Arithmetic Properties of Integers, Fractions, Ratios, Percent, Powers and Roots, Statistics, Sets, Probability
Algebra Equations, Solving Single Variable and Multivariate Equations, Exponents, Inequalities, Absolute Value, Quadratic Equations, Functions
Geometry Lines and Angles, Polygons, Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Circles, Rectangular Solids and Cylinders, Coordinate Geometry
Word Problems Rate Problems, Work Problems, Mixture Problems, Interest Problems, Discount, Profit, Sets, Geometry Problems, Measurement Problems, Data Interpretation

 

GRE Math

Math Subject Concepts
Arithmetic Properties of Integers, Fractions, Ratios, Percent, Powers and Roots, Sets, Probability
Algebra Equations, Solving Single Variable and Multivariate Equations, Exponents, Inequalities, Absolute Value, Quadratic Equations, Functions, Graphs of Functions
Geometry Lines and Angles, Polygons, Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Circles, Rectangular Solids and Cylinders, Coordinate Geometry
Data Analysis Descriptive statistics; Standard Deviation; Interquartile Range, Quartiles and Percentiles; Line Graphs, Bar Graphs, Circle Graphs, Boxplots, Scatterplots and Frequency Distributions; Combinations and Permutations; Probabilities of Compound Events and Independent Events

 

As you can see, the lists are nearly identical. The GRE categorizes some subjects differently, most notably Data Analysis, which contains more statistical concepts than found on the GMAT. The GRE does place a heavier emphasis on geometry and data analysis than the GMAT does. While a table or chart occasionally appears on the GMAT, each GRE quant section (there are two quant sections) features five questions about a single chart or graph, something you won’t find on the GMAT.

GMAT vs. GRE Question types

While the quantitative content may not change much between tests, the question types do. The GMAT is entirely multiple choice and consists of two question types:

Problem Solving
Data Sufficiency

Incase you’re not familiar with GMAT question types, problem solving questions are your basic multiple choice math problem with one correct answer. Data sufficiency questions are also multiple-choice; however, each question has the same set of answers, and you’re tasked with evaluating information rather than solving a math problem.

The GRE is not entirely multiple-choice and contains a wider variety of quantitative question types compared to the GMAT. They are

Quantitative Comparison
Multiple Choice – Select One Answer Choice
Multiple Choice – Select One or More Answer Choices
Numeric Entry

You can think of quantitative comparison questions as the GRE’s version of data sufficiency questions in that you’re not being asked to solve a math problem but instead to determine the relationship between two quantities. Like DS questions, the answer choices are always the same. They are

  • Quantity A is greater
  • Quantity B is greater
  • The two quantities are equal
  • The relationship cannot be determined from the information given

Multiple choice – select one answer choice questions are the same as problem solving question. You must choose the single correct answer among A, B, C, D or E.

In multiple choice – select one or more answer choices questions, there may be more than one correct answer listed, and you must select every correct answer. If you only select two of the correct answers on a question that had three, you get that question wrong.

Numeric entry questions give you no answer choices. Instead you must solve the problem and then type in the answer. The correct answer will either be an integer, a decibel or a fraction. The numeric entry box and the question will indicate which of these the correct answer will be.

In summary

Though the variety of GRE question types may sound more intimidating than what you find on the GMAT, when it comes down to it, the differences are mostly superficial. Anyone competent with GMAT quant questions will not find GRE question types formidable.

When it comes to score, the most important differences are the complexity of questions and the rigor of the grading curve, both of which are more severe on the GMAT.

However, if you’re considering taking the GRE instead of the GMAT to boost your quant score, don’t forget to consider the GRE’s verbal section. It’s this section that represents the greatest difference between the two tests and is the most likely section to make or break your score. But that’s a subject for another post.

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