GRE vs IELTS: Which Test to Choose for Your Academic Journey?

Differences between GRE and IELTS

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PI - Prepare IELTS

2023-08-28

Differences between GRE and IELTS

Overview

Standardised tests play an integral role in evaluating a student's capabilities and qualifications in the course of pursuing higher education and exploring international career opportunities.

Two prominent and relevant assessments stand out among the plethora of exams: the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). While both tests hold significance, they serve distinct purposes and cater to various aspects of a student's profile.

This blog offers a comprehensive comparative insights into the key differences between the GRE and IELTS Tests, helping prospective test-takers choose wisely. So, if you are planning to take these types of standardised tests, then read further and know all the major differences between GRE and IELTS exams.

GRE vs IELTS: A Comprehensive Cosmparison

Here are the major differences between GRE and IELTS Exams. 

Criteria GRE Exam IELTS Exam

Purpose

It is a standardised test for graduate school admissions.

It is an English language proficiency test for non-native English speakers.

Test Sections

Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing

Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking

Test Format

Computer-based Test

Paper-based or Computer-based Test

Scoring

Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scored on a scale from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments; Analytical Writing scored on a scale from 0 to 6 in 0.5 increments

Scored on a band scale from 0 to 9, with 0.5 increments

Validity

Valid for 5 years from the test date

Valid for 2 years from the test date

Purpose-specific Versions

General Tests (for most graduate programs) and Subject Tests (for specific subject areas)

Academic and General Training (for different purposes such as academic study or immigration)

Test Availability

Offered year-round, but specific test dates may vary

Offered throughout the year

Test Fees

$205 to $255

$185 to $325

Test Duration

Approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes

Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes

 

Difference between GRE and IELTS - Conducting Body

The GRE Exam is a standardised test conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is used for admissions to graduate programs in various fields across the globe. ETS is known for its rigorous testing methodologies and is widely recognised by universities and institutions.

On the other hand, the British Council, IDP, and Cambridge Assessment English jointly manage the IELTS exam. It is designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers who intend to study or work in English-speaking countries.

 

GRE vs IELTS - Exam Format

The GRE Test consists of three main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections evaluate a candidate's critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a multiple-choice format. The Analytical Writing section assesses the ability to construct coherent arguments and communicate effectively in written form.

The IELTS test comprises four components: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, designed to evaluate test-takers' English language skills comprehensively. The Listening and Reading sections are presented in a multiple-choice question format, while the Writing section requires candidates to produce written responses. Further, the Speaking section involves a face-to-face interview with an examiner.

 

Difference between IELTS and GRE - Skills Tested

The GRE Test examines critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Verbal Reasoning evaluates reading comprehension and vocabulary usage, while Quantitative Reasoning measures mathematical abilities. Moreover, the Analytical Writing section gauges the candidate's capacity to articulate complex ideas effectively.

On the other hand, the IELTS exam focuses solely on English language proficiency. The Listening section evaluates the ability to understand spoken English, the Reading section tests comprehension skills, the Writing section assesses written communication, and the Speaking section gauges verbal communication skills.

 

GRE vs IELTS - Score Validity

GRE scores are typically valid for five years from the test date. This duration provides candidates sufficient flexibility when applying to various graduate programs over time, while IELTS Band scores have a validity period of two years. This relatively shorter timeframe may necessitate test-takers to plan their study or work abroad goals more meticulously in case of IELTS score.

 

Difference between IELTS and GRE - Exam Duration

The GRE exam typically lasts about 3 hours and 45 minutes. This duration includes the time required for each of the three main sections – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.

In comparison, the IELTS test has a total duration of around 2 hours and 45 minutes. The distribution of time among the four sections – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking – may vary slightly based on the test version.

 

GRE vs IELTS - Exam Fee

The GRE exam fee varies by country but generally falls between $205 to $230, and this cost covers sending scores to four graduate programs or business schools. At the same time, the IELTS exam fees differ across countries and typically range from $170 to $250, wherein this cost includes sending scores to up to five institutions.

 

Difference between GRE and IELTS exam - Eligibility Criteria

The GRE Test does not have stringent eligibility criteria. It is commonly required for admission to graduate programs, especially in the United States. However, candidates planning to pursue a master's or doctoral degree across various disciplines often opt for the GRE Exam.

On the other hand, the IELTS exam does not impose strict eligibility criteria either. Thus, individuals who wish to study or work in an English-speaking country attempt the exam as it displays their English language proficiency as a prerequisite for communication in an academic or professional setting.

 

Difference between IELTS and GRE - Difficulty Level

The GRE can be challenging due to its emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical writing. Additionally, it requires a high level of cognitive flexibility and adaptability to navigate through the varied question types.

In contrast, the difficulty of the IELTS test varies based on the candidate's English language proficiency level. The academic version might pose challenges in comprehending complex texts, while the general version focuses more on everyday communication skills.

 

GRE vs IELTS - Number of Attempts

Candidates can take the GRE Test once every 21 days, up to a maximum of five times in a rolling 12-month period. This flexibility allows candidates to retake the test if their scores do not accurately reflect their abilities. At the same time, there is no strict limit on the number of times a candidate can take the IELTS exam. However, candidates should consider the time and effort required for re-preparation and retesting.

 

Difference between GRE and IELTS - Acceptance

GRE scores are accepted by thousands of graduate and business schools worldwide, making it a popular choice for candidates aiming to pursue higher education across various disciplines.

Similarly, the IELTS Band scores are widely recognised by universities and organisations in many English-speaking countries, ensuring that successful candidates can effectively communicate and function in English-centric environments.

Which is Better IELTS or GRE Exam?

The decision to take the GRE or IELTS exam depends on various factors such as your academic aspirations, language proficiency, and program requirements.

 

Academic Goals

If your objective is to pursue a graduate program, especially in the United States, the GRE Test is the most appropriate choice. Its focus on critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills aligns with the demands of advanced academic study.

On the other hand, if you intend to study or work in an English-speaking country, the IELTS Test is more relevant. Its emphasis on English proficiency ensures you can effectively communicate and thrive in academic and professional environments.

 

Language Proficiency

While both exams require English language skills, the focus differs significantly.

The GRE demands a good command of English, as it includes verbal reasoning and analytical writing sections. However, its primary focus is not solely on language proficiency but on critical thinking and analytical abilities.

In comparison, The IELTS is specifically designed to assess your English language skills across listening, reading, writing, and speaking. If your language proficiency is a key consideration, the IELTS might be a better fit.

 

Specific Program Requirements

It is crucial to align your test choice with the requirements of the programs or institutions you are applying to.

If you are applying to a graduate program that demands a strong foundation in quantitative reasoning and critical thinking, the GRE Test is the most appropriate choice. 

On the other hand, if your chosen program or institution emphasises English language proficiency for effective communication, the IELTS Test is the preferred option.

Conclusion

The GRE and IELTS exams serve distinct purposes and cater to different aspects of a candidate's profile as the GRE focuses more on assessing critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing abilities, making it suitable for graduate program admissions. On the other hand, the IELTS Test is tailored to evaluate English language proficiency, essential for study or work in English-speaking countries.

Hence, when deciding which exam to take, consider your academic and career goals, your level of language proficiency, and the requirements of the programs or institutions you are interested in. Ultimately, the choice between the GRE and IELTS Test should align with your aspirations and strengths, ensuring that you are well-prepared on your academic or professional journey.

We hope we have provided helpful insight into the difference between GRE and IELTS. If you need further guidance, please contact Prepare IELTS (PI) expert counsellors. Our team of education experts is dedicated to providing you with the best guidance in the IELTS exam.

You can get a one-on-one counselling session online via our platform. Contact us at info@prepareieltsexam.com or call us at +91 9773398388.

FAQs

Yes, you can take both exams if they align with your goals. However, carefully assess the requirements of your intended programs or institutions to determine if one test is preferred.

While many universities accept both GRE and IELTS scores, it is essential to check the specific requirements of the institutions you are applying to. Some might prefer one test to the other.

The GRE does include a Quantitative Reasoning section that tests math skills. While it's not exclusively math-intensive, this section evaluates your quantitative reasoning ability and solving mathematical problems.

Many business schools accept both GRE and GMAT scores for MBA admissions. Research the schools you are interested in to determine which test they prefer or if they have no preference.

Yes, there are numerous resources available for self-preparation for both exams. However, some candidates find value in taking preparatory courses to familiarise themselves with the test formats and receive expert guidance.

Choose the version that aligns with your goals. If you are applying for higher education, the academic performance is appropriate. If you are seeking immigration or work opportunities, the general version might be more suitable.

Yes, you can retake both exams to improve your scores. Be mindful of the waiting periods between retakes and allocate sufficient time for re-preparation.

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