The graduate record exam is a standardized test that many graduate schools require as part of the application packet for their program. The GRE is the most commonly required standardized test for graduate admissions. Like the Stanford Achievement Test, the GRE is designed to measure your quantitative reasoning skills, verbal reasoning skills, analytical writing skills and critical thinking skills. However, there are a few important differences between the SAT and GRE that test takers should know.

Format and Scoring

The GRE and the SAT can both be taken with paper and pencil. However, unlike the SAT, the GRE is usually taken with a computer. The quantitative and verbal sections of the computer version of the GRE are adaptive. Each student starts out with 20 questions that are average in terms of difficulty. Then, the subsequent questions become more or less difficult depending on whether the student answered the first set of questions correctly or incorrectly. Answering many of these initial questions incorrectly also automatically places your score in a lower range.

Regular Content

Both the GRE and the SAT have quantitative and verbal sections. The quantitative sections of the GRE and the SAT are of similar difficulty levels. Most students can do well on either the GRE or the SAT with the mathematical knowledge they learned in high school. The verbal sections, however, are different. The verbal section of the GRE is much more difficult. According to Eric Reiman, a GRE tutor with Creative Tutors, the GRE uses more difficult, adult words that are not typically found on the SAT. The GRE also has an analytic section and the SAT does not.

Subject Matter Tests

Both the GRE and the SAT have optional subject matter tests. Some graduate schools require that students take the subject matter test to demonstrate their mastery of their field. These tests are offered separate from the regular GRE exam. These subject matter tests cover a variety of fields, and the most competitive programs often require them. The SAT subject matter tests, on the other hand, only cover five general subject areas. Some undergraduate programs require them, but they are required less frequently than the GRE subject matter tests.


Preparation for the GRE and for the SAT are similar for most students. A variety of study guides are available for both tests, as well as test preparation courses and tutoring. Students taking either test would do well to brush up on their high school math to master the quantitative sections. While some students choose not to study for the verbal section of the SAT, students are well advised to study for the GRE, since the vocabulary included on the test may be unfamiliar to most students, according to Reiman.