GRE, IELTS, Study Abroad

When it comes to pursuing higher education abroad, standardized tests play a crucial role in the application process. Two of the most commonly required tests for aspiring international students are the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). These tests serve distinct purposes and are often taken by individuals with different academic goals.

Do you want to know the difference between GRE and IELTS? Do you have a question regarding GRE vs IELTS, which is easier to take for study abroad? If yes, then don’t worry. In this article, we will explore the key differences between both tests. Furthermore, you will also learn which is easier and which is better, among GRE and IELTS. So that it will help you to make an informed decision about which test is right for you.

But before getting started, let’s have a quick look and understand the brief overview of both tests.

What is GRE?

The  GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is designed for students planning to pursue graduate programs, particularly in business, science, engineering, and the humanities. It assesses a candidate’s readiness for graduate-level work by testing critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning skills.

The GRE consists of three sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): This section measures your ability to analyze and articulate complex ideas.
  2. Verbal Reasoning: It assesses your reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning: Quantitative Reasoning evaluates your math and problem-solving abilities.

Before discussing the GRE vs IELTS, let’s briefly discuss an overview of the IELTS Exam.

Related Article: 10 Best Tips on How to Crack GRE Exam on the First Attempt

What is IELTS?

IELTS (International English Language Testing System), on the other hand, is tailored for individuals who want to study, work, or immigrate to English-speaking countries. It assesses your English proficiency across four essential language skills: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

Moreover, IELTS offers two versions:

  1. IELTS Academic: This version of IELTS is taken by students who want to pursue higher education in foreign universities and colleges.
  2. IELTS General Training: The IELTS GT test is taken by students if they want to go abroad for immigration, work, and training programs.

This is a brief overview of the Graduate Record Examination and the International English Language Testing System. Moving further, let’s discuss some differences between GRE VS IELTS.

Difference between GRE and IELTS

We know that both tests are standardized international tests conducted by the authorities to measure the candidate’s academic and language proficiency. Let’s discuss some of its differences so that you can evaluate the GRE vs IELTS which is easier to take.

1. Conducting Body

The first basis of the difference between the GRE vs IELTS is the conducting body. Both these standardized tests have different conducting bodies.

GRE: The GRE is conducted by ETS ( Educational Testing Services ). It is a non-profit organization recognized globally for creating a standardized test for students who want to pursue graduation programs in foreign countries.

IELTS: On the other hand, the IELTS is jointly run and conducted by three authorities: the British Council, the IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English.

2. Purpose and Focus

GRE vs IELTS is also differentiated based on purpose, as the focus of the conducting body to run these tests is slightly different.

GRE: The GRE primarily evaluates your readiness for graduate-level programs. It assesses your quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing skills. It does not specifically test English language proficiency but does include some English language components, as the test is conducted in English.

IELTS: The IELTS, on the other hand, is designed to measure your proficiency in the English language. It assesses your listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills in English. While it doesn’t delve into academic content like the GRE, it is essential for non-native English speakers seeking admission to English-speaking universities.

3. Target Audience

Moving further, GRE vs IELTS is differentiated based on the target audience.

GRE: This test targets individuals applying to graduate or business schools. The GRE is required for Master’s and Ph.D. programs, MBA programs, and some specialized master’s degrees.

IELTS: The IELTS is essential for individuals planning to study, work, or migrate to English-speaking countries. It is often required for undergraduate and postgraduate programs, as well as for work visas and immigration purposes.

Related Article: How To Prepare For IELTS At Home Without Coaching? Best Tips for 2023

4. Test Format

Both the GRE vs IELTS Exams have different test formats, such as:

GRE: The GRE is a computer-based test with sections for quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing. It features multiple-choice questions, text completion, and essays.

IELTS: The IELTS offers two formats: Academic and General Training. The Academic version is suitable for those applying to universities. At the same time, the General Training version is for work or immigration purposes. It includes listening, reading, writing, and speaking sections and is paper-based for the writing and reading components. In contrast, the listening and speaking sections are conducted in person or via video conferencing.

5. Scoring System

The scoring systems of both the tests, GRE vs IELTS, are different because:

GRE: The GRE scoring system includes a quantitative score (130-170 points in one-point increments) and a verbal score (130-170 points in one-point increments). The excellent score in both these sections is above 150. Whereas an analytical writing score (0-6 points in half-point increments), a good score is considered 4.0.

IELTS: IELTS scoring ranges from 1 to 9 for each section, with an overall band score calculated as the average of the four section scores. Different institutions and immigration authorities may have specific band score requirements. However, a band score above 6.5 is considered a good score for getting admission to universities and colleges abroad.

6. Preparation Time

In GRE vs IELTS, the preparation time also varies because of other differences such as purpose and scoring system. Well, the preparation time also varies according to the candidate’s capabilities.

GRE: Preparing for the GRE typically requires extensive study and practice. The time needed for preparation depends on your familiarity with the test content and your desired score. Most test-takers spend several months preparing.

IELTS: On the other hand, the duration of preparation for the IELTS varies widely depending on your current English proficiency. Some may need only a few weeks of intensive practice, while others might require several months.

7. Score Validity

Both GRE vs IELTS have different score validity, such as:

GRE: GRE scores are generally valid for five years, although individual institutions may have their score expiration policies.

IELTS: Conversely, IELTS scores are typically valid for two years. A candidate has to appear in the IELTS test again after 2 years. 

All these are the points of the basis of comparison between the GRE vs IELTS. Now, let’s discuss which is better out of both tests.

GRE vs IELTS: Which is Better?

To understand which is better: GRE vs IELTS. It is very important to discuss all the bases of comparison between both tests so that the candidate can evaluate which test is better for them.

Let’s have a look at the comparison table to understand in detail.

Basis of ComparisonGREIELTS
Full FormGraduate Record ExaminationInternational English Language Testing System
Runs and Owned byETS ( Educational Testing System)The three conducting bodies are the British Council, the IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English.
Number of Exam TypesIn the GRE, there are two exam types:
GRE General Test
GRE Subject Test
IELTS has two exam types:
IELTS Academic Test
IELTS General Training
GRE vs IELTS: PurposeIt is designed to measure the overall academic readiness of a candidate for graduate programs.It is designed to measure the English Language Proficiency of the candidate.
GRE vs IELTS: Exam SectionsThere are three sections:
Verbal Reasoning,
Quantitative Reasoning,
and Analytical Writing
In the GRE, there are two exam types:
GRE General Test
GRE Subject Test
Eligibility CriteriaThere are no eligibility criteria as such. However, candidates who want to pursue the graduate program mostly benefit from it.The preferred IELTS eligibility criteria is that a candidate must be above 16.
GRE vs IELTS: Exam PatternIn the current GRE, candidates must attempt a total of 80 questions and 2 tasks, spread across 5 sections.
However, the new GRE pattern implemented on 5 September 2023 requires the candidates to answer 54 questions and 1 task spread across 5 sections.
In the IELTS, candidates are required to listen to four recorded audios in the Listening section.
They have to attempt three reading passages in the Reading Section.
They have to write two tasks in the writing section and end up with a three-part face-to-face interview with an IELTS interviewer.
GRE vs IELTS: Exam DurationStarting from 22 September 2023, the duration of the GRE has changed from 3 hours 45 minutes to 1 hour 58 minutes.In the IELTS test, the duration of the computerized test is 2 hours and 44 minutes with no break.
Whereas, in paper-based tests, the exam duration is 2 hours and 55 minutes (including 10 minutes for transferring the answers to the answer sheet).
Scoring SystemThe GRE Analytical Writing is scored on a 0-6 scale, and Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning is scored on a 130-170 scale. The overall GRE is scored out of 340.All the sections and the overall score of the IELTS Exam are graded on a band score of 0-9.
RegistrationYou can register for GRE by visiting the official website of ETS.You can register for the IELTS exam by visiting the official website of IELTS IDP India.
Number of AttemptsIn the GRE, a candidate can appear 5 times in a given rolling year.In IELTS, a candidate can appear 48 times in a year.
Exam Fees (in India)The GRE Exam costs Rs. 22,550.IELTS Exam costs Rs. 16,250.
Score ValidityThe validity of GRE scores is 5 years.Whereas the IELTS exam score is valid for 2 years.
Result Announce PeriodFrom the date of appearing in the GRE Exam, the result is announced between 10-15 days.In IELTS paper-based test, the result is out in 13 days. But in computer-based, the scores are available in 3-5 days.

After understanding the difference between the GRE vs IELTS. Which is better among both all depends on your suitability. If you want to go abroad for further advanced studies in Chemistry, Psychology, Mathematics, Business, and so on, then you should opt for the GRE General Test. Most foreign universities accept the General Test of the GRE for admission.

But if you want to go for higher studies, you should opt out IELTS Academic exam. Furthermore, IELTS General should be opted for by the candidates who want to work or migrate to foreign-speaking countries. However, there is confusion between the GRE vs IELTS, remember that the GRE is for advanced studies, and IELTS is for study, work, and migration purposes.

Also Read: How to Check UK Visa Status Online with Passport Number?

GRE vs IELTS: Which is Easier?

After comparing the GRE vs IELTS, we see that IELTS is just to test the English Proficiency of Candidates. Whereas in the GRE, the candidate is tested on three sections. Therefore, it depends on which test is more suitable for the candidate. 

To conclude, which is easier, GRE vs IELTS? Let’s assume that the same person is preparing for both exams, then they will find challenges in the GRE as it includes three sections. But if the same person is good in numbers, analysis, and reasoning but not good in the English Language, they will find the IELTS test challenging.

But it is not forgotten that in the GRE, too, English can not be neglected. Some topics are common to both papers, like issue tasks or opinion questions, which are harder in the GRE. So, as per your goal, you can select among both the tests.


In summary, the choice between the GRE and IELTS depends on your academic and career goals. The GRE is your test if you aspire to pursue graduate-level education, especially in non-English speaking countries. On the other hand, if you plan to study, work, or migrate to English-speaking countries, the IELTS is a critical requirement to demonstrate your English language proficiency.

It’s essential to research the specific requirements of the programs or institutions you’re interested in and allocate ample time for preparation, regardless of the test you choose. Ultimately, both the GRE and IELTS serve as stepping stones to your international academic or professional journey, helping you achieve your goals in the global arena.

I hope all the information discussed in this blog regarding the difference between the GRE and IELTS, which is better GRE vs IELTS, which is easier between GRE and IELTS, will be helpful to you while choosing the right exam for you. Remember to revisit CourseMentor to get more related information and content. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is GRE or IELTS more difficult?

Among the GRE or IELTS, the GRE is more difficult as it evaluates a candidate’s academic knowledge. On the other hand, IELTS only evaluates the English Language Proficiency of the candidate. In the GRE, the candidate’s level of academic knowledge is calculated by evaluating three skills: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing.

2. Which is better GRE or IELTS?

A candidate should decide based on their purpose of appearing in the exam to get to a conclusion about which is better GRE or IELTS, for them. If candidates want to pursue a graduation program abroad, they should opt for the GRE. But if they want to move for immigration and study purposes, they should opt for IELTS. However, it all depends on the candidate’s choice that which exam is best suitable for them.

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