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GRE vs IELTS: What's the difference and which test is right for you?

Edvoy
Edvoy
Last updated: May 23, 20237 min read
GRE vs IELTS: What's the difference and which test is right for you?

GRE and IELTS are two very different standardised tests that serve different purposes. GRE is primarily used for admission to graduate-level programs in the United States, while IELTS is used to assess English language proficiency for non-native speakers who are planning to study or work in English-speaking countries.

Understanding the differences between these two tests is crucial to determine which one to take, depending on your academic and professional goals.

GRE vs IELTS: Highlights

 GREIELTS
Conducted byEducational Testing Service (ETS)IDP and British Council
Exam format3 Main sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. 4 Main sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
Score Range130 to 170 for Quantitative and Verbal 0 to 6 for Analytical 0 to 9 for all sections
Exam Duration3 hours and 45 minutes2 hours and 55 minutes
Score ValidityGRE are valid for five yearsIELTS are valid for two years
Registration Fee$205 to $255 (Approx 16,071 INR)$185 to $3255 (Approx 14,700 in INR)

Difference between GRE and IELTS

The GRE and IELTS are both standardised tests that measure a student's academic and language proficiency.

1. Conducting body

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is responsible for the administration of the GRE. ETS is a non-profit organisation that is recognized globally for creating standardised tests for educational purposes. 

On the other hand, IELTS is jointly owned by three organisations: the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English.

2. Exam Format

The GRE consists of three main sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. 

  • The Analytical Writing section includes two tasks: Analyze an Issue and Analyse an Argument.
  • The Verbal Reasoning section consists of two sections, each with 20 questions.
  • The Quantitative Reasoning section also consists of two sections, each with 20 questions.
  • There is an unscored research section that may be included in the test.

The IELTS has four main sections: 

  • The Listening and Reading sections are multiple-choice questions, while the Writing section includes two tasks, and the Speaking section is a face-to-face interview with an examiner.
  • The test measures the test taker's ability to understand spoken and written English, as well as their ability to communicate effectively in spoken and written English.

Topics to know more about Exam Pattern for GRE and IELTS

3. Skills Tested

The GRE tests a range of skills related to verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing.

  • The Verbal Reasoning section assesses the test taker's ability to analyse and evaluate written material, understand and draw conclusions from it, and recognize relationships among concepts and words.
  • The Quantitative Reasoning section tests the test taker's ability to understand, interpret, and analyse quantitative information, and solve problems using mathematical concepts.
  • The Analytical Writing section tests the test taker's ability to present complex ideas in a clear, concise, and well-organised manner.

The IELTS tests the test taker's ability to understand and communicate effectively in English.

  • The Listening section assesses the test taker's ability to understand spoken English, while the Reading section tests their ability to understand written English.
  • The Writing section includes two tasks, one of which is to write an essay, and the other is to respond to a task or problem in a letter or report.
  • The Speaking section assesses the test taker's ability to communicate effectively in spoken English, including pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.

4. Score Validity

The GRE is scored on a scale of 130-170 for both the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections, in one-point increments.

  • The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0-6, in half-point increments. The scores of the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections are added together to get a total score, which ranges from 260-340. 
  • The scores of the GRE are valid for five years, and the score report includes the test-taker's total score and scores of individual sections. 

The score report also includes percentile ranks, which indicate the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than the test-taker.

The IELTS exam is scored on a scale of 0-9, in half-point increments, for each section.

  • The scores of the four sections are averaged to get an overall score, which ranges from 0-9. The score report includes the test-takers' overall score and scores of individual sections.
  • The score report also includes a band score, which indicates the test-taker's proficiency level in English. 
  • The scores of the IELTS exam are valid for two years, and the score report includes the test-taker's overall score, scores of individual sections, and the band score.

5. Exam Duration

The GRE takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete, including one 10-minute break between sections. 

  • The Analytical Writing section takes 60 minutes to complete, and the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections take 35 minutes each.
  • The unscored research section may add 30-35 minutes to the test. 

The IELTS takes about two hours and 45 minutes to complete, with the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections completed back-to-back, with no breaks. 

  • The Speaking section is conducted separately, either on the same day or within a week of the other sections.

6. Exam Fee

The cost of taking the GRE varies depending on the location but generally ranges from $205 to $255. There may be additional fees for services such as score reporting, sending additional score reports, and rescheduling or cancelling the test.

The cost of taking the IELTS exam also varies depending on the location, but generally ranges from $185 to $325. There may be additional fees for services such as score reporting, sending additional score reports, and rescheduling or cancelling the test.

Also read: IELTS Exam Dates

GRE or IELTS? Which one to take?

Choosing between the GRE and IELTS exams depends on several factors such as academic goals, language proficiency, and the specific requirements of the universities or programs being applied to. Below are some considerations to help determine which test is right for you:

1. Academic goals

If your goal is to apply to a graduate program in the United States, then the GRE is likely the right choice for you. The GRE is widely accepted by universities in the United States and is specifically designed to evaluate a test-taker's academic potential in graduate-level studies.

If your academic goal is to apply to a university outside of the United States, then the IELTS exam may be the right choice for you. The IELTS exam is an international English language proficiency test that is widely accepted by universities around the world, including in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

2. Language proficiency

If English is not your first language and you are not confident in your English language skills, then taking the IELTS exam may be a better choice for you. The IELTS exam is specifically designed to evaluate a test-taker's proficiency in English, while the GRE assumes that the test-taker has a high level of English language proficiency.

3. Specific program requirements

It is important to review the specific requirements of the universities or programs you are applying to in order to determine which exam is the right choice for you. Some programs may require a specific exam or have minimum score requirements for admission.

Conclusion

While the GRE and IELTS exams share some similarities, they are different in many ways. The GRE is designed to evaluate a test-taker's academic potential in graduate-level studies, while the IELTS exam evaluates a test-taker's proficiency in English. It is important for test-takers to understand the differences between the two exams and choose the exam that best suits their needs and academic goals.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the purpose of the GRE and IELTS exams?

The GRE is designed to evaluate a test-taker's academic potential in graduate-level studies, while the IELTS exam evaluates a test-taker's proficiency in English.

Who administers the GRE and IELTS exams?

The GRE is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), while the IELTS exam is jointly administered by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English.

How are the GRE and IELTS exams scored?

The GRE is scored on a scale of 130-170 for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections and 0-6 for the analytical writing section. The IELTS exam is scored on a scale of 1-9 for each section, with the overall score being an average of the four sections.

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