GMAT

GMAT vs. IELTS: Everything you need to know

By Edvoy• Last updated: Oct 18, 2023
GMAT vs. IELTS: Everything you need to know
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When it comes to pursuing higher education or professional opportunities abroad, many individuals are required to demonstrate their proficiency in English or showcase their aptitude for business and management skills. Two popular standardised tests that serve these purposes are the (GMAT) and the (IELTS).

While GMAT primarily assesses an individual's readiness for business and management programs, IELTS evaluates English language proficiency for academic and immigration purposes.

Both tests hold significant importance in different contexts, and understanding their similarities, differences, and respective scopes is crucial for anyone considering them.

In this article, we will delve into the key aspects of GMAT and IELTS, exploring their formats, scoring systems, target audience, and fee structure.

Overview of IELTS and GMAT exams

The IELTS exam is designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It is commonly required for academic purposes, such as applying to universities or colleges in English-speaking countries, as well as for immigration and employment opportunities.

IELTS measures an individual's ability to listen, read, write, and speak in English through four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The test is available in two formats:

IELTS Academic, which focuses on academic language skills, and IELTS General Training, which evaluates practical, everyday English language skills.

The GMAT exam, on the other hand, is specifically tailored for individuals aspiring to pursue graduate-level business and management programs, such as MBA. It assesses skills considered essential for success in business schools, including analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

The GMAT format consists of four sections:

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), and Verbal Reasoning (VR). The total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800, with separate scores for each section. Additionally, GMAT scores are valid for up to five years.

Also read: GMAT vs CAT: Key differences and similarities

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IELTS vs GMAT: Key differences

IELTS and GMAT are two distinct exams that serve different purposes and assess different skill sets. Understanding the key differences between the IELTS and GMAT exams is crucial for individuals considering these tests.

1. Purpose

IELTS is primarily designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It is widely used for academic purposes, such as university admissions, as well as for immigration and employment requirements.

GMAT is specifically tailored for individuals seeking admission to graduate-level business and management programs, such as an MBA. It measures skills that are essential for success in business school, including analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

2. Content and skills assessed

The IELTS exam evaluates the candidate's English language proficiency across four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. It assesses skills such as listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing coherence and fluency, and speaking fluency and accuracy.

The GMAT exam focuses on assessing skills required for graduate-level business programs. It consists of four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), and Verbal Reasoning (VR). The GMAT measures skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, data analysis, and verbal reasoning.

3. Test format

The IELTS exam is available in two formats: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The Academic format is suitable for individuals applying to academic institutions, while the General Training format is typically used for immigration and work purposes.

The GMAT exam has a standardised format worldwide. It consists of multiple-choice questions, essays, and data interpretation tasks. The exam is computer-adaptive, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions adjusts based on the test-taker's performance.

4. Scoring and evaluation

The IELTS exam is scored on a nine-band scale, with each section and the overall band score calculated separately. The IELTS scores reflect the test-taker's English language proficiency level, ranging from non-user (band score 1) to expert (band score 9).

The GMAT exam provides a Total GMAT Score ranging from 200 to 800, which combines the scores of the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections. The Analytical Writing Assessment section is scored separately on a scale of 0 to 6, and the Integrated Reasoning section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8.

5. Test duration

The total test duration for the IELTS exam is around 2 hours and 45 minutes, including the time for the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections. The Speaking section is conducted separately and usually scheduled on the same day or within a week of the other sections.

The total test duration for the GMAT exam is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes, including the time for the Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning sections.

Also read: The GMAT vs GRE for MBA admissions

IELTS vs GMAT: Sections and types of question

The IELTS exam consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

  • Listening Section: It evaluates your ability to understand spoken English through a series of audio recordings. Question types include multiple-choice, matching, and completion tasks.
  • Reading Section: It measures your reading comprehension skills. It includes passages from different genres, such as newspapers, magazines, and academic texts. Question types include multiple-choice, matching, and True/False/Not Given.
  • Writing Section: It assesses your ability to express yourself in written English. It consists of two tasks: Task 1, where you interpret and describe visual information, and Task 2, where you write an essay expressing and supporting your opinion on a given topic.
  • Speaking Section: It evaluates your ability to communicate effectively in spoken English. It involves a face-to-face interview with an examiner and includes tasks such as introducing yourself, discussing a topic, and expressing opinions.

The GMAT exam consists of four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), and Verbal Reasoning (VR).

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: It assesses your ability to analyse and write an argumentative essay within a given time frame. You are required to critically evaluate a given argument and provide logical reasoning and evidence to support your response.
  • Integrated Reasoning: It evaluates your ability to evaluate and analyse information presented in various formats, such as tables, graphs, and multi-source reasoning. Question types include graphic interpretation, two-part analysis, and table analysis.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: It measures your mathematical skills and ability to solve problems. It includes both problem-solving and data-sufficiency questions, covering topics such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics.
  • Verbal Reasoning: It assesses your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction skills. It includes reading passages with accompanying questions, sentence correction tasks, and critical reasoning questions.

Also read: IELTS vs Duolingo: Comparing English proficiency tests

IELTS vs GMAT: Eligibility criteria

The IELTS test does not have any strict eligibility criteria in terms of age or educational qualifications. It is open to individuals of all ages and educational backgrounds. However, test takers under the age of 16 may need to provide written consent from a parent or guardian.

To be eligible for the GMAT, you must have completed a bachelor's degree from a recognized university or college. There is no specific field of study required, and applicants from various academic backgrounds are welcome to take the test. Unlike the IELTS, the GMAT has a standardised eligibility criterion focused on the educational qualification of the test taker.

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IELTS vs GMAT: Marking scheme

The IELTS test uses a 9-band scoring system, with 9 being the highest score and 1 being the lowest. Each section of the test is assessed separately, and the scores are then averaged to provide an overall band score. The scoring is based on strict criteria that measure the test taker's performance in terms of accuracy, coherence, fluency, and range of vocabulary and grammar.

The overall band score is calculated by taking the average of the band scores from all four sections. For example, if a test taker scores 7 in Listening, 8 in Reading, 7.5 in Writing, and 7 in Speaking, the overall band score would be the average of these scores, which is 7.375, rounded up to the nearest half or whole band score (in this case, 7.5). The band scores correspond to different levels of English language proficiency, ranging from non-user (band score 1) to expert (band score 9).

The GMAT test has a unique scoring system for each section. The AWA section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments, while the IR section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8 in single-digit increments. The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections are scored on a scale of 0 to 60. Additionally, the scores for the Quantitative and Verbal sections are combined to provide a total score ranging from 200 to 800.

The GMAT scoring takes into account both the number of questions answered correctly and the difficulty level of the questions. The final score reflects the test taker's relative performance compared to other test takers.

Also read: IELTS and GMAT scores for studying in UK

IELTS vs GMAT: Fee structure

The IELTS test fee is set by the test centres and may vary across different countries and regions. The fee for the IELTS exam in India is INR 16,500. Additionally, some test centres may offer additional services like expedited results or sending score reports to institutions for an extra fee.

The fee for the GMAT exam in India is USD275 (Delivered at a Test Center) and USD300 (Delivered Online). This fee includes sending your scores to up to five business schools or programs of your choice. However, if you wish to send your scores to additional schools, there is an additional fee per report.

IELTS vs GMAT: Competition and level of difficulty

The competition for the IELTS test can vary depending on the destination country and the specific institutions or programs that individuals are applying to. The difficulty level of IELTS can be considered moderate to challenging, especially for non-native English speakers. It can vary for individuals based on their English language proficiency and familiarity with the test format. The test assesses listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills in various contexts.

The competition for the GMAT test is generally high, as it is widely recognized by business schools and universities offering graduate business programs. Many competitive programs require a good GMAT score as part of the application process. The difficulty level of the GMAT is generally considered to be higher, especially for individuals who are not well-versed in business-related concepts and quantitative reasoning. The test requires strong critical thinking skills and the ability to analyse and solve complex problems.

IELTS vs GMAT: Which one to consider?

The choice between IELTS and GMAT depends on your specific educational and career goals. Determine whether you need to showcase English language proficiency for general purposes or demonstrate your readiness for business and management programs.

If your primary aim is to pursue a graduate-level business or management program, such as an MBA, the GMAT is often the preferred choice. Many business schools require GMAT scores as part of their admissions process. On the other hand, if you are seeking admission to an English-speaking university or college for a non-business program or if you need to demonstrate English language proficiency for immigration or employment purposes, IELTS is the appropriate test.

Frequently asked questions

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What is the purpose of the GMAT?

The GMAT is specifically designed to assess the aptitude and skills required for graduate-level business and management programs, such as an MBA. It measures analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning abilities.

What is the purpose of the IELTS?

The IELTS is primarily used to evaluate the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It assesses the ability to listen, read, write, and speak in English, and it is commonly required for academic purposes, immigration, and employment opportunities.

Can I take both the GMAT and IELTS?

Yes, you can take both the GMAT and IELTS, depending on your specific goals and requirements. However, it is important to note that each test serves a different purpose. The GMAT is generally required for business and management programs, while the IELTS is used for demonstrating English language proficiency.

Can I retake the GMAT or IELTS if I am not satisfied with my scores?

Yes, you can retake both the GMAT and IELTS if you are not satisfied with your scores. However, there are specific policies regarding the frequency of retakes and score reporting, so it is advisable to check the official websites of the respective tests for detailed information.

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