GRE vs. SAT: Which exam is best for aspiring postgraduate students?

The GRE General Test is taken by students who want to pursue postgraduate studies in master’s and PhD programs while SAT is taken by students for college admissions. Both tests are a requirement for admissions but serve different purposes. There are more notable differences between these tests which will be further discussed.

GRE vs. SAT Overall Differences

A comparison of differences between the GRE and GMAT is presented below.

GRE vs. SAT: Differences and Similarities

 

GRE

SAT

Purpose

Used for postgraduate admissions

Used for undergraduate admissions

Structure

Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Experimental (Verbal or Quantitative)

Reading, Writing and Language, Math (Calculator), Math (No Calculator), Essay

Format

Computer-adaptive testing and paper-based testing

Paper-based testing

Scoring

Scores for each section range from 130-170 in 1 point

increments for verbal and quantitative reasoning

The Analytical Writing section is scored separately

Total score may range from 400 to 1600 in 10-point increments

The essay part is scored separately

Cost

$205

$46 or $60

Testing Time

3 hours and 30 minutes (Paper-Based)

3 hours and 45 minutes (Computer-Based)

3 hours and 50 minutes including the essay section

Validity

5 years

Does not expire

The differences and similarities between the GRE and SAT are presented in the table above. These are further explained in the following sections.

I. GRE vs. SAT: Purpose

The GRE is required for admission to postgraduate schools, whereas the SAT is required for undergraduate admissions. Students who want to pursue master’s or doctorate degrees take the GRE. On the other hand, students who are in junior and senior high school take the SAT for college admission.

II. GRE vs. SAT: Structure

The GRE test has 4 sections while the SAT has 5 sections. The GRE test’s sections are verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and experimental section which may be verbal or quantitative.Reading, writing and language, math (calculator), math (no calculator), and essay are the test sections of SAT. Reading, Writing, and Mathematics are both included in GRE and SAT varying from number of questions. Both the GRE and SAT cover the same subject areas of reading, writing, and math, their individual sections and number of questions differ significantly.

Read More: Test Structure

III. GRE vs. SAT: Format

Computer-adaptive testing and paper-based testing are both offered for the GRE while the SAT is paper-delivered examination only. Computer-adaptive testing helps re-estimates an examiner’s ability based on his performance on the previous section. This way, the computer can adapt to a test taker’s ability level.

IV. GRE vs. SAT: Scoring

Different scales for scoring are operated in GRE and SAT. A GRE score may go from 130 to 170 in 1-point increment for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections. For the Analytical Writing section, a 6-point scale for each response task is used to score. Thus, a total GRE score may range from 260 to 340.

On the other hand, an SAT score can go from 200 to 800 for the overall score of the two math sections. Then, the scores on the Reading, and Writing and Language sections are integrated to come up with the overall Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score using the same 200 to 800 scale. For the essay part, SAT examinees obtain three individual scores. Each score may range from 2 to 8 points. Therefore, a perfect score for the essay section would be three 8s. In all, the Math and EBRW test scores are added to produce an overall SAT score on a scale of 400 to 1600 in 10-point increments.

Read More: GRE Scores

V. GRE vs. SAT: Cost

$205 is the fee for the GRE General Test while the SAT costs $46 or $60. SAT fee varies depending on the student’s choice of taking the essay section. However, the GRE price may also vary depending on the location of the test taker. Australia, China, Turkey, India, Nigeria and other European countries have different fees than the United States. Some countries rate slightly cheaper while others are slightly more expensive.

Moreover, fees for requesting additional score reports also differ for both tests. Additional GRE score reports costs $27 per score recipient while it costs $12 per score recipient for the SAT.

VI. GRE vs. SAT: Testing Time

3 hours and 45 minutes is given to GRE test takers while 3 hours for the SAT examinees. If an SAT examinee chooses to take the optional essay section, it will take 3 hours and 50 minutes in total. For the paper-based testing of the GRE, 3 hours and 30 minutes is given.

For a more specific testing time for each section, refer to the tables below.

Test Duration: GRE Test Sections

Verbal Reasoning

2 sections, 20 questions each

30 minutes each section

Quantitative Reasoning

2 sections, 20 questions

35 minutes each section

Analytical Writing

2 essays

30 minutes each

Experimental

1 section, 20 questions

30 or 35 minutes

Test Duration: SAT Test Sections

Reading

52 questions

65 minutes

Writing and Language

44 questions

35 minutes

Math
(Calculator)

38 questions

55 minutes

Math
(No Calculator)

20 questions

25 minutes

Essay

1 question, optional

50 minutes

VII. GRE vs. SAT: Validity

The 5-year validity period is applicable for the GRE scores. SAT scores do not expire. But there are institutions that impose time restrictions between taking the test and submitting an application. The average time restriction is around 5 years [1].

Which admission test is harder, GRE or SAT?

The GRE General Test is found to be more difficult than the SAT. According to previous test takers, the GRE Verbal Reasoning consists of challenging vocabulary and reading passages compared to the SAT. It also has trickier math problems and requires a higher level of reasoning [2].

Read More: GRE Alternatives

Can a GRE score be converted to SAT score?

No, even if it is possible to make a rough conversion of GRE score SAT score. There is no official score conversion available at the moment but experts have curated a table where one can easily convert GRE score to SAT score using the percentile rankings.

Below is a guide in converting GRE Quant score to SAT Math score and vice versa[3]:

GRE Quantitative Score to SAT Math Score Conversion Table

SAT Math Score

GRE Quantitative Score

Percentile

800

99+

770-790

99

760

98

740-750

170

97

730

169

96

700-720

168

94-95

690

167

92

680

166

91

660-670

165

88-89

650

164

86-87

640

163

84

620-630

162

81-82

610

161

78

600

160

76

590

159

73

580

158

69-70

560-570

157

65-67

550

156

61-62

540

155

58-59

530

154

54-55

520

153

49-51

510

152

45-47

500

151

40-43

490

150

37-38

480

149

34-35

470

148

30-32

460

147

27-29

440-450

146

22-25

430

145

20

420

144

17

410

143

14

400

142

12

390

141

10

380

140

8

360-370

139

5-7

350

138

4

340

137

3

330

135-136

2

300-320

133-134

1

Presented above is the conversion table for GRE score to SAT score in the Math section. Remember that the GRE and SAT are different from each other. Each test has its own distinct content, purpose, and scoring system. Thus, one score cannot be directly converted to another. It is possible, however, to use the percentile in each exam to conduct a rough conversion.

Below is a guide in converting GRE Verbal score to SAT Reading score and vice versa[3]:

GRE Verbal Score to SAT Reading Score Conversion Table

SAT EBRW Score

GRE Verbal Score

Percentile

770-800

99+

750-760

169-170

99

730-740

167-168

98

720

166

97

710

165

96

690-700

164

94-95

680

163

92-93

670

162

91

660

161

88-89

640-650

160

85-87

630

159

82-83

620

158

79-80

610

157

76-77

600

156

73

580-590

155

67-70

570

154

64-65

560

153

60-61

550

152

56-57

540

151

52-53

530

150

48-49

510-520

149

42-46

500

148

39

490

147

35

480

146

31-32

470

145

27-28

450-460

144

22-25

440

143

19-20

430

142

16-17

420

141

14-15

410

140

12

400

139

9-10

390

138

8

380

137

6

360-370

136

4-5

350

135

3

340

133-134

2

300-330

131-132

1

Presented above is the conversion table for GRE score to SAT score in the Verbal and Reading section. Remember that the GRE and SAT are different from each other. Each test has its own distinct content, purpose, and scoring system. Thus, one score cannot be directly converted to another. It is possible, however, to use the percentile in each exam to conduct a rough conversion.

Which test should I take for postgraduate admissions?

The GRE General Test should be taken for postgraduate admissions.

What score should I get in the GRE for postgraduate admissions?

318 and above is a good GRE score for postgraduate admissions.

Read More: GRE Score Requirements

Which test should I take for undergraduate admissions?

SAT must be taken for college admissions.

What score should I get on the SAT for undergraduate admissions?

A score of at least 1200 is a good SAT score to be admitted for college admissions. It is best for students to aim for a score that is at least within or higher than the prospective school’s middle 50% [4].

While there’s no standard for a “good” SAT score, it’s best to aim for at least 1200. More importantly, aim for an SAT score that’s within or higher than your school’s middle 50%.

Do universities prefer the GRE or the SAT?

SAT is required by universities for college admissions whereas GRE is required in postgraduate admissions like master’s and PhD programs. Therefore, these two tests have distinct uses and are preferred by universities depending on incoming education level.

References:

  1. https://www.powerfulprep.com/do-sat-scores-expire/#:~:text=Technically%2C%20SAT%20scores%20never%20expire.&text=Certain%20institutions%20place%20restrictions%20on,it’s%20usually%20around%20five%20years.
  2. https://www.prepscholar.com/gre/blog/how-hard-is-the-gre/
  3. https://www.prepscholar.com/gre/blog/sat-to-gre-conversion/
  4. https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/what-is-a-good-sat-score/