Bijay Poudel

When applying for higher education, most universities and colleges require an assessment of your language proficiency and academic ability. 

Two of the most common tests used for this purpose are the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

The GRE is primarily used for admission to graduate and business schools in the United States. At the same time, the IELTS is an internationally recognised English language proficiency test commonly used for admission to universities worldwide.

In this article, we will compare and contrast the GRE and IELTS, exploring the differences between these tests, their formats, content, and other essential factors that can help you decide which test to take.

Here are some of the key differences:



The GRE is a yearly computer-based test, whereas the IELTS is a paper-based test on selected dates. The GRE is divided into six sections, including two analytical writing sections, two verbal reasoning sections, and two quantitative reasoning sections. The total test duration is about 3 hours and 45 minutes.

In contrast, the IELTS has four sections: listening, reading, writing, and speaking, and it takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. The listening, reading, and writing sections are all completed in one sitting, while the speaking section is typically scheduled on a different day.


The GRE tests your analytical and critical thinking skills and quantitative and verbal reasoning abilities. The analytical writing sections require you to analyse an issue or argument. In contrast, the verbal and quantitative sections test your ability to comprehend and analyse written material and solve problems using mathematical concepts.

On the other hand, the IELTS assesses your English language proficiency across four main areas: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The listening section measures your ability to comprehend spoken English, while the reading section tests your ability to understand written English. The writing section requires you to complete two writing tasks, while the speaking section assesses your ability to speak and communicate effectively in English.


The GRE is scored on a scale of 130 to 170 for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections, with increments of 1 point, and on a scale of 0 to 6 for the analytical writing sections, with increments of 0.5 points. The final score is calculated by averaging the scores from the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections, which are then combined with the analytical writing score.

The IELTS is scored on a 9-point scale, with increments of 0.5 points, for each of the four sections. The final score is an average of the scores from all four sections and is represented as a band score. For example, a band score of 7.0 means that the student has achieved an overall score equivalent to a level of English proficiency described as a “good user”.

Universities and Colleges

The GRE is primarily used by graduate and business schools in the United States and Canada, although some schools in other countries may also require it. The IELTS, on the other hand, is accepted by universities and colleges worldwide, including those in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.


The cost of taking the GRE varies depending on the country and location where the test is taken. In the United States, the cost is $205; in other countries, the cost may range from $230 to $255. Taking the IELTS also varies depending on the country and location, but it is generally less expensive than the GRE. In the United States, taking the IELTS costs about $240.


The GRE and IELTS require preparation and practice to achieve a high score. Many resources are available for preparing for these tests, including study guides, practice exams, and online courses.

For the GRE, the official website offers free practice materials, including free software that simulates the test-taking experience. Many test preparation companies like Kaplan and The Princeton Review also offer GRE courses and materials.

Similarly, the IELTS website offers free practice materials, including sample questions and answers, and an online course for a fee. Many other test preparation companies, such as British Council, IDP Education, and Kaplan, offer IELTS courses and materials.

Which Test Should You Take?

The decision to take the GRE or IELTS depends on several factors, including your academic goals, the requirements of the universities or colleges you are applying to, and your strengths and weaknesses.

If you plan to attend a graduate or business school in the United States, you will likely need to take the GRE. However, if you are applying to universities worldwide, the IELTS may be a better option, as it is more widely accepted. 

Additionally, you are confident in your English language proficiency. In that case, you may find the IELTS to be a better fit for you, while if you excel in analytical and critical thinking skills, the GRE may be a better choice.

It is essential to research the specific requirements of the universities or colleges you are applying to determine which test is required or recommended. Some universities may accept either test, while others may require one or the other.

Whether you take the GRE or IELTS, preparing and practising to achieve a high score is essential. Taking practice exams, reviewing study materials, and seeking guidance from a test preparation company can help you achieve your goals.

Ultimately, deciding to take the GRE or IELTS depends on your goals and needs. By understanding the differences between these two tests, you can make an informed decision and take the first step towards achieving your academic aspirations.

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