What is the difference between the GMAT and SAT?

Both are standardized tests. SAT is for college admission and GMAT is for business school admission (MBA).  Both exams are multiple choice and have a math/quant section and a verbal/writing section.

But there are significant differences:

Question Content/Format

  • The GMAT Math is much more about logic than the SAT Math, whereas the SAT Math is more about calculation and “plug and chug” questions.
  • The GMAT Verbal is also more about argumentative logic while the SAT Verbal is more about vocabulary.
  • The GMAT is a computerized adaptive test. Questions are dynamically generated based on whether you get the question right or wrong.
  • The SAT is a set test and every test taker on a given day will see the same set of questions.


Test Takers

  • Nearly every high school junior/senior ~ages 16/17 in the US takes the SAT
  • Self-selected students ranging from age 21-45 with ambitions of business school take the GMAT exam

GMAT Test Availability

  • GMAT: Virtually any time opening that your local test center has during the typical 5 business days of the week in front of a computer. I go into more details of the GMAT signup process in my article “GMAT Test Dates and Registration.”
  • SAT: Administered 7 times per year in classroom settings–pencil and paper.

The SAT was quite well known in high school Remember wayback in high school when everybody freaked out about the SAT?  Guidance counselors would remind you every other day and teachers would constantly bring it up. There was much more AWARENESS about the exam.

The GMAT, on the other hand, requires much more self initative. Your employer will not ask you “you need to get your act together and study for the GMAT”–like your guidance counselor would do. Your friends probably won’t remind you either, because not all of them will be taking the exam around the same time you will be taking the exam. Instead of competing against every other high school kid around the age of 16 or 17, you will be competing against working professionals roughly in the age range of 21-40 who are a self-selected group of ambitious and goal-oriented individuals. No slackers will take the GMAT whereas there are plenty of slackers who take the SAT “just because” the school makes them.

The GMAT exam is much more competitive than the SAT exam and often has less awareness. This is more the reason to make sure that you ARE prepared.

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