GRE vs TOEFL: Understand the Difference Between the GRE and TOEFL


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Picture of Aayush Nagpal

Aayush Nagpal

Lead, Lending Partnerships and Research

When you think about studying abroad, tests like GRE and TOEFL might come to mind. So let’s begin with the full forms of GRE and TOEFL. 


GRE is short for “Graduate Record Examinations” and TOEFL is the acronym for “Test of English as a Foreign Language”. 


These exams are among the first steps toward achieving your dream of studying in another country. GRE vs TOEFL is a common comparison because they serve different purposes. GRE helps schools determine if you are ready for postgraduate study and work, while TOEFL checks if you can handle courses taught in English. 


Knowing the difference between GRE and TOEFL is crucial. It helps you understand what each test offers and which one you need to take. This article will guide you through the basics of GRE and TOEFL, their roles, and why they are important for your study abroad journey.


Differences between the GRE and TOEFL


Let’s break down the difference between GRE and TOEFL.


# Aspect GRE TOEFL
1 Main Focus Academic Skills English Language Proficiency
2 Sections Verbal, Quantitative, Writing Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing
3 Purpose Grad School Admission English Proficiency for Non-Native Speakers
4 Test Format Computer and Paper-based Computer and Paper-based
5 Scoring 130-170 (Verbal & Quant), 0-6 (Writing) 0-30 (Each Section)


GRE and TOEFL exam differences explained


The GRE and TOEFL serve different goals. If you aim to enrol in a graduate program, especially in STEM fields, you’ll likely need the GRE. It checks how ready you are for tough courses. The test includes a section on maths, which the TOEFL doesn’t, because it’s more about language than quantitative skills.


On the other hand, the TOEFL is essential if English wasn’t the main language in your previous school. It ensures you can understand and participate in classes taught in English. Unlike the GRE, TOEFL tests your speaking directly, making sure you can communicate effectively in an academic setting.


Which is easier, GRE or TOEFL? This depends on your strengths. If you’re good at maths and critical thinking, the GRE might seem more straightforward. If your English skills are strong, you might find the TOEFL easier.


For those from non-English speaking countries, knowing the difference between TOEFL and GRE helps you plan better. You might need both, depending on where and what you want to study.


Remember, the GRE and TOEFL exam fee varies by location, so check the current prices on their official websites. There is a “standard” fee, on top of which your centre may charge additional fees. The “standard” fees for the GRE are ₹22,500 for the general test and ₹14,500 for the subject test. Learn more.


If you are looking for guidance, there are likely many GRE and TOEFL exam centres around your area. A quick google search will show you exactly where to go. For instance, some sample Google searches could be:


  • GRE TOEFL coaching centres in Vizag“, or


  • TOEFL and GRE coaching in Bangalore“, or


  • Best GRE and TOEFL coaching centres in Hyderabad“.

Source: Screenshot


You get the idea. These centres have professionals who can offer in-depth guidance about which exam you should take, and whether you need to take both. Further down in this article, we also try to explain which of these exams is right for you. It is worth mentioning that these local centres usually also offer paid classes that teach you how to crack each exam.


In summary, the GRE and TOEFL open different doors for your future studies. Choose based on your career path and the requirements of your dream school. 


Which is easier, GRE or TOEFL?


When trying to decide which is easier out of the GRE and TOEFL, it helps to look at them side by side. 


# Factor GRE TOEFL
1 Skills Tested Academic proficiency, including maths Level of English
2 Test Duration Around 3 hours and 45 minutes Around 3 hours and 30 minutes
3 Content Maths, verbal, and analytical writing Listening, reading, speaking, writing
4 Focus Area Broad academic skills Broad academic skills and English usage in academic settings
5 Challenging For Those less comfortable with maths or analytical writing Those improving their English language skills



Your strengths and weaknesses play a big part in which test you might find less challenging. Let’s break it down. 

For example, if you’ve been educated in English for most of your life, the TOEFL may not pose much of a challenge. On the other hand, the GRE tests a broader range of skills, including quantitative reasoning, which can be daunting for those not strong in maths.

Remember, the goal of these tests is different. The GRE tests your skill in graduate and post-graduate study across various disciplines, not just your English skills. Meanwhile, the TOEFL is designed to measure how well you can communicate in an English-speaking academic setting.

Ultimately, whether the GRE or TOEFL is easier depends on your personal skills and the requirements of the programs to which you’re applying. If you need both for your academic goals, it’s wise to prepare thoroughly for each to ensure the best possible outcome.

Should I take the GRE or TOEFL?


Deciding whether to take the GRE or TOEFL depends on your goals and the requirements of the programs to which you’re applying. Here’s a four-step guide to help you choose.


  1. Consider your study destination and program


GRE: Necessary for most graduate programs in the USA and many other countries. It’s a common requirement for Master’s and doctoral degrees across various fields.


TOEFL: Required if English is not your first language and you’re applying to English-speaking countries. It proves you can handle academic courses taught in English.


  1. Look at university requirements


Some universities might ask for both GRE and TOEFL scores, especially if you’re a non-native English speaker applying for a graduate program. Always check the specific requirements of each program.


If a university requires both to be submitted, then the choice is made for you—you’ll need to register for both. Your university’s program page will clearly mention if they require/accept the GRE/TOEFL. And if it does not, remember the moniker: ‘When in doubt, reach out’. For example, here is a screenshot from the MBA program page of Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business.

Source: Screenshot


  1. Assess your strengths


If you have confidence in your academic abilities and need to prove that you’re ready for graduate work, then the GRE is your test.


If you need to demonstrate your English language proficiency, focus on the TOEFL.


  1. Consider your future plans


GRE scores might also be useful if you’re considering a wide range of graduate programs, including business or law, as some MBA and JD programs accept GRE scores.


TOEFL is primarily for proving English proficiency. This makes it a compulsory requirement for Indians looking to study overseas.


How to apply for GRE and TOEFL?


Applying for the GRE and TOEFL is a straightforward process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you.


  1. How to Apply for the GRE


  • Visit the official ETS website login page and create an account. You’ll need this for both registering and accessing your scores later. Click on “Create Account” under either GRE or TOEFL. It doesn’t matter which, as the same login details can be used for all ETS exams. Follow the steps to make an account.

Source: Screenshot


  • Login to your account and select “register for a test”. Choose which version of the GRE test you’d like to take.

Source: Screenshot


  1. Fill in the necessary details and select your test date and location. If you want to take the test virtually from home, select that option. Be prepared with your personal information and payment details. Click on “Continue” on the bottom right.

Source: Screenshot


  • Select a day from the two months provided to you. Days in green are available to choose from. Make sure that you have selected the correct time zone at the top.

Source: Screenshot


  • Select the time that you would like your test to begin, and click “Register for This Test”. 

Source: Screenshot


  • For physical centres, fees can vary by location, so check the current price on the ETS website. Payment is made by credit card. On the home page, the ETS website allows you to find the centre closest to you.

Source: Screenshot


  1. Utilise official prep materials and plan your study schedule leading up to the test date.


  1. How to Apply for the TOEFL exam


  1. Just like the GRE, you’ll start by creating an account on the ETS website. Earlier, you needed to make an account dedicated to the TOEFL, but that is not the case anymore.

Source: Screenshot


  • Select the test that you would like to take.

Source: Screenshot


  • Look for available dates and locations that fit your schedule. Online testing will offer more flexible options.


  • Fill out any required information, including personal details and your payment method.


  • Check the latest fee on the ETS TOEFL page. Fees vary based on the testing location and format.


  • Use official TOEFL preparation materials to study.


Remember, deadlines for test registration can vary, so it’s wise to sign up well in advance of your desired test date. This gives you ample time to prepare and, if needed, retest before your application deadlines.


And with that, we come to the end of this article on the GRE vs TOEFL exam. We hope you found it useful, and we’ll see you in the next one.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I retake the GRE and TOEFL if I’m not happy with my scores?


Yes, you can retake both the GRE and TOEFL exam. For the GRE, you must wait 21 days before retaking it, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period. For the TOEFL, you can retake it as many times as you like, but not more than once within a 3-day period.

  • What’s the registration deadline for these exams?


Registration deadlines vary, but it’s generally recommended to register at least a month in advance for both tests. This ensures you get your desired test date and location.

  • How long are the test scores valid?


GRE scores are valid for five years from the test date. TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the test date.

  • Can I send my scores to universities directly?


Yes, both ETS (for GRE) and TOEFL allow you to send your scores directly to the institutions you’re applying to. Check their websites for details on how to do this.

  • Is there a limit to how many times I can send my scores?


For the GRE, you can send scores to up to four graduate programs or business schools during your test session at no extra cost. Additional score reports will incur a fee. For the TOEFL, you can also send your scores to as many institutions as you choose, with a fee for each report beyond the included four free choices.

  • Do the GRE or TOEFL offer accommodations for a disability?


Both the GRE and TOEFL offer accommodations for test-takers with disabilities. You should request accommodations through your ETS account well in advance of your desired test date, as approval can take several weeks.

  • How should I prepare for these exams?


Start by reviewing the free preparation materials available on the official GRE and TOEFL websites. Consider additional study guides, prep courses, or tutoring if you need more structured or intensive preparation.

  • What is the difference between GRE GMAT TOEFL and IELTS?

The GRE assesses general academic readiness, GMAT focuses on business school admissions, while TOEFL and IELTS measure English language proficiency, with IELTS being widely accepted in the UK and Australia.

  • How to choose between GRE GMAT TOEFL?

Choosing between the GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL depends on your academic and career goals. For most general graduate programs, the GRE is preferred, while the GMAT is specifically for business school admissions. If you’re a non-native English speaker applying to English-speaking institutions, the TOEFL is required to prove your English proficiency. Assess the requirements of the programs you’re interested in to make the best choice.

Picture of Aayush Nagpal

Aayush Nagpal

One of the core members of GradRight's founding team, Aayush has been associated with the higher education sector for the past 6 years. His never-say-die attitude & go-getter mentality makes him an invaluable asset to the company.

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