Are you confused about having to choose between the GMAT and the CAT exams? Your MBA goals play the most decisive role in determining the academic trajectory of your choice. Before you make your pick, it is quintessential to decide where you want to study: do you want to secure admission in a renowned business school outside India and gain global exposure or do you want to pursue your education at a top Indian business school of international acclaim? Ideally, the GMAT is taken by applicants who intend to apply to business schools across the globe. Since the GMAT is accepted by nearly 7000 programmes and over 2000 business schools, it is the most demanded standardized test for admissions to MBA programmes all over the world. However, CAT, on the other hand, is a national-level entrance test for MBA admissions to prestigious universities in India.
Wondering what is tougher — CAT or GMAT? Although both exams have the same objective — testing your quantitative and verbal abilities — they do so using different approaches. The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means that the test adapts to your ability level. In other words, the difficulty level of the next section/questions increases or decreases based on the previous section/questions that have been answered. The CAT, on the other hand, is a paper-based test with uniform difficulty levels throughout the sections for all test takers.
In this article, we will talk in detail about GMAT vs CAT, the exam questions and the factors that need to be considered while deciding which one to choose for your MBA.
Here is an outline of all the topics the article covers:
|Differences Between The GMAT And CAT Exam||Format Of The Exam|
Validity Of Score
Scope Of GMAT and CAT
Level Of Competition
Admission Procedures Post Taking The Test
|GMAT Vs CAT Syllabus||GMAT Vs CAT Quant Syllabus|
GMAT Vs CAT Verbal Syllabus
|GMAT Vs CAT, Which Is Better?||MBA Goals|
Difference Between the GMAT and the CAT Exam
One of the common dilemmas that MBA aspirants face is choosing between the two most widely accepted exams for admission to B-schools, i.e., GMAT vs CAT.
CAT is administered by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), and GMAT is conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The Common Admission Test (CAT) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) are the top two management tests accepted by business schools. CAT is a national level exam that is accepted by more than 1200 business schools in India for admission to MBA/PGDM programmes, whereas the GMAT is a global level entrance exam accepted by more than 2100 management colleges all over the world. It is also accepted in a few Indian business schools.
Although they have some aspects in common, both tests are vastly different. In the following section, we are going to discuss the difference between the two.
Here are the key differences between the CAT and the GMAT:
- Format of the exam
The CAT has 3 sections, namely Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VRAC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Ability (QA). In comparison to CAT, GMAT has 4 sections, namely Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Verbal Reasoning (VR).
Both CAT and GMAT are computer-based tests, but the major difference is that the GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, whereas the CAT isn’t. A computer-adaptive test adapts to your ability level; this means that the difficulty level of the next question/section increases or decreases depending upon how you have answered the previous questions/sections. Furthermore, a key differentiating factor between the two exams is the time duration. While the CAT exam is 2 hours long, the duration of the GMAT is 3 hours and 7 minutes.
Learn more about the GMAT exam structure.
- Eligibility criteria
Although the GMAT can be taken by anyone above the age of 13 years, those within the age group of 13-17 will require parental permission. Those above 18 years can take the test without any permission. Besides, there is no upper age limit for taking this exam. If you wish to apply for MBA programmes, you need a graduate degree in any discipline from a recognised university.
In order to take the CAT exam, you are required to have a Bachelor’s degree from a recognised university with at least 50% marks or GPA. Students in their final year can also take the exam. Moreover, there is no specified age bar for taking the exam.
We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions with regards to GMAT eligibility criteria.
The GMAT can be attempted up to 5 times in a span of 12 months. Two consecutive attempts should be at least 16 days apart. The overall lifetime limit for this exam is 8. This is because GMAC gives you the opportunity to improve your score and retake the exam. CAT can be taken once a year as it is conducted only yearly. However, there is no specific number of attempts that you can take. You can attempt the exam as many times as you like.
- Validity of score
GMAT scores are valid for a period of five years from the date of examination and are available for reporting for up to 10 years. Scores older than 10 years are not available. This criterion was established because GMAC believes that a candidate’s analytical and reasoning abilities do not undergo a radical change over 5 years.
CAT scores are just valid for a period of 1 year from the date of examination. Candidates who wish to re-apply the following year need to take the exam again. Since the exam is conducted once a year as mentioned above, it is also likely that you will have to wait a year to retake the exam.
- Examination fees
The cost of registering for GMAT is $250 (in most countries) which is about INR.18270, this is subject to the exchange rate at the time of registration. Check out our article on the breakup of the GMAT exam fees. The registration fee for the CAT exam is INR.2000 for general category students and INR.1000 for students in the reserved category.
- Marking scheme
You are marked section-wise on the GMAT and the total score you can acquire is anywhere between 200 to 800. The Verbal and Quant sections are scored on a scale of 0-60 with a one-point increment. This score is based on the computer-adaptive algorithm that calculates the score based on the difficulty of questions you have attempted and whether you have answered each question in each section. However, the scores of IR and AWA sections are reported separately. The IR section is scored on a scale of 1-8 and the Analytical Writing Assessment is scored on a scale of 0-6. The AWA essays are scored by an amalgamation of machine algorithms and trained human raters.
The CAT paper’s total marks can either be 300 or 228 based upon the new marking scheme. Each question in this exam carries 3 marks. In case any question is left unanswered, there is no penalty (unlike the GMAT that penalizes you for questions left unanswered).
- Scope of GMAT vs CAT
According to GMAC’s data, more than 2300 business schools around the world accept GMAT scores. Business schools around the world have made the GMAT an essential requirement for admission, particularly the world’s leading schools, such as Harvard Business School, INSEAD, Wharton School, University of Chicago, etc. In India, only a handful of tier-1 MBA schools, such as ISB Hyderabad and the IIMs accept GMAT scores. The CAT, on the other hand, is a national-level exam and is accepted only for admission to B-schools within India. More than 1200 colleges in India accept CAT scores, including IIMs.
- Level of competition
CAT is taken by almost 2 lakh aspirants yearly and is preferred by most students looking to apply to a B-school in India. There is a cumulative total of 2500 seats in the top 6 IIMs, which is the first preference of almost all candidates. Hence, the level of competition in CAT is extremely high when compared to that of the GMAT exam. If you wish to make it into one of the IIMs, you will have to target a score that is well over the 99th percentile, which is quite challenging.
Alternatively, with regards to the GMAT exam, the competition lies in meeting or exceeding the admission requirements set by the university or business school’s program and the score does not have complete weightage on the decision of the admission’s committee. Since the GMAT is accepted by several institutions globally, the options available to you are also equally high which helps distribute the competition. Therefore, the chances of you securing admission into a good college are much higher with the GMAT than the CAT, if based only on the ratio of the number of seats to a number of applicants.
- GMAT vs CAT difficulty levels
The syllabus provided for GMAT preparation is well-structured and defined. This makes it easy to prepare for the exam with all the relevant topics at hand. Contrarily, it is believed that the CAT syllabus is not well defined, which makes the exam difficult to crack. The CAT examination is more theoretical, whereas the GMAT is more practical.
Although both exams have Verbal and Quant sections, the Quant section of the CAT exam is relatively more difficult than the GMAT. It is believed that you are tested highly on technical aspects of quant in the case of CAT; whereas, you are tested on your ability to reason in the GMAT exam. The Quant section of the CAT exam requires you to have a strong understanding of mathematical concepts, and you cannot simply rely on basic math skills.
On the GMAT, however, you can easily crack the quant section with only a basic understanding of mathematics as the test gauges your accuracy level and not necessarily getting all the answers right. Hence, well-calculated guesswork is highly encouraged on the GMAT. The GMAT tests your logic and reasoning skills, whereas the CAT is more focused on your theoretical skills.
- Admission procedure post the test
MBAs have several other admission criteria other than simply appearing for a standardised test. MBA programmes abroad, in particular, require you to acquire work experience and demonstrate leadership skills. Hence, the GMAT score that you acquire can be compensated for if you can demonstrate strong leadership skills through work experience or extracurricular activities. Moreover, every business school also requires an applicant to submit at least two letters of recommendation, one professional and one academic or both academic.
On the contrary, if you successfully acquire a grade above the cut-off on the CAT, you are required to appear for a written ability test, personal interview, and group discussion as part of the additional requirements of most business school’s admission requirements. Hence, acing the CAT or the GMAT is not the only criterion to securing admissions to business schools in India or abroad, demonstrating a strong business acumen is equally important.
GMAT vs CAT Preparation: Points to Note
GMAT vs CAT Differences: Sections of Both the Exams
To understand the key differences between the two tests, it is important that we understand the syllabus of GMAT and CAT respectively.
The overall structure of the GMAT exam, as mentioned above, consists of 4 sections:
- Analytical writing assessment
The analytical writing assessment is the section on the GMAT which tests your ability to analyse the reason behind an argument and critique it. The AWA section is about 30 minutes long and has only one question. You are expected to produce a well-structured and logical essay.
- Integrated Reasoning
The integrated reasoning section is also 30 minutes long but has 12 questions. In this section, you are presented with data in the form of graphs, charts or other visual formats. You are required to interpret the date and choose the answer from the multiple-choice questions given.
- Quantitative Reasoning
The quantitative section of the GMAT exam lasts for a duration of 62 minutes and has 32 questions. Your mathematical skills and ability to reason quantitatively is measured. Although you are not gauged on the level of math knowledge you possess, you will be gauged on how you reason and derive the right answer.
- Verbal Reasoning
The verbal reasoning section gauges your ability to read, comprehend and critically analyze an argument in the English language. The section consists of questions in the form of sentence correction, reading comprehension and critical reasoning. This section consists of 36 questions that have to be answered within a span of 65 minutes.
The key differentiating factor between the CAT and GMAT exam, however, is the presence of an AWA section on the GMAT which is not available on the CAT.
The CAT exam includes the following sections:
- Verbal and reading comprehension
This section of the CAT exam tests your language skills and your ability to interpret and understand paragraphs. The VARC section of the CAT includes 26 questions and has a total score of 78.
- Data interpretation and logical reasoning
The data interpretation and logical reasoning section, as the name suggests, measures your ability to interpret data and make logical inferences. The section comprises a total of 24 questions and has a total of 72 marks.
- Quantitative ability
The CAT exam is known to be challenging for its demanding quantitative section that expects you to go through the vigorous practice of several mathematical topics. CAT asks questions about arithmetic, algebra, geometry and number systems. The quant section of CAT comprises a total of 26 questions and has a total of 78 marks.
In addition to the above-mentioned sections of both the exams, there is also a difference between the topics covered in each of the quant and verbal sections of both the exams. We’ve put together a table below to help you understand the differences.
GMAT vs CAT Quant Syllabus
|Decimals||Ratios And Proportion|
|Averages||HCF And LCM|
|Power And Roots||Algebra|
|Profit And Loss||Profit And Loss|
|Simple And Compound Interest||In-Equations Quadratic And Linear Equations|
|Speed, Distance And Time||Geometric Progression|
|Pipes, Cisterns And Work Time||Percentages|
|Ratio And Proportion||Averages|
|Mixtures And Alligations||Partnership|
|Descriptive Statistics||Time-Speed And Distance|
|Set Theory||Surds Indices|
|Permutation And Combination||Logarithms|
|Algebraic Expressions And Equations|
|Arithmetic And Geometric Progression|
|Inequalities And Basic Statistics|
|Lines And Angles|
GMAT vs CAT Verbal Syllabus
|Verb Tense||Fill In The Blanks|
|Subject-Verb Agreement||Para Completion And Inference|
|Strengthen And Weaken||Different Usage Of The Same Word|
|Foreign Language Words Used In English|
|One Word Substitution|
GMAT vs CAT: Which is Better?
By now you may have understood which is more difficult, CAT or GMAT. However, it is essential to note that the CAT and GMAT both have their advantages and drawbacks. Here are a few factors you should consider before choosing which test to prepare for to secure admissions to an MBA programme of your choice.
- Professional goals
When evaluating between GMAT vs CAT and gauging which exam would best suit your interests, you have to see which exam helps you achieve your professional goals.
Although MBA aspirants have a common goal – to get into top-tier business schools and graduate with high-paying jobs – the exam you opt for depends on your greater professional goals. While those opting for the CAT exam mostly target business schools such as the IIMS, FMS, etc., so as to build a successful domestic career; GMAT test-takers, on the other hand, take the exam to apply at a highly-ranked global business school abroad and build a career in that region. Hence, it is advisable for you to know before applying for an MBA program, where you would like to work and settle eventually. By doing so, you are simplifying the choice between GMAT vs CAT.
Lastly, the location you choose to study for an MBA will also influence your job prospects since every MBA is taught in the context of the business practices and economic factors governing that region. More details with regards to this are covered under location preferences.
- Program Preferences
The program you prefer also has an impact on your choice between GMAT vs CAT. While IIMs and most business schools in India offer PGDMs and require CAT test results as part of their admissions requirements, most business schools abroad, on the other hand, offer Master’s programmes and require GMAT test results as part of their admission requirements. Depending on the choice of programme, you will also have to meet additional requirements that the programmes may require to complete. This includes arranging recommendation letters and submitting proof of work experience, etc.
- Location Preferences
As mentioned above under professional goals, location preferences play a critical role in deciding where you eventually settle down. If you have targeted a particular country that you would want to settle down in, then you should look to pursue your MBA in that region since it helps you contextualise your MBA to the economy and business practices of that country. Hence, the choice between a GMAT vs CAT can be easily made by deciding which location you are eyeing to work and study an MBA in.
Furthermore, since you also need to keep in mind the return on investment that you need to generate over the cost of acquiring an MBA, finding a job that pays well enough to overcome your costs is absolutely essential. This can only be done when you find a job in the same country that you’re pursuing your MBA in. Hence, when you set your location preferences right, then choosing between GMAT vs CAT becomes an easier task.
A significant factor that gives the GMAT an edge over the CAT exam is the availability of scholarships. A good GMAT score can help secure meritorious scholarships from business schools that help ease the burden of funding an MBA. The CAT exam, on the other hand, does not necessarily fetch any scholarships even on scoring above the cut-offs. However, the IIMs do offer loans to provide financial assistance to their students. Hence, if you are looking to gain scholarships, the GMAT is clearly a better option than the CAT.
All in all, the key takeaways on how to choose between GMAT vs CAT are: The CAT is preferable if you want to get into premier B-schools in India like the IIMs, whereas taking the GMAT exam would be beneficial if you want to study at business schools abroad. Both the CAT and the GMAT demand rigorous practice and commitment, however, you need to check your location preference and professional goals before taking any of the two exams. To sum up, between GMAT vs CAT, the GMAT has a wider reach because you can apply for MBA programmes across the globe, while the CAT helps you get into the top IIM business schools in India.
Hope this article helps you make an informed decision on what is best for you when deciding between the two entrance exams. Rest assured both standard tests will get you admissions into excellent business schools.
- Were there any updates to the structure and format of the CAT exam in 2020?
- Prior to 2020, the CAT exam allotted 60 minutes to each section but after the recent changes, the CAT exam allocates 40 minutes to each section without changing the number of questions asked in each section.
- What is the scope of the GMAT exam?
- The GMAT exam has a wide scope as it is accepted globally by over 2500 business schools and 7000 MBA programmes.
- What is the scope of the CAT exam?
- The CAT exam is accepted by only business schools in India. In addition to the IIMs, over 1200 universities offering PGDM or Masters in Business Administration accept the CAT exam.
- What is the number of attempts allowed on the CAT and GMAT exam?
- Since the GMAT is conducted all around the year, a test-taker can take about 5 attempts in a year with a difference of 16 days between each attempt. On the contrary, the CAT is conducted yearly, hence, a test-taker can only take the test once a year.
- What is the validity of the GMAT and CAT scores?
- The GMAT score is valid for a period of 5 years and the CAT score is valid for a year.
Whichever exam you decide, make sure to come up with a smart study plan and prepare consistently.
All the best!