Difference between CAT and GMAT

by | Jan 10, 2022 | 0 comments


Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most trendings and admired post-graduate programs in India as well as abroad. This two-year program is a key to many doors of opportunities in the corporate sector. Students who complete their Bachelor’s degree are often looking ahead to pursue a postgraduate degree from a reputed business school but are always left confused about how to get admission into it. As the number of students interested in this program is escalating for the past few years, most of the B-schools take admissions on the basis of various entrance tests followed by a Group Discussion (GD) and Personal Interview (PI) round.




In this process of determining the perfect entrance test to step into top business schools, students generally come across the two most popular entrance tests – Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Common Admission Test (CAT). People are usually perplexed between GMAT and CAT.




Well, the major difference between GMAT and CAT is that GMAT is a test that is accepted globally by over 2000+ business schools and 7000 MBA programs whereas CAT is a national level examination and accepted by Indian business schools.




GMAT is developed and administered by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) and CAT is organized and administered by the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) for admitting students for their MBA or PGDM. Hence, students are always in a quandary while making a decision between taking CAT or GMAT as both serve as a milestone for acquiring admission into an MBA program.




Both the tests are standardized and computer-based that are conducted in an online mode. CAT and GMAT both are drafted to examine the Quantitative ability, Reasoning skills, and Data Interpretation skills of the aspiring candidates.
However, there are some prime differences in CAT and GMAT as shown in the table below:




Basic Difference Between CAT And GMAT




Parameter GMAT – Current Edition GMAT – Focus Edition CAT
Developed and administered by GMAC GMAC IIMs
Eligibility of the candidate At least 13 years of age At least 13 years of age Requires a Bachelor’s degree (with a minimum of 50% marks in it)
Frequency Round the year (Available only till June 2024) Round the year (Available from October 2023) Once a year
Validity of scores 5 years 5 years 1 year
Test duration 3 hours & 7 minutes 2 hours & 15 min 2 hours
Number of sections 4 3 3
Number of questions 80 64 66




Here are the 10 Major Difference between CAT and GMAT Exam:




Composition and Duration Difference:




GMAT Current Edition is 187 minutes long entrance test and consists of 4 sections – Analytical Writing Ability, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. This test can be taken up to five times a year and there must be a gap of about 16 days between the attempts. It is adaptive in nature i.e the testing software modifies according to the candidate’s performance as they move along the test. For example, after starting with the test, the computer comes up with more tough questions and surges its evaluation of your ability. Also, if and as the candidate answers incorrectly, the computer brings up easy questions thus reducing its evaluation of the candidate’s ability.




The table below shows the pattern of GMAT.




Section Duration No. of questions Types of questions
Analytical Writing Section 30 minutes 1 Topic Analysis of argument
Integrated Reasoning 30 minutes 12 questions Table analysis,Two-part analysis,Graphics Interpretation, Multi-source reasoning
Quantitative Reasoning 62 minutes 31 questions Data sufficiency, Problem-solving
Verbal Reasoning 65 minutes 36 questions Sentence correction,Reading Comprehension, Critical reasoning




In addition to this, the candidates can also employ two optional breaks of eight minutes each.






GMAT Focus Edition is the new version of GMAT which will be available from October 2023. The test under Focus Edition is 2 hours & 15 minutes long and consists of 3sections – Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Data Insights. This test can be taken up to five times a year and there must be a gap of about 16 days between the attempts. It is adaptive in nature i.e the testing software modifies according to the candidate’s performance as they move along the test. For example, after starting with the test, the computer comes up with more tough questions and surges its evaluation of your ability. Also, if and as the candidate answers incorrectly, the computer brings up easy questions thus reducing its evaluation of the candidate’s ability. In the Focus Edition, student can modify up to three responses after completing a section.




The table below shows the pattern of GMAT.




Section Duration No. of questions Types of questions
Integrated Reasoning 45 minutes 20 questions Table analysis, Two-part analysis, Graphics Interpretation, Multi-source reasoning Data Sufficiency
Quantitative Reasoning 45 minutes 21 questions Problem-solving
Verbal Reasoning 45 minutes 23 questions Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning




In addition to this, the candidates can also employ one optional breaks of 10 minutes.






Talking about CAT is a two-hour-long test and comprises three sections namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DLIR), and Quantitative Ability (QA). It is offered once a year, usually in November/December. It is conducted and managed every year by one of the IIMs based on the policy of rotation. It is not adaptive in nature, unlike the GMAT. It has a section-wise cut-off i.e the candidate must acquire a minimum mark in each section to qualify in that section and also in CAT.




The table below shows the pattern of CAT:




Section Duration Number of Questions
Quantitative Aptitude (QA) 40 minutes 22
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 40 minutes Verbal Ability – 8, Reading Comprehension – 16
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) 40 minutes 20
Total 120 minutes (2 hours) 66




The Validity of Scores:




The GMAT score is valid for 5 years from the date of the exam. Also, the candidate can take GMAT 5 times a year, and improve his/her scores. If a candidate couldn’t perform well on any given day, he/she will have the next attempt without a long tense wait. However, one can retake the GMAT only after 16 days of the previous attempt. This happens to be a huge advantage for the students appearing for the GMAT.
On the other hand, the CAT score is valid only for one year i.e if the candidate appears for CAT in 2020, then the score secured by the candidate is used for applying for the programs in 2021 only. In this case, if the candidate does not score up to mark, they have to wait for a whole year to take the test again. This is the major issue of consideration among the students while making a decision for an entrance test.




Eligibility Criteria difference between CAT and GMAT




An individual who wants to appear for GMAT has to meet some eligibility criteria. The age of the candidate must be 18 and above and it does not have any upper age limit. It can be attempted 5 times a year and there should be a gap of 16 days from the previous attempt. A candidate cannot appear for the GMAT for more than a total of 8 attempts.




Whereas, A CAT aspirant does not have a restriction on the number of attempts and there is no age limit. He/she can take the test once a year. However, they have to strictly follow the eligibility criteria as mentioned below:







      • The candidate has to acquire their Bachelor’s degree with at least 50% (for General Category and for candidates from the NC-OBC caste). For SC/ST and Differently Abled (DA) candidates, the required percentage is 45%.




      • If the University grants grade or CGPA in place of marks, there is a requirement of using the conversion factor which is given by the University in order to convert the CGPA into its equivalent marks.




      • Along with this, the candidates who have done their professional degrees with 50% (45% for SC/ST/PwD) are also eligible for CAT.




      • The final year students of all Bachelor’s degrees are allowed to appear for CAT with a condition that they will clear their Bachelor’s with the required percentage (45% or 50%). If the candidate is failing to clear their Bachelor’s with the required percentage, their results in the further admission processes will be exhibited null and void.





    Exam Fees Difference between CAT and GMAT




    The registration fee for GMAT costs $250.The candidate can create and register an account on the respective website. Once the registration is done, the candidate can schedule and book an appointment on the same website. It costs INR 2000/- to register for the CAT. The administration bodies of CAT, the IIMs, release a notification usually in the months of July or August. This released notification contains all the details of registration, exam fees, and other important information related to it. One must be careful about the deadlines for notifications, registrations, etc as CAT is not administered on demand.




    Competition Level




    The GMAT score is accepted by a large number of esteemed institutions nationally as well as internationally. Hence, the ratio of applicants to seats is stiffly favorable in the case of GMAT. The annual number of students who appear for the GMAT is more than 200,000. But the expected chance at success is much better in this case.
    CAT is a national level test and the annual number of test-takers is around 244,000. Last year, there were around 2,04,267 students who appeared for this test and competed for 1550+ seats thus making it the most competitive exam in the country. CAT is unquestionably the prime choice in India when it comes to an MBA entrance exam. There are around 2500 seats of the top 6 IIMs and even after taking several factors into consideration, one has to score not less than 99 percentile to get shortlisted for the subsequent selection process. This shows that it is not difficult to speculate the competition level in CAT. The eligible percentage decreases only barely for non-IIMs.




    Comparison of respective difficulty level




    A well-designed syllabus is available for the GMAT aspirants and hence this makes it easier for them as understanding and being familiar with the pattern and syllabus of any entrance test is the first step in the process of preparation. One can possibly score 700+ on the GMAT with 90 – 120 hours of dedicated preparation. Whereas, the syllabus of CAT is not well defined and this makes it difficult for the students to prepare for the same. This leads to an increase in preparation time for CAT.
    Comparing the tests section-wise, a greater challenge lies for the Indian test-takers in the verbal section of GMAT. The verbal section of GMAT uses comparatively an advanced level of vocabulary. The ones who are non-native English speakers find it difficult as compared to the verbal section of CAT. The quantitative section of CAT is comparatively tough than that of the GMAT. The LR section has been high on the difficulty level for the past two years.




    Profile Requirement




    The profile of the candidates plays a vital role in the further process of pursuing an MBA program. Mostly, there is no prominence of the scores the candidate has obtained in X and XII in the international universities. What matters the most in these international universities is at least 2 years of work experience. Along with this, the candidate must make a note that the quality of education and work experience matter a lot for top universities like Harvards. Hence, experiencing the work in high-profile companies will help the candidate to land in the top international universities.
    On the other hand, the management programs offered by IIMs, do not necessarily require work experience. They examine the percentages in Class X, Class XII, and Score in Graduation. Hence, in order to get into IIMs, one not only requires a good CAT score but also a good academic record overall.




    Difference between CAT and GMAT Syllabus




    The GMAT syllabus includes:







        1. Analytical Writing Section: This section measures the candidate’s ability to conceptualize and analyze his/her writing skills. It comprises one essay-type question. It is judged by a computer grading system and human graders. While appearing for this section, the candidate needs to make sure that he/she clearly identify and examine parts of the case, creates and organizes the ideas logically and considerately, and connects the statements with clear transitions.





      2. Integrated Reasoning: This section consists of Table analysis, Two-part analysis, Graphics Interpretation, and Multi-source reasoning. It measures the potential of the candidate to analyze the data and assess the information which is presented in different formats. This section tests both the verbal as well as the quants ability of the candidate.




      3. Quantitative Reasoning: This section comprises basic math concepts, including geometry, arithmetic, and geometry. It measures the aspirant’s ability to draw conclusions using reasoning skills. There are two types of questions – Data sufficiency and Problem-solving. Problem-solving type questions test the ability to use logic and analytical reasoning to solve quantitative problems. Data sufficiency type questions measure the ability to analyze a quantitative problem, recognize which data is relevant, and decide at what point there is enough data to solve the question. The business schools allocate around 6% weightage to the GMAT quant score while making admission decisions.




      4. Verbal Reasoning: This section tests the command of standard written English. It measures the ability to read critically and analyze the data and correct the statements as per the standard written English. The candidate has to answer 36 multiple-choice questions within 65 minutes.




      Whereas CAT Syllabus includes:







          1. Quantitative Aptitude (QA): This section includes numerical-based questions from different math concepts and topics. It consists of mainly 5 arithmetic concepts:








            • Basic Arithmetic




            • Number System




            • Geometry




            • Algebra




            • Modern Maths




            • In this, geometry is the most important topic followed by algebra. There are almost 9-11 questions in this section where the candidate has to type the answer. The level of questions in this section generally scales from easy to moderately high. The questions are mainly based on the application of mathematics in order to decipher real-time problems.





          2. Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC): This section principally focuses on the English language skills of the candidates and examines how well they can interpret paragraphs and understand the fundamental ideas. It includes:







              • Para jumbles




              • Sentence Correction and Completion




              • Summary based





            The questions in this section test the candidate’s knowledge of arranging paragraphs in a logical order, determining the type of statements, completing the paragraphs in an appropriate manner. There are around 7-8 questions in this section in which the candidate will not be provided with the options and needs to type the answers. The questions included in this section are moderately difficult as well as time-consuming.




            3. Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR): This section consists of the questions in which the data is already given. It tests the ability of the candidate to interpret the data in the right way and also examines logical reasoning. Basically, this section includes questions like inequalities to symbol operations, direction sense tests, etc.




            These types of questions help to understand the candidate’s ability to understand the problem statement properly;y and solve it logically. They can be easily solved and the candidates can highly score in this section. The data interpretation section is a bit difficult and time-consuming but is highly scored if solved cautiously as one mistake may lead to incorrect answering for the whole set.




            Comparing the quants and verbal sections of CAT vs GMAT




            CAT GMAT
            Geometry Number properties
            Mensuration Decimals
            Number System Averages
            HCF and LCM Profit and Loss
            Profit and Loss Speed, Distance and Time
            Geometric progressions Ratio proportion
            Averages Set theory
            Time, Speed, Distance Probability
            Trigonometry Multiples and factor
            Ratio and proportion Percentages
            Work and Time Powers and roots
            Algebra Simple and compound interes
            Percentages Mixtures and Alligations




            CAT vs GMAT Verbal syllabus Difference




            CAT GMAT
            Grammar Verb sentence
            Para completion and inference Pronoun
            Reading comprehension Modifiers
            Verbal logic Idioms
            Para jumbles Parallelism
            Syllogisms Comparison
            Analogies Inference
            Antonyms Assumption
            Sentence completion Paradox
            Jumbled paragraphs Contextual usage




            Course Fee – Structure




            Pursuing an MBA requires a huge amount of fees. The institutes that accept CAT have comparatively low fees as compared to GMAT. The highest fees for MBA in India is around 20-22 lakhs, for IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, or Calcutta. Comparatively, the institutes under GMAT have a huge amount of fees around 40-50 lakhs or even more. One must always try for scholarships to reduce the expenditure.




            Factors to be considered while choosing CAT vs GMAT




            If one is aspiring to study abroad, acquire valuable international exposure, and work experience, then GMAT is the crystal-clear choice because of its wider acceptance globally. Some of the world’s top and reputed business schools that accept GMAT scores for admission are:







                • Harvard Business School




                • MIT Sloan School of Management




                • Stanford Graduate School of Business




                • On the contrary, more than 100 other B-schools besides 20 IIMs all over India accept CAT scores. In addition to this, few international business schools also accept CAT scores for admission into management programs. Following are some of the international colleges that accept CAT scores:




                • SP Jain Institute of Management – MBA in Sydney/Dubai/Singapore SKEMA Business School – MiM in France




                • Singapore Management University – MiM in Singapore





              Choice of the program is another important factor while choosing between these two tests. If one targets a traditional full-time 2-year MBA program, then CAT happens to be an obvious choice for them. But if the candidate is considering the 1-year full-time executive program (EPGP/PGPEx) then a valid GMAT score is accepted.
              Along with getting into a top and reputed B-school globally, a good GMAT score also increases the chances of securing a scholarship. This helps widely to reduce the expenditure. While the IIMs that accept CAT also offer financial resistance in the form of loans rather than scholarships.
              Thus, by considering this in-depth comparison, it will be easier for the candidates to make an informed decision. Both CAT and GMAT have their own straightness and constraints. MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an individual. It must be well thought and a calculated decision for a successful career ahead.



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