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GMAT VS. CAT- Which MBA Entrance Exam is Right for You?

GMAT VS. CAT- Which MBA Entrance Exam is Right for You?

In this blog, we’ll break down the GMAT and CAT exams, highlighting their differences and helping you choose the right one for your MBA journey. Ready to uncover the answers? Keep reading. Before we dive in, check out the table of contents below for a sneak peek.

Table of Contents

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What is a GMAT Exam?

What is a GMAT Exam?

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is an exam that people take when they want to pursue a graduate business degree, like an MBA (Master of Business Administration). It’s a standardized test that helps business schools evaluate a candidate’s readiness for their programs. Here’s what you need to know about the GMAT:

1. Purpose

The GMAT assesses your skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, and your ability to analyze and understand written material. Business schools use your GMAT scores as a part of their admissions process to predict how well you might perform in their programs. 

Taking the GMAT can improve your chances of gaining admission to international colleges, particularly for graduate management programs such as the MBA (Master of Business Administration). 

Many prestigious business schools around the world require GMAT scores as part of their admissions criteria. Achieving a competitive GMAT score reflects your readiness and ability to excel in a graduate management program, making you a more attractive candidate.

2. Sections

The GMAT has four sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): This section evaluates your ability to express ideas in writing.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR): It assesses your data analysis and reasoning skills.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR): This section checks your math and data interpretation skills.
  • Verbal Reasoning (VR): It evaluates your reading comprehension and language

3. Computer-Based Test

The GMAT is computer-based and adaptive, meaning question difficulty adjusts based on your responses.

4. Scores

Scores on this test go from 200 to 800. Most applicants score between 400 and 600. Your score is based on how you do in the math and language sections.

What is a CAT Exam?

What is a CAT Exam?

The CAT, or Common Admission Test, is an entrance exam for admission into postgraduate management programs in India. It is not to be confused with the GMAT, which is more international in scope. Here’s what you should know about CAT:

1. Purpose

CAT is primarily used for admission to Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and various other management institutes in India. It evaluates a candidate’s quantitative, verbal, data interpretation, and logical reasoning skills.

2. Sections

The CAT exam consists of three main sections:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC): This specific section assesses language and reading skills.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR): It evaluates your ability to analyze data and make logical decisions.
  • Quantitative Ability (QA): This section tests your math and quantitative skills.

3. Computer-Based Test

Like the GMAT, the CAT is also a computer-based test. You take it on a computer at specified test centers in India.

4. Scores

CAT does not provide a single composite score like the GMAT. Instead, it offers section-wise and overall percentile scores. Candidates receive a percentile rank, which shows how they performed relative to other test-takers.

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GMAT Vs. CAT: Who Can Pursue?

GMAT Vs. CAT: Who Can Pursue?

Both the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Common Admission Test (CAT) are standardized exams, but they serve different purposes and are typically pursued by different groups of individuals. Let’s break down who can pursue each of these exams.

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)

The GMAT is primarily intended for individuals seeking admission to graduate business programs, such as MBA (Master of Business Administration) and related courses. Here’s who can pursue the GMAT:

  • Aspiring Business School Students: Anyone looking to attend a business school, whether they have a business background or not, can pursue the GMAT.
  • Working Professionals: Those who want to advance their careers or change fields and are considering business-related postgraduate studies can take the GMAT.
  • International Applicants: GMAT is a globally recognized test, making it suitable for international applicants aiming to study abroad.

CAT (Common Admission Test)

The CAT, on the other hand, is specifically designed for admission to Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other premier management institutes in India. Here’s who can pursue the CAT:

  • Indian Management Aspirants: CAT is primarily for individuals seeking admission to management programs in India, including MBA and related courses.
  • Indian Students Seeking Prestigious Institutions: Those who aspire to study at India’s top management institutes, like the IIMs, should consider taking the CAT.

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Main Difference between GMAT and CAT

The GMAT vs. CAT has been a popular topic for ages, and thus the exams have their own unique content, testing formats, and eligibility criteria for aspiring professionals to familiarize themselves with. Choose the one that aligns with your educational and career goals. We have classified the difference between the two based on several factors; have a look at them:

An Overview of GMAT Vs. CAT

We will discuss all the points in detail. To understand GMAT vs. CAT, have a look at the table below:

AspectGMATCAT
Full FormGraduate Management Admission TestCommon Admission Test
PurposeAdmission to MBA and management programsAdmission to Indian B-schools
Geographic ScopeGlobally acceptedPrimarily for Indian institutions
Test PatternComputer-adaptive testLinear test with fixed sections
EligibilityNo specific educational background requiredBachelor’s degree required
Score Validity5 years1 year

General Difference between GMAT and CAT

The GMAT and CAT exams are widely recognized for admission to management programs. But they have notable differences. Let us discuss them in detail below-

Number of Attempts

  • GMAT: Candidates are allowed up to eight attempts at taking the GMAT throughout their lifetime. You can retake the GMAT several times within a year.
  • CAT: In contrast, there is no specific limit on the number of times a candidate can take the CAT exam. You can attempt the CAT an unlimited number of times.

Minimum Age Requirement:

  • GMAT: The GMAT has a minimum age requirement set by the GMAC, which is 18 years. This means candidates must be at least 18 years old to be eligible to take the GMAT.
  • CAT: On the other hand, the CAT exam does not impose any age restrictions. There are no specific age requirements for candidates taking the CAT.

What is Considered a Good Score:

  • GMAT: The scores range from 200 to 800. The perception of a good score on the GMAT can vary depending on the business school to which you are applying. However, a score above 700 is generally considered quite strong.
  • CAT: The scores are measured on a scale of 0-300. The evaluation of a good score in the CAT depends on the specific management institutions you are aiming for. Typically, scores above the 99th percentile are considered excellent.

Where to Register

  • GMAT: To register for the GMAT, go to the official GMAT website. This is the platform where you sign up for the exam.
  • CAT: For the CAT exam, the registration process takes place online as well. Candidates can register through the official CAT website to book their test dates.

When will the forms be available:

  • GMAT: GMAT registration is available year-round. Candidates can register for the GMAT at their convenience, and the exam is offered regularly.
  • CAT: In contrast, CAT registration typically opens in August or September each year for exams conducted in November or December. There is a specific window for CAT registration.

Ideal Preparation Time:

  • GMAT: To prepare for the GMAT, candidates often invest 5 to 10 months in intensive preparation. The ideal preparation period may vary based on individual needs and goals.
  • CAT: CAT preparation duration can vary widely, but most candidates typically spend 3 to 6 months getting ready for the exam. The actual preparation timeline depends on the individual’s level of readiness and background.

How Long are the Scores Valid:

  • GMAT: GMAT scores remain valid for 5 years. Your GMAT scores can be used for admissions to business schools and programs during this 5-year period.
  • CAT: CAT scores, on the other hand, are typically valid for one year from the date of the examination. The scores from one year’s CAT exam are considered for admissions in the same academic year.

Resources to Study:

  • GMAT: To prepare for the GMAT, you can access various resources. These include study materials from official GMAT sources, practice exams, and materials offered by test preparation companies.
  • CAT: For CAT preparation, multiple resources are available. These include coaching centers, CAT-specific preparation books, and online resources such as mock tests and tutorial platforms. Candidates have a range of study materials to choose from.

How to Cancel:

  • GMAT: In case you wish to cancel your GMAT exam, you have the option to do so up to 7 days before your scheduled test date. If you choose to cancel within this timeframe, you may be eligible for a partial refund.
  • CAT: CAT does not offer candidates the option to cancel the exam. The registration fee for the CAT is non-refundable, meaning you cannot get a refund if you decide not to appear for the exam.

How to Retake the Exam:

  • GMAT: If you plan to retake the GMAT, you can reschedule your exam for a future date, provided there is a 16-day gap from your last attempt. It’s important to note that you can retake the GMAT a maximum of 5 times within a 12-month period.
  • CAT: There is no limit to the number of times you can take the CAT exam.

To understand the above points, have a look at the table below-

AspectGMATCAT
Number of AttemptsYou can take the GMAT up to eight times in your life.There is no limit to how many times a candidate may take the CAT exam. The CAT exams allow you an unlimited number of attempts. 
Minimum Age RequirementThe CAT exam has no age restrictions.GMAC has established a minimum age limit of 18 years for candidates.
What is Considered a Good ScoreScores range from 200 to 800. A good score varies by the business school you’re applying to, but a score above 700 is generally considered strong.CAT scores are on a scale of 0-300. Good scores depend on the IIMs or other management institutions you are targeting. Typically, scores above 99% are considered excellent.
Where to RegisterRegister online through the official GMAT websiteRegister online through the official CAT website
When will the Forms be AvailableAvailable year-roundCAT registration typically opens in August or September for exams in November or December
Ideal Preparation Time5-10 months of intensive preparation is commonPreparation period can vary, but most candidates spend 3-6 months preparing for CAT
How Many Times Can You Retake the ExamUp to 5 times in a 12-month periodA maximum of 3 attempts are allowed over a lifetime
How Long Are the Scores ValidGMAT scores are valid for 5 yearsCAT scores are typically valid for one year.
Resources to StudyVarious test prep companies, official GMAT study materials, and practice exams are availableMultiple coaching centers, CAT preparation books, and online resources such as mock tests and tutorials are available
How to CancelYou can cancel your GMAT exam up to 7 days before the test date for a partial refundCAT does not offer the option to cancel the exam, and the registration fee is non-refundable
How to Retake the ExamYou can reschedule the GMAT exam after a 16-day gap from your last attempt. However, you can only take the GMAT a maximum of 5 times in a 12-month periodYou can attempt the CAT exam a maximum of 3 times over your lifetime, with a one-year gap between attempts

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Difference Between Test Duration and Format

The GMAT and CAT exams differ in test duration and format. GMAT is a computer-adaptive test that takes approximately 3.5 to 4 hours to complete. It consists of four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), and Verbal Reasoning (VR).

CAT, on the other hand, is a shorter test, lasting around 3 hours. It includes three sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Ability (QA). While GMAT offers some flexibility in section order, CAT follows a fixed sequence. Understanding these differences helps candidates prepare effectively for their chosen exam.

AspectGMATCAT
Total Test DurationApproximately 3 hours and 30 minutesApproximately 3 hours
Section Time AllocationVaried (self-paced within a range)Fixed time for each section

Now that we know the test duration and topics in GMAT and CAT, let us now discuss the difference between the test patterns of both exams.

As we discussed, the GMAT assesses candidates through four sections. In which-

AWA examines writing abilities, IR evaluates data interpretation, QR tests math skills, and VR assesses English language proficiency.

CAT, on the other hand, comprises three sections, where-

VARC measures reading and language skills, DILR evaluates logical and analytical aptitude, and QA assesses quantitative and mathematical proficiency.

GMAT is known for its analytical writing and data interpretation components, while the CAT focuses more on logical reasoning and mathematical skills. Understanding these differences is crucial for candidates to customize their preparation strategies to the specific requirements of each exam.

Difference Between Test Syllabus and Topics

AspectGMATCAT
SyllabusBroad range of quantitative and verbal topicsFocused on quantitative, verbal, data interpretation, and logical reasoning
Quantitative TopicsMath, data sufficiency, and problem-solvingMathematics, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and number theory
Verbal TopicsReading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correctionReading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, and critical reasoning
Logical ReasoningIntegrated Reasoning Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning 

The GMAT and CAT exams differ not only in format but also in the way they score and report results. GMAT scores are on a scale of 200 to 800, combining the Quantitative and Verbal sections. 

In contrast, CAT uses a scale of 0 to 300, with individual sections. For CAT, the percentile system is crucial. CAT scores are converted into percentiles, indicating your relative performance compared to other test-takers. A score above the 99th percentile is usually considered excellent. 

So, while the GMAT focuses on the overall score, the CAT emphasizes percentiles, emphasizing your position in the candidate pool. 

GMAT Vs CAT: Difference Between Test Scoring and Percentiles

AspectGMATCAT
Scoring Scale200-800 (Quant and Verbal combined)0-300 (Separate scores for each section)
Scoring SystemComputer-adaptive, final score based on performanceLinear scoring for each section
PercentilesAvailable for Quant and Verbal sectionsPercentiles provided for each section

Difference between Paper Sections

The GMAT and CAT, while both standardized tests for management programs, differ significantly in their paper sections.

Number of Questions

  • In GMAT, you’ll encounter a total of four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment (1 question), Integrated Reasoning (12 questions), Quantitative Reasoning (31 questions), and Verbal Reasoning (36 questions). 
  • CAT, on the other hand, consists of three sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (34 questions), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (32 questions), and Quantitative Ability (34 questions).

Difficulty Level

  • In terms of difficulty, GMAT sections vary from moderate to difficult, particularly in Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning. 
  • CAT sections are also known for their moderate to difficult questions, especially in Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning.

Marks and Scoring

  • GMAT scores range from 200 to 800, with varying score ranges for each section. 
  • In CAT, there is no fixed marking scheme for individual sections; the overall score is calculated based on a percentile system.

Time Allotted

  • GMAT provides specific time limits for each section, totaling around 3 hours and 30 minutes. 
  • CAT, on the other hand, allows 60 minutes per section, summing up to a 3-hour test duration.
Sections- GMATNo of QDifficulty LevelMarksTime Allotted
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)1Moderate0-630 minutes
Integrated Reasoning (IR)12Moderate1-830 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning (QR)31Moderate to Difficult6-5162 minutes
Verbal Reasoning (VR)36Moderate to Difficult6-5165 minutes
Section- CATNo of QDifficulty LevelMarksTime Allotted
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)34Moderate to DifficultVaries60 minutes
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)32Moderate to DifficultVaries60 minutes
Quantitative Ability (QA)34Moderate to DifficultVaries60 min

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Difference between Eligibility and Registration

The GMAT and CAT exams differ in terms of eligibility and registration requirements. For the GMAT, there’s a minimum age limit of 18 years set by the GMAC. Candidates must meet this age criterion to be eligible for the exam. In contrast, the CAT exam has no specific age restrictions, making it open to a wider range of candidates.

When it comes to registration, both exams have online registration processes, but the timing varies. GMAT registration is available year-round, allowing candidates to choose a test date at their convenience. CAT, on the other hand, has a specific registration window, usually opening in August or September for exams held in November or December. This means CAT candidates need to plan their registration within this limited timeframe.

AspectGMATCAT
EligibilityNo specific educational background requiredBachelor’s degree with a specified minimum percentage required
Test FrequencyAvailable year-roundConducted once a year (typically in November)
Registration ProcessRegister online and select a test centerOnline registration, exam centers allocated

Geographic Scope and Acceptance

GMAT is internationally recognized and accepted by a vast number of business schools worldwide, making it a preferred choice for those looking to study abroad. It offers opportunities in a wide range of countries, including the United States, Europe, and Asia. On the other hand, CAT is primarily accepted by Indian institutions, with a focus on admission to Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other management programs in India.

In other words, while the GMAT has a global reach and is suitable for those seeking international education, the CAT is specifically tailored for Indian management institutions. The choice between the two exams often depends on your educational and career goals, including whether you plan to study abroad or within India.

AspectGMATCAT
Global AcceptanceAccepted worldwidePrimarily accepted by Indian business schools
MBA ProgramsAccepted for international MBA programsAccepted for India

Difference Between Test Fees and Affordability

GMAT tends to be pricier, but it offers more flexibility in terms of test dates and locations. CAT is more budget-friendly in terms of registration fees but may require additional spending on coaching and study resources. The choice between the two exams may depend on your budget and specific requirements.

To take the GMAT in India, you’ll need to pay US $275 (about INR 22,800) at a test center. Or US $300 (about INR 24,600) to give it online.

The CAT registration fee is INR 2400. Whereas, registration is INR 1200 for persons who are SC, ST, or disabled.

AspectGMATCAT
Test FeeGenerally more expensive, about INR 22,800Relatively more affordable, about INR 2400
Additional CostsMay include sending scores to multiple schoolsRegistration and exam fees

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Is GMAT Tougher than CAT?

The choice between GMAT and CAT hinges on your career aspirations and the MBA programs you’re targeting. The GMAT is ideal for those eyeing international business schools, offering a broader skill assessment with its adaptive format. 

Conversely, CAT caters to those seeking admission to Indian Institutes of Management and select Indian B-schools, emphasizing specific quantitative and verbal skills. Remember, both exams have distinct demands, and proper preparation is the key to success, so make your decision wisely to maximize your chances of getting into your preferred MBA program.

Comparing the difficulty of the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and CAT (Common Admission Test) is not easy, as they serve different purposes and are used for distinct educational and career paths.

GMAT

  • It assesses a candidate’s aptitude in areas like integrated reasoning, analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.
  • The GMAT is known for its adaptive nature, where the difficulty of questions adjusts based on a test-taker’s performance, making it challenging for most test-takers.

CAT

  • It focuses on assessing a candidate’s quantitative ability, data interpretation, verbal ability, and logical reasoning.
  • The CAT is highly competitive and is known for its time constraints, which can make it particularly challenging.

Conclusion

The choice between GMAT and CAT depends on various factors, including your career goals, preferred study duration, and financial resources. The GMAT, with its broader international acceptance, might be suitable for those eyeing global MBA programs. CAT, on the other hand, is more India-centric and ideal for those aiming at top Indian business schools. While GMAT offers flexibility in test dates, CAT’s affordability is a plus. Ultimately, it’s essential to align your aspirations and circumstances with the test that best fits your needs. 

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FAQs

What is the primary difference between GMAT and CAT?

The primary difference lies in their scope and purpose. GMAT is an internationally recognized exam used for admission to MBA programs worldwide, whereas CAT is specific to admissions in Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and select Indian business schools.

Is one exam more challenging than the other?

The difficulty of the exams can vary for individuals. GMAT is known for its adaptive format and assesses a broader range of skills, while CAT is highly competitive and emphasizes specific areas relevant to Indian business education. The perceived difficulty depends on your strengths and weaknesses.

Can I use the same preparation for both exams?

While there may be some overlap in the content, the two exams have distinct formats and testing objectives. GMAT covers a wider range of topics and has an adaptive structure, whereas CAT focuses more on specific quantitative and verbal abilities. Customizing your preparation to each exam’s unique demands is advisable.

Which exam is better if I want to study in India?

If your goal is to pursue an MBA in India, CAT is the preferred choice, especially for admission to IIMs. It is the primary entrance exam for most Indian business schools. GMAT is better suited for international MBA programs.

Can I take both exams and choose later?

Yes, you can take both exams, but it’s essential to plan your strategy and timeline carefully. Keep in mind that the two exams have different application windows and are often used for distinct purposes. It’s crucial to align your exam choices with your MBA program preferences and goals.

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About the Author

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Aparna is a Senior Copy Editor, who combines a passion for precision with creative flair. With a background in law and market research, she has extensive experience in crafting compelling content, she excels in refining narratives to captivate audiences across diverse platforms.