GMAT Vs CAT with Eligibility and Pattern

13 mins

Many people want to pursue an MBA from a reputable university, but they are conflicted about which admission exam to take: the GMAT or the CAT. Both of these tests evaluate candidates depending on their aptitude level.

The test format and marking method of these exams have allegedly noticeable differences, owing to differing philosophies underlying the development of both exams.

GMAT vs CAT are significant admission tests for students or working professionals seeking an MBA in India or abroad. However, they use different "standardised learning methodologies" to assess applicants' analytical ability.

The forces behind these exams investigated the best approach to develop these aptitude tests to match both the candidate's and the b-school's expectations.

Candidates with the aptitude, knowledge, and vision to understand and solve real-time business issues are thought to have the capacity to pass these difficult assessments and get admission to the finest b-schools of all time.

To make a name for yourself in business and gain admission to a prestigious MBA program, you must understand GMAT versus CAT!

The primary distinction between the GMAT and the CAT is that the GMAT is a global exam approved by over 2000 b - schools and 7000 MBA programs worldwide. In contrast, the CAT is a national-level admission exam recognised by Indian business schools.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) administers the GMAT, approved by prominent MBA schools in India, such as XLRI Jamshedpur, MDI Gurgaon, and the Indian School of Business Hyderabad/Mohali.

Choosing between the GMAT and the CAT is a problem faced by many Indian MBA applicants, as both serve as a launching pad to admission into an MBA school.

Both the CAT and the GMAT are considered difficult to crack. About two lakh students in India attempt the CAT test each year. A similar amount of MBA candidates take the GMAT too.

Domestic applicants planning to continue management studies in the following academic year can take both tests or choose to take only one, depending on the MBA program and institute they pick.

Although the CAT and the GMAT assess a candidate's English language, quantitative ability, and logical reasoning skills, they differ in many ways.

Key differences between GMAT and CAT

The GMAT and the CAT are standardised assessments for entrance to MBA schools. However, the breadth of their acceptance varies. The GMAT is a global exam accepted by over 7000 MBA programs globally, but Indian business schools solely accept the CAT.

Both are intended to offer an assessment of abilities such as:

  • Quantitative aptitude
  • Reasoning abilities
  • Interpretation of Data

However, there are some key distinctions between these tests.

Format and Duration

The CAT is divided into three components, but the GMAT is divided into four sections, one of which is an analytical writing examination. GMAT and the CAT are computer-based assessments, but the GMAT is adaptive, whereas the CAT is not.

This implies that the difficulty level of the following question is selected based on overall progress in the previous question.

The CAT lasts 2 hours and 7 minutes, whereas the GMAT lasts 3 and 7 minutes.

The GMAT is available on-demand throughout the year through Pearson Vue testing locations in 39 cities throughout India.

In a rotating fashion, the CAT is administered by one of the six oldest IIMs. The convening IIM declares the test dates in July or August each year.

Validity of Score

The GMAT result is valid for five years following the exam date. This is because GMAC (the company that administers the GMAT) feels your logical skills and talents will not deteriorate significantly over five years.

On the other hand, business schools could have policies regarding the scoring system they accept. Check with your preferred school before applying. Again.

CAT scores, however, are only valid for one year to the exam date. Furthermore, if you do not pass the exam the first time, you must wait a year before taking it again.

The GMAT, on the other hand, can be taken whenever you choose. For many candidates, the potential cost of waiting a year would be a factor.

Eligibility and Attempts

Anyone over the age of 18 can take the GMAT. You may take the GMAT with parental permission if you are under 18, i.e. 13-18 years old.

The CAT can only be taken once a year, on a date set by the convening IIM. Every year, the convening IIM announces the day the CAT will be held in July or August.

There is no limit to the number of times you may take the CAT, nor is there an upper age limit. To take the CAT, however, you must have a bachelor's degree from a recognised university or equivalent. Students in the last year of their relevant degree programs are also eligible to apply and attempt the CAT.

Average Salaries and Exam Fees

The GMAT registration fee is $250. After making and enrolling an account on, you may plan and book an appointment.

The CAT registration and testing cost is INR 2000/-. Typically, the convening IIM issues a notification in July or August. This notification contains registration deadlines, examination fees, and other important dates. Because the CAT is not given on demand, you must be mindful of registration deadlines.

The average pay provided to IIM graduates from the Top -10 IIMs is between INR 22-25 lakhs. The most expensive overseas offer to an IIM alumnus is INR 82 lakhs. The average compensation to students of the world's top 25 MBA institutions is INR 1.05 crore.

Comparison Of The Relative Difficulty

Because the GMAT has a well-defined curriculum and question categories, it is considerably simpler than the CAT. With 90-120 hours of focused preparation, achieving 700+ on the GMAT is feasible.

Conversely, the CAT course is less well-defined, necessitating more preparation time than the GMAT.

In general, the verbal section of the GMAT is more difficult for Indian test-takers, many of whom are non-native English speakers, than the CAT. The CAT's quantitative component is more demanding than the GMAT's.

Exam Pattern

GMAT Exam Pattern

The GMAT question paper consists of multiple-choice questions from Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. There is a time restriction for each section; however, candidates can answer each section in whatever order they like.

CAT Exam Pattern

The CAT test is given online for 3 hours in two components on a set date. Candidates are forced to follow the question paper's chronology, which means they cannot answer the part of their choosing or return to a completed question skipped previously. The CAT question paper comprises multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and a few key-in response questions.

GMAT vs CAT – Syllabus

The greatest difference between GMAT and the CAT syllabus is the omission of the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) portion in CAT. Aside from the AWA component, both tests assess Quantitative, Verbal, and Reasoning abilities.

Topic and sub-section level syllabus are as follows.

GMAT Exam Syllabus

The GMAT Exam is divided into four parts, each with its time restriction. These four portions are as follows:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): The AWA portion consists of a brief argument the candidate must examine and break down. It assesses the candidate's logical thinking and written communication skills.
  • Integrated Reasoning: This component includes a variety of graphs, charts, and word problems that assess the candidate's ability to evaluate and comprehend data presented in various formats.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section has two questions: data sufficiency and a problem solution. It assesses the candidate's mathematical skills.
  • Verbal Reasoning: the problems include Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, and Critical Reasoning. It assesses the candidate's command of the English language.

CAT Exam Syllabus

The CAT Exam is divided into three sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Aptitude (QA). Each component of the CAT Syllabus assesses applicants based on a separate set of criteria.


  • Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability: As the name implies, this portion comprises two basic components in the form of Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability. The Reading Comprehension section consists of 4-5 sections with multiple-choice questions that the applicant will respond to following reading the passage.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning: The section consists of two parts: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. Data in tabular or graphical form are presented in the Data Interpretation section. The supplied question must be answered based on this data. The Logical Reasoning portion also includes facts presented as word puzzles.
  • Quantitative Aptitude: The Quantitative Aptitude component is a Mathematics section based on concepts covered in the 10th grade. It assesses the candidate's fundamental mathematical ability.

Exam Structure

GMAT Exam Structure

The GMAT Exam is divided into four sections, each with its time restriction. These four portions are as follows:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: This component comprises one assessment of an argument essay question, which a candidate must complete in 30 minutes. It is a non-adaptive segment, with scores ranging from 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The AWA part is graded individually and is not factored toward the overall GMAT grade out of 800.
  • Integrated Reasoning: In this segment, a candidate must answer 12 questions in 30 minutes. It is a non-adaptive segment with scores ranging from 1 to 8 in single-digit intervals. This component is likewise graded individually, and the results are not factored into the overall GMAT score of 800.
  • Quantitative Reasoning is one of the essential areas of the GMAT. It comprises 31 questions that must be answered in 62 minutes by the candidate. This portion is computer adaptive, and the results are factored into the overall GMAT score.
  • Verbal Reasoning: This portion has 36 questions that must be answered in 65 minutes. This segment is computer adaptive and assesses your verbal ability. The scores are factored into the final GMAT score.

CAT Exam Structure

The CAT Exam is taken in an online CBT (Computer Based Test) manner. It comprises three portions, namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Aptitude (QA) (QA).

Each part has a different amount of questions and a varied time limit. The CAT exam section distribution is shown below.

This portion is divided into two sections: verbal ability and reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is the most important section, with questions averaging 24 (70 per cent of the area) and verbal ability questions averaging 8-10 (30 per cent of the team). In 60 minutes, a student must answer 34 questions.

  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning: The section consists of two parts: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. Both of these subsections make up half of the DILR part. There are 16 questions in the Logical Reasoning section and 16 in the Data Interpretation section. The DILR portion consists of 32 questions that must be answered in 60 minutes.
  • Quantitative Aptitude: This portion is a Mathematics section that includes 34 questions (MCQ + Non-MCQ) that a candidate must solve in 60 minutes.

What To Take Up If You Are Aspiring To Study Abroad Only

Candidates with mediocre or poor academic credentials but five years of experience should take the GMAT over the CAT. The rationale is twofold: CAT-accepting universities assess the candidate's educational history throughout the selection process and the hard technique of CAT percentile normalisation.

However, suppose you received a 55 per cent in your graduation but have been working for a reputable company for five years and were also able to achieve a good GMAT score (within the range of 700-750).

In that case, you could easily make your way up to the top ivy league institutions such as Stanford, Wharton, INSEAD, and others through your GMAT scores and work experience.

What To Take Up If You Are Aspiring To Study In India Only

Candidates with two or more years of experience and a solid academic record should strive for the CAT. This is because top business schools in India highly value working individuals with some job experience.

They are more likely to be shortlisted (approximately 10-15%) than those who are new to the job and lack experience.

GMAT helps you extend your world perspective as it qualifies you to seek post-graduation from world-renowned institutes.

You can develop an effective GMAT preparation strategy because you already know how to work under pressure and meet deadlines. By saving it, you can easily pay a $250 registration fee without disputing a quarrel with your parents.

Even though both the GMAT and the CAT have advantages, going global at this point in your life is preferable. Your selection to take the GMAT or CAT should also be influenced by where you picture yourself in the next five years, either as a manager/director at Google or Amazon or as an investment banker in New York.

Such prestigious positions are only available to those who take the GMAT exam. A working professional with five years of experience and a GMAT preparation level of 100 per cent can get into any university they desire.

What factors to consider in choosing GMAT and CAT?

When picking between the GMAT and the CAT, you should keep the following aspects in mind:

Career Objectives

Aside from the 20 IIMs, approximately 100 different business schools in India accept CAT results for admission to graduate management programs. A few international business institutions also get CAT scores for access to management programs.

The GMAT is approved for admission to graduate management programs at over 7000 programs at 2,300+ graduate business institutions worldwide. GMAT scores are accepted by some of the world's best business institutions for admission to their graduate management programs.

If you want to study abroad and obtain important international exposure and professional experience, the GMAT is the logical choice because of its global acceptability.

The GMAT is also becoming more popular as an entrance criterion for Executive programs at several of India's premier business institutions. On the other hand, if your primary aim is to live and work in India for some of the greatest local and global organisations, the CAT is the ideal option.

Choice of Program

Depending on your intended B-school and its program entrance criteria, you may be required to take the GMAT or CAT.

E.g., If the conventional 2-year, the full-time residential MBA program at any IIM is your goal, you must have a valid CAT score. A good GMAT score is required if you are interested in the one-year full-time executive program (EPGP/PGPEx).

Furthermore, because the IIMs administer the CAT, it is a stronger determinant of performance in their programs, as it checks for the abilities necessary to succeed.

Preference for Location

Suppose you have opted to study in a specific geographical region due to companies' closeness in your goal sector. In that case, this is an important consideration when determining whether to take the GMAT or CAT.

E.g., If you want to work in luxury management, the finest places to search are in France. It is ideal to pursue an MBA from a B-school in the region since this will put you near your target businesses and open up prospects for internships.


The added advantage of GMAT over CAT

A strong GMAT score helps you go into a top business school and boosts your chances of receiving a half or full scholarship. These can significantly reduce the cost of pursuing an MBA.

Top management schools are increasingly giving scholarships, fellowships, and other types of financial help to offset the rising cost of an MBA. Half of Harvard Business School's entering cohort received financial assistance.

Scholarships for business school students were worth more than $ 230 million in 2017.

Scholarships are awarded based on CAT score.

While most IIMs provide some need-based financial aid, it would be in the form of a loan rather than a scholarship.

Students can also apply for scholarships from businesses and private organisations.

The webpage of each university contains further information about the scholarships offered.

In conclusion, the GMAT stands out as the superior alternative between GMAT and CAT due to its larger global acceptability, lower opportunity cost, and higher return on investment, as well as its expanding admittance to executive MBA programs at IIMs and a few other Indian B-schools.

However, the CAT could be your only option if you want to get into a regular two-year MBA program at IIMs or other Indian business schools like MDI or SPJIMR.

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