cat vs gmat

CAT vs GMAT | Which exam is the key for you? Know here

When it comes to pursuing a career in business management or securing an MBA, two exams often come up in conversation: the CAT (Common Admission Test) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). Understanding the differences between these two tests is crucial for making an informed decision about which path to take.

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What is CAT?

The Common Admission Test, or CAT, is a national-level entrance exam conducted in India. Its primary purpose is to evaluate candidates for admission into various management programs offered by Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other prestigious B-schools in India. CAT is designed to assess a candidate’s quantitative, verbal, and logical reasoning skills.

What is GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is a globally recognized entrance exam for MBA programs. Managed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the GMAT evaluates analytical writing, quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning skills. It is accepted by over 2,300 business schools worldwide, making it a popular choice for those seeking an international MBA.

CAT vs GMAT: Exam Conduction

GMAT: The GMAT is available throughout the year, allowing candidates to book an exam slot at their convenience from the provided calendar. Aspirants can retake the exam up to five times within a 12-month period, with a lifetime limit of eight attempts.

CAT: The CAT is administered by the IIM once a year. The application process starts in August, and the exam is conducted in the last week of November or the first week of December.

CAT vs GMAT: Exam Duration

GMAT: The GMAT is 187 minutes long and includes sectional time limits.

CAT: The CAT is 120 minutes long and also includes sectional time limits.

Category GMAT CAT
Frequency / Mode of Exam Available throughout the year, up to 5 times in 12 months, max 8 lifetime attempts Conducted once a year, application process starts in August, exam in late November or early December
Exam Duration 187 minutes, sectional time limits 120 minutes, sectional time limits
Difficulty Level Considered the toughest, adaptive test, difficulty level based on previous attempt performance Known for high difficulty, no multiple attempts within a year, minimum 90-95 percentile needed for good B-schools
Marking Scheme
  • Total score: 200-800
  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 0-6
  • Integrated Reasoning: 1-8
  • Verbal Reasoning: 0-60
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 0-60
  • 2021 exam: 66 questions
  • Three marks for each correct answer
  • One mark deducted for each incorrect answer
  • Total possible score: 198

CAT vs GMAT: Difficulty Level

GMAT: The GMAT is considered the toughest MBA entrance exam, not only due to the challenging questions but also because of its unique marking scheme. The GMAT is an adaptive test, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions in subsequent attempts is based on the candidate’s performance in the previous attempt. If a candidate struggles in their first attempt, they will receive an easier set of questions in their next attempt. Conversely, if they perform well, the difficulty level of their next attempt will be similar.

CAT: The CAT is also known as a challenging MBA exam, with consistently difficult questions each year. Securing admission to a good B-school with a CAT score is difficult without achieving a minimum of 90-95 percentile. Unlike the GMAT, the CAT does not allow multiple attempts within the same year, so candidates must wait until the next year to try again if they wish to improve their score. There is no guarantee that the next year’s CAT exam will be easier than the previous year’s.

Exam Structure: CAT vs GMAT

CAT Structure

CAT is divided into three main sections:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC): This section focuses on English language skills.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR): This section tests a candidate’s ability to interpret data and think logically.
  • Quantitative Ability (QA): This section assesses mathematical skills.

Each section has a specific time limit, and the overall exam duration is 180 minutes.

GMAT Structure

The GMAT consists of four sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): This section involves writing an essay.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR): This section evaluates data analysis and interpretation skills.
  • Quantitative Section: This section tests mathematical skills.
  • Verbal Section: This section assesses English language skills.

The total duration of the GMAT is approximately 3.5 hours.

Content Breakdown

CAT Content

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

This section includes reading comprehension passages, sentence correction, and verbal reasoning questions.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)

This section features data interpretation sets, logical puzzles, and reasoning questions.

Quantitative Ability (QA)

This section covers a wide range of mathematical topics, including algebra, geometry, and arithmetic.

GMAT Content

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

Candidates must analyze an argument and write a coherent essay.

Integrated Reasoning (IR)

This section includes multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, and two-part analysis questions.

Quantitative Section

This section features problem-solving and data-sufficiency questions.

Verbal Section

This section includes reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction questions.

Difficulty Level

Both the CAT and GMAT are challenging in their own ways. The CAT is known for its unpredictable question patterns and high competition, especially among Indian candidates. The GMAT, on the other hand, is a standardized test with a global benchmark, requiring strong analytical and reasoning skills.

Preparation Strategies: CAT vs GMAT

CAT Preparation

Study Resources

  • Books by Arun Sharma for QA, DILR, and VARC
  • Previous years’ CAT papers
  • Online mock tests

Time Management Tips

  • Focus on weaker sections first
  • Practice with timed tests
  • Analyze mock test performance

GMAT Preparation

Study Resources

  • Official GMAT Guide
  • Manhattan Prep Books
  • GMAT Club forums

Time Management Tips

  • Create a study schedule
  • Practice integrated reasoning questions
  • Take full-length practice tests

Costs Involved

CAT Costs

Registration Fees

The CAT registration fee is typically around INR 2,000 for general category candidates.

Additional Expenses

Candidates may incur additional costs for study materials, coaching classes, and mock tests.

GMAT Costs

Registration Fees

The GMAT registration fee is approximately $250.

Additional Expenses

Additional costs may include study materials, online courses, and practice tests.

Validity and Acceptance

CAT Validity

CAT scores are primarily accepted by Indian B-schools, including the IIMs. The score is valid for one year.

GMAT Validity

GMAT scores are accepted by over 2,300 business schools worldwide. The score is valid for five years.

Career Opportunities

Opportunities after CAT

Clearing the CAT can lead to admission into prestigious Indian B-schools, which can open doors to lucrative career opportunities in India and abroad.

Opportunities after GMAT

A good GMAT score can pave the way for admission into top global MBA programs, leading to diverse career opportunities in international business.

Global Recognition

CAT’s Global Recognition

While the CAT is highly regarded in India, its recognition is limited internationally.

GMAT’s Global Recognition

The GMAT enjoys global recognition and is a preferred choice for international MBA aspirants.

Pros and Cons: CAT vs GMAT

CAT Pros and Cons

  • Widely accepted in India
  • High competition fosters strong peer learning
  • Limited international recognition
  • Unpredictable question patterns

GMAT Pros and Cons

  • Globally recognized
  • Standardized test format
  • Expensive registration fees
  • Requires strong analytical writing skills

CAT vs GMAT | Which is Right for You?

Choosing between CAT vs GMAT depends on your career goals, target schools, and personal preferences. If you aim to study at a top Indian B-school, CAT is the way to go. However, if you seek a global MBA experience, the GMAT is your best bet.

Success Stories

Notable CAT Success Stories

Many successful business leaders in India, such as Indra Nooyi and Arundhati Bhattacharya, began their journey with CAT.

Notable GMAT Success Stories

Global leaders like Sundar Pichai and Sheryl Sandberg have leveraged their GMAT scores to gain entry into top MBA programs.


In the battle of CAT vs GMAT, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Your choice should align with your career aspirations, the schools you wish to attend, and the geographical location where you envision your future. Both exams require dedication, rigorous preparation, and a clear understanding of their respective formats. Ultimately, whether you choose CAT or GMAT, a well-planned preparation strategy and a clear vision of your goals will pave the way for success.


  1. Which exam is more suitable for admission to international business schools, the CAT or GMAT?

    The GMAT is more widely accepted by international business schools. Most MBA programs in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world require a GMAT score for admission. The CAT is primarily used for admission to MBA programs in Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other business schools in India. Therefore, if you are aiming for international business schools, the GMAT is the preferred exam.

  2. Can I take both the CAT and GMAT exams to improve my chances of getting into a good MBA program?

    Yes, you can take both the CAT and GMAT exams. Many candidates choose to do so to keep their options open for both Indian and international business schools. Since the exams are conducted at different times and have different formats, preparing for both might require additional effort, but it can increase your chances of getting into a prestigious MBA program.

  3. How should I prepare for the CAT and GMAT exams?

    Preparation strategies for the CAT and GMAT exams differ due to their unique formats:
    GMAT: Focus on understanding the adaptive nature of the test. Practice with official GMAT prep materials, including the GMATPrep software. Work on time management and familiarize yourself with the types of questions in the Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal, and Quantitative sections.
    CAT: Concentrate on quantitative aptitude, data interpretation, logical reasoning, and verbal ability. Use CAT-specific prep books and online resources. Regularly take mock tests to get used to the exam’s difficulty and timing.

  4. What is the cost of taking the CAT and GMAT exams?

    The cost of taking the GMAT is higher than the CAT. As of 2024:
    GMAT: The registration fee for the GMAT is $275 USD. Additional costs may apply for rescheduling or cancelling the exam.
    CAT: The registration fee for the CAT is approximately INR 2,000 for general category candidates and INR 1,000 for reserved category candidates.
    Candidates should also consider additional expenses for preparation materials, coaching classes, and retakes if necessary.

  5. How do the scoring and results differ between the CAT and GMAT exams?

    The scoring and results process for the CAT and GMAT exams differ in several ways:
    Total Score: Ranges from 200 to 800.
    Sectional Scores: Analytical Writing Assessment: Scored on a scale of 0-6.
    Integrated Reasoning: Scored on a scale of 1-8.
    Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning: Each scored on a scale of 0-60.
    Result Availability: Unofficial scores are available immediately after completing the exam. Official scores are typically available within 7-20 days.
    Score Validity: GMAT scores are valid for five years, allowing candidates to apply to business schools within this period.
    Total Score: For the 2021 exam, the total score was 198, based on 66 questions, each worth three marks.
    Marking Scheme: Three marks are awarded for each correct answer, and one mark is deducted for each incorrect answer.
    Result Availability: Results are usually declared in January, about a month after the exam.
    Score Validity: CAT scores are valid for one year, meaning candidates must apply to business schools in the same academic year.
    Candidates should understand these differences to better plan their application strategies and manage their preparation timelines.

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