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How Choosing Between GMAT and CAT Could Change Your Career Forever?


When Indian students contemplate pursuing an MBA abroad, the dilemma of choosing between the GMAT Vs CAT often surfaces. The GMAT Exam stands as a globally recognised test, opening doors to prestigious universities worldwide, making it a favoured choice for those aiming for an international academic and career path. Conversely, the CAT Exam is pivotal for entry into India's top-tier MBA programs, catering specifically to the Indian academic landscape. This guide is designed to elucidate the distinctions between the GMAT and CAT, focusing on aspects like the GMAT Exam pattern, GMAT Preparation tips, CAT Exam Preparation tips, GMAT Syllabus, and CAT Exam Syllabus. Tailored for Indian students with aspirations of studying abroad, this article aims to empower you with the knowledge to make an informed decision that aligns with your global educational ambitions. 

What is the Difference between CAT and GMAT?

For Indian students plotting their educational journey abroad, discerning the differences between the GMAT and CAT is crucial. Here's a comprehensive comparison:

  • Global Acceptance: The GMAT is your gateway to the world, accepted by over 7,000 programs globally, including esteemed institutions in the USA, Europe, and Australia. It's the cornerstone for Indian students seeking international exposure. In contrast, the CAT is your ticket to India's premier business schools, including the IIMs, tailored for those focusing on domestic advancement.
  • Exam Structure and Content: The GMAT encompasses four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal, designed to evaluate a wide array of skills. The CAT, on the other hand, tests Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Aptitude, mirroring the Indian educational framework.
  • Scheduling Flexibility: The GMAT offers unmatched flexibility, available throughout the year, allowing up to five attempts annually. This adaptability is particularly beneficial for Indian students planning their study schedules around other commitments. The CAT is held once a year, offering a single shot annually, which necessitates strategic preparation.
  • Preparation and Strategy: For GMAT Preparation, Indian students are advised to focus on enhancing their verbal and quantitative reasoning skills, with a significant emphasis on analytical writing. CAT Exam Preparation tips often include honing mathematical abilities and mastering data interpretation, with a strong focus on speed and accuracy.

GMAT Vs CAT: Difference between the Overall Pattern

For Indian students contemplating an MBA, the choice between the GMAT and CAT Exams is crucial. Each test has its unique structure and requirements:

  • Exam Structure: The GMAT comprises four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal, assessing a broad range of skills essential for global business leadership. In contrast, the CAT is designed with three sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Aptitude, focusing on skills pertinent to the Indian educational landscape.
  • Duration and Pacing: The GMAT spans 3 hours and 7 minutes, not including breaks, providing a comprehensive evaluation of abilities. The CAT, however, is a 2-hour test, with 40 minutes allocated to each section, demanding efficient time management.
  • Adaptive vs. Static: A distinctive feature of the GMAT is its computer-adaptive test format in the Quantitative and Verbal sections, adjusting the difficulty level based on the examinee's performance. The CAT maintains a consistent level of difficulty, offering a uniform challenge.
  • Attempt Flexibility: The GMAT permits up to five attempts within a 12-month period, affording students multiple opportunities to enhance their scores. The CAT is held once a year, necessitating a year's wait for a retake, thus requiring a more strategic preparation approach.

GMAT Vs CAT: Fee Structure

The cost of taking the GMAT or CAT is a significant factor for Indian students planning their MBA pathway. Here's a detailed look at the fee structures:

  • GMAT Fee Structure: The GMAT registration fee for the GMAT in India is approximately INR 20,750 (USD 250), covering the exam session and the option to send scores to up to five programs. Rescheduling fees vary from INR 4,150 to INR 12,450 (USD 50 to USD 150), and cancellation offers a partial refund. Additional score reports beyond the initial five are priced at INR 2,905 (USD 35) each.
  • CAT Fee Structure: The CAT registration fee is INR 2,200 for general category candidates and INR 1,100 for SC/ST/PwD categories. Unlike the GMAT, CAT does not allow for rescheduling or cancellations, streamlining its fee structure but reducing flexibility.

GMAT Vs CAT: Section Wise Exam Pattern

For Indian students aiming for MBA programs, understanding the section-wise exam pattern of GMAT and CAT is pivotal. Here's a detailed breakdown:

GMAT Exam pattern:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): Consists of one essay prompt focusing on argument analysis, with a 30-minute time allocation. This section tests your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR): Comprises 12 questions to be solved in 30 minutes, assessing your ability to analyse and synthesise data from multiple sources.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Features 31 questions, including problem-solving and data sufficiency types, to be answered in 62 minutes. This section evaluates your mathematical skills and ability to analyse data.
  • Verbal Reasoning: Contains 36 questions covering reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction, with a 65-minute duration. It tests your English language proficiency and verbal reasoning skills.

CAT Exam Pattern:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC): This section includes questions on reading comprehension and verbal ability, testing your command over the English language and comprehension skills.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR): Comprises data interpretation sets and logical reasoning puzzles, assessing your analytical and problem-solving abilities.
  • Quantitative Ability (QA): Focuses on arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and number systems, evaluating your quantitative aptitude.

GMAT Vs CAT: Differences in Sections, Numbers, and Types of Questions

The GMAT and CAT not only differ in their section-wise patterns but also in the types and numbers of questions they include:

  • Types of Questions:
    • GMAT: Emphasises a variety of question types across its sections, including essay writing in AWA, multi-source analysis in IR, and multiple-choice questions in both Quantitative and Verbal sections.
    • CAT: Primarily consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and some non-MCQs across its sections, with a significant focus on quantitative aptitude.
  • Number of Questions:
    • GMAT: Offers a total of 80 questions, with a fixed number for each section, providing a comprehensive assessment of candidates' abilities.
    • CAT: The total number of questions varies each year but generally ranges around 76-100, distributed across three sections.
  • Sectional Emphasis:
    • GMAT: Aims to assess a broad range of skills including analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative aptitude, and verbal reasoning, making it a comprehensive test for global business schools.
    • CAT: Focuses heavily on quantitative ability, alongside verbal and logical reasoning skills, catering to the analytical demands of Indian business schools.

GMAT Vs CAT: Eligibility Criteria

For Indian students contemplating their MBA journey, understanding the eligibility criteria for the GMAT and CAT Exams is crucial. Here's what you need to know:

GMAT Eligibility Criteria:

  • Age Limit: Candidates must be at least 18 years old. Those between 13 and 17 years old can appear with written consent from a guardian.
  • Educational Qualification: There is no specific educational requirement to take the GMAT. However, most business schools require a bachelor's degree.
  • Number of Attempts: You can take the GMAT up to 5 times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than 8 times in total.
  • Retake Policy: A waiting period of 16 days is required before retaking the GMAT.

CAT Eligibility Criteria:

  • Educational Qualification: Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree with at least 50% marks or equivalent CGPA (45% for SC, ST, and PWD/DA categories) from a recognised university.
  • Age Limit: There is no age limit for taking the CAT Exam.
  • Number of Attempts: There is no restriction on the number of attempts for the CAT Exam. However, it is conducted only once a year.
  • Final Year Students: Candidates appearing for the final year of their bachelor's degree or awaiting results are also eligible.

Suggested Reads: GMAT Exam Eligibility

GMAT Vs CAT: Syllabus and Marking Scheme

Understanding the syllabus and marking scheme is pivotal for Indian students aiming to excel in the GMAT or CAT Exams. Let's delve into the specifics:

GMAT Syllabus:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): Tests your ability to analyse an argument and communicate your thoughts coherently.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR): Assesses your skills in analysing data and solving complex problems using information from multiple sources.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Focuses on mathematical skills, data analysis, and logical reasoning.
  • Verbal Reasoning: Evaluate your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and command over the English language.

CAT Syllabus:

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC): Tests English language skills, including reading comprehension and verbal reasoning.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR): Assesses problem-solving skills using data sets and logical puzzles.
  • Quantitative Ability (QA): Focuses on fundamental mathematics, covering a wide range of topics from arithmetic to algebra and geometry.

Marking Scheme:

  • GMAT: Scores range from 200 to 800, integrating performance across the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The AWA and IR sections are scored separately, with the AWA scored from 0 to 6 and the IR from 1 to 8.
  • CAT: Each correct answer awards 3 marks, with a penalty of 1 mark for every incorrect answer for MCQs. There is no negative marking for non-MCQs. The total score is then scaled to a percentile ranking.

Related Reads: GMAT Exam Syllabus

GMAT Vs CAT: Competition and Level of Difficulty

For Indian students weighing their options between the GMAT and CAT, understanding the competition and level of difficulty of these exams is crucial for strategic preparation.


  • GMAT: Attracts a global pool of aspirants aiming for prestigious business schools worldwide. The diverse candidate base means competition is varied, but the global recognition of the GMAT allows for broader opportunities.
  • CAT: Predominantly attracts Indian students aiming for top-tier Indian business schools like the IIMs. The competition is intense, with lakhs of candidates vying for a limited number of seats, making it one of the most competitive exams in India.

Level of Difficulty:

  • GMAT: Known for its challenging verbal section and analytical writing assessment, the GMAT requires a strong command of English and analytical skills. The quantitative section, while challenging, is generally considered to be on par with the CAT's level of difficulty.
  • CAT: The quantitative ability section of the CAT is notoriously difficult, especially for students from a non-engineering background. The data interpretation and logical reasoning sections also present significant challenges due to their unpredictable nature and the high level of competition.

Choosing between the GMAT Vs CAT is a significant decision for Indian students planning to study abroad or pursue an MBA in India. Both exams open doors to prestigious business schools but cater to different aspirations. The GMAT offers global opportunities, while the CAT focuses on India's elite institutions. Understanding the competition, difficulty level, and strategic preparation tips for each exam can significantly impact your MBA journey. Tailor your preparation to align with your career goals, whether they lie within India or beyond its borders. Ready to embark on your MBA journey? AECC is here to guide you through every step, from choosing the right exam to securing your place in a top business school. Contact AECC today to turn your MBA dreams into reality!


Is the CAT vs GMAT Syllabus the same?

No, the CAT and GMAT Syllabuses differ, especially in sections like Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning in GMAT, which are not present in CAT.

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