For students planning to do an MBA from a reputed institute, a common dilemma they face is whether to go for the Common Admission Test (CAT) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). While both of these exams serve as a crucial stepping-stone for gaining admission to a top B-school, there is a major difference between the two, which must be taken into account before choosing which of the exams to take. Given below are several key points that separate the two entrance exams.
Both GMAT and CAT are designed to test your reasoning skills, data interpretation, and quantitative ability. While CAT has 3 sections, GMAT also checks your writing skills with the additional Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section. Hence, while the CAT lasts for 3 hours, the GMAT exam lasts for 7 more minutes. Both of them are computer-based exams, however, the major difference between the two is that the GMAT is an adaptive test, while the CAT is not. This basically means that in GMAT, the difficulty of the next question is decided by how you answer the current question. If you answer correctly, you are awarded a more difficult question and if your answer is incorrect, the next question that pops up is relatively easier. Also, while the CAT exam is conducted yearly and its dates are announced in July-August every year, GMAT exams are delivered on-demand through the year. Another key difference between the two is that the GMAT score is valid for up to 5 years after taking the test while CAT scores are valid for a year.
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Though students are required to be over 18 years of age to take the GMAT test, students below 18 can appear for the test with their parents’ permission. To appear for CAT you need to be either a graduate or need to be in the final year of your graduation. While CAT can be taken only once in a year and there is no upper age limit for the test, GMAT can be taken for a maximum of 5 times in a year, with a minimum of 16 days’ gap between the tests. However, unlike CAT (which you can take innumerable times), you can take the GMAT for a maximum of 8 times in your life. The cost for taking CAT is Rs. 1900 while GMAT costs about Rs. 17500. However, GMAT has an international appeal as scores are accepted in over 7000 programs in 110 countries worldwide, whereas CAT is only accepted in IIMs and a number of other colleges primarily in India.
As compared to CAT, GMAT has a very standardised syllabus and types of questions, which makes its preparation much easier. With GMAT, studying and practising for over 120 hours can fetch you a score of over 700. While the quantitative section of CAT is much more difficult as compared to GMAT, the verbal section of GMAT is far more difficult as compared to CAT, especially because of the AWA. GMAT is more of a test for your ability as the test continuously adapts itself to know your skills. Also, there is no option to revisit the questions later or skip any of them. CAT, on the other hand, is a non-adaptive test and checks how accurate you are with the answers. You are allowed the option to review your answers before submitting and provided with an online calculator in CAT, but there is also a provision for negative markings for incorrect answers.
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Apart from the above differences, there are several factors that govern whether a student would go for CAT or GMAT. Firstly, if you want to pursue an MBA for global exposure, it is wise to choose GMAT as many colleges in India and abroad accept GMAT scores. If you plan to work and live in India, CAT is a much better option for you. Secondly, the program and specialisation that you have would also affect your choice among the two competitive exams. There are many MBA courses of various durations and combinations available abroad as compared to India, and the pay is also considerably better as compared to students getting offers from IIMs, however, the cost of studying overseas is also considerably high. Lastly, there may be certain courses that are best studied in a particular country thus providing more exposure to an industry. Hence you must make the right choice keeping in mind the above factors and choose a test that will take you places.
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