GMAT v/s CAT: How to Choose the Right Test in 2021

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The decision to take the GMAT over the CAT is a critical one as it can not only open a lot of doors of opportunity but also save a lot of time and money. Often students feel perplexed when it comes to deciding between the two tests as their mind is shrouded with a lot of questions. Which test is better – the GMAT or the CAT? How these two tests are different? Which test is easier to crack? Will preparing for one test enable one to take both tests? At the end of this article, you will be able to find the answers to most of these questions.

The CAT was initially introduced as an entrance exam for the IIMs but over the years its popularity has faded like a lot of colleges/universities now prefer the GMAT over the CAT.

While the CAT is mostly accepted by IIMs, the GMAT, in addition to being the preferred test for admission to MBAs abroad, is accepted by 150+ B-schools in India.

The GMAT is accepted by top MBA programs that don’t require an applicant to have work experiences such as IMT Ghaziabad, Narsi Munji, IIM Kozikote, ISB, and Great Lakes.

The GMAT is also the preferred option for top MBA programs at prime institutes such as ISB, IIM PGPX, MDI, XLRI, and many more that do require students to have work experience.

Let’s start by understanding the two tests from three perspectives.

  1. Structure, format, and syllabus
  2. Difference between the two tests (GMAT vs CAT)
  3. Acceptance by B-schools


Structure, Format, and Syllabus

Sections Types of questions Number of Questions Time Scale of Score
Quantitative · Problem Solving

·  Data Sufficiency

31 questions 62 minutes 0 – 60 200 – 800
Verbal · Sentence Correction

· Critical Reasoning

· Reading Comprehension

36 questions 65 minutes 0 – 60
Integrated Reasoning ·  Table Analysis

·  Graphics Interpretation

·  Multi-Source Reasoning

· Two-Part Analysis

12 items 30 minutes 1 – 8
Analytical Writing Assessment · Analysis of Argument 1 topic 30 minutes 0 – 6


The test duration is 3 hours and 7 minutes without breaks. All the questions in the GMAT Quantitative and GMAT Verbal section are multiple-choice questions. In the Integrated reasoning section, you need to interpret the data to get to the answer. In GMAT analytical writing assessment, you need to analyse a given argument, identify the inherent flaws in it, and provide critical comments in the form of an essay.

Learn more about the GMAT syllabus.


Sections Number of Questions Time Scale of Score
Quantitative Ability (QA)


34 questions 60 minutes -82 to 300
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)


34questions 60 minutes
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI & LR) 32questions 60 minutes


*Remember that this keeps changing from year to year!

The duration of the test is 3 hours. CAT questions come in two flavours – Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and ‘Type in the Answer’ (TITA) questions.

DI questions on the CAT are somewhat similar to IR questions on the GMAT.

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Difference Between the Two Tests (GMAT vs CAT)

Test type Online and an adaptive by-question test. Online but not an adaptive test.
Eligibility Criteria No eligibility criteria Score of 50% or above in undergraduate degree
Option to select section order Select Section Order option available.

The GMAT allows the students to choose the order of section of their choice. There are 3 orders available.

No option to Select Section Order.

The section order is fixed – VARC, DI-LR, and QA.*

AWA This test also comprises a written section that tests the writing skills and also helps in showcasing the student’s flow of thoughts and his ability to express himself effectively. The CAT exam has no such writing section and it tests only the knowledge of the test-taker using objective questions.
Quantitative and IR/DI sections Questions in the Quantitative and IR sections are relatively easier and manageable by even a non-math student. Questions in the Quantitative and DI section are very tricky and challenging even for a student with a Math background.
Types of questions All Quantitative questions are multiple-choice questions and thus, allow the process of elimination and application of other strategies and techniques. Some of the Quantitative questions are ‘Type in the answer’ questions where there is no scope of the process of elimination. Also, it is difficult to apply strategies or techniques to these questions.
The difficulty of the test The GMAT is a standardized test and its difficulty remains the same. The CAT is not a standardized test and its difficulty level and even the structure keep changing every year. It is quite unpredictable.
Negative marking No negative marking as such.

However, there is a penalty for leaving the questions in the end. Also, it is a computer adaptive test which implies that your score will go up if you keep getting the questions correct and vice-versa.

Negative marking for getting the questions wrong.

+3 marks for every correct question and -1 mark for every incorrect one.

Score Validity 5 years 1 year
GMAT Preparation time 2 to 4 months 1 to 2 years
Rescheduling and Cancellation policy The GMAT test can be rescheduled or canceled by paying a fee. The CAT exam cannot be rescheduled or canceled.
Availability of test dates The test is conducted all year round i.e. the GMAT test takes place every month and a person can take this exam more than once in a year if he has not attained his targeted score. However, it can only be taken a maximum of 5 times in a year and a maximum of 8 times in a lifetime. It is conducted only once a year. So, if you don’t get a good score then you have to wait for one whole year to take the test again and re-apply to colleges. There is no limit on maximum attempts.
Quota System No Quota system for reservation of seats. Quota system for reservation of seats.
Performance Analysis Report An enhanced score report that helps you analyse your performance is available for a fee. No such report available
Number of B-schools accepting the test score Accepted by 2300+ B-schools worldwide for 7,000 MBA and Masters’s programs. It is mandatory in all the leading B-schools abroad. Accepted by 230+ of B-schools mainly in India
Acceptance by leading B-schools Accepted not only by IIMs but also by top colleges like ISB, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), XLRI, Birla Institute of Management Studies (BIMS), Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Great Lakes Institute of Management, and many more.

Have a choice to apply to the top schools in India (including the top 1%) and the best colleges around the world.

Accepted by only IIMs and a handful of other colleges such as SPJIMR, JBIMS, IMT, and FMS.

Valid and limited mostly to India and is applicable to only a few colleges other than IIMs.

Acceptance Rate More than 60% of GMAT test-takers get into the leading B-schools.

For every score, there is a great B-school. This is one test that is accepted by multiple colleges in India and abroad (no need to take a separate test for MAT, XAT, and other college-specific exams).

Approximately just 2% CAT takers get into IIMs.

Good B-Schools only consider students who have ranked at 90th percentile or above.


Reasons Why Indian B-Schools Prefer GMAT Over CAT

It tests the complete mental ability of the students and not just their theoretical power. It focuses only on bookish knowledge. It tests only a limited mental ability.
The GMAT has an Analytical Writing Ability (AWA) section. Writing skills are not tested on the CAT.
On the GMAT, about 30% of questions in the Verbal Ability section comprise Critical Reasoning. Critical Reasoning (CR) has not been a significant area on the CAT in recent years.
On the GMAT, the emphasis is not only on the functional aspects of grammar rules but also on contextual meaning and usage. There are specific error types that are looked at on the GMAT and familiarity with those types helps. Often does not test grammar much.



It is evident that the number of B-schools accepting GMAT scores is higher than any other test conducted in India. This means that any student applying to colleges through the GMAT across the nation has more number of leading B-schools to choose from than someone taking any other competitive MBA aptitude test. Also, the GMAT exam is more practical as compared to the CAT exam, which is quite theoretical.

The CAT exam has an edge over the GMAT only when it comes to admissions to IIMs except for their executive programs. The CAT score is accepted for all the programs and the GMAT score is accepted only for the programs which are similar to MBAs at IIMs. All the IIMs offer two types of programs: PGP and PGPX. The PGP course does not necessarily require any work experience. However, PGPX requires work experience. Also, in a way, the PGP course is similar to a Masters in Management and the PGPX course is similar to an MBA. So, go for the CAT if you have work experience of about a year or two and can devote around one year to prepare for the CAT. However, if you are an experienced professional, the GMAT is a better option for you.

Also, the money factor needs to be considered. If you are applying at any B-school in India with CAT or GMAT score, the maximum fees incurred will be Rs. 20 to 22 lacs. However, if you plan to study abroad using your GMAT score, the fees can be as high as Rs. 42 to 44 lacs or much more depending on the B-school. You would like to consider the living costs also when you plan to study abroad.

For a better understanding of the GMAT test, sign up for a free GMAT exam. See for yourself what suits you best. If you are good with high-level Quantitative questions including the advance level theoretical formulas but not quite comfortable with the Verbal questions, go for the CAT. Likewise, if you are good with Verbal grammar but not truly great at theoretical quantitative questions, go for the GMAT.

Look at all the options carefully before you make the final decision as it is about your future. Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any queries. We will be happy to answer your queries.

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