GMAT v/s CAT: How to Choose the Right Test in 2023?

gmat exam fee


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 are these two tests different? Which test is easier to crack? Will preparing for one test enable one to take both tests? By 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 and 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 experience such as IMT Ghaziabad, Narsee Monjee, IIM Kozhikode, 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

Both the GMAT and CAT serve as standardized tests and measure skills such as critical thinking, quantitative ability, reasoning skills, and data interpretation to get admission in MBA programs. However, let us explore how both exams are different in their structure.

Sections Types of questions Number of Questions Time
Quantitative · Problem-Solving


21 questions 45 minutes

· Critical Reasoning

· Reading Comprehension

22 questions 45 minutes
Data Insights ·  Table Analysis

·  Graphics Interpretation

·  Multi-Source Reasoning

· Two-Part Analysis

Data Sufficiency

20 items 45 minutes

The test duration is 2 hours and 15 minutes without breaks. All the questions in the GMAT Quantitative and GMAT Verbal sections are multiple-choice questions. In the Data Insights section, you need to interpret the data to get to the answer. 

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)


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


*Remember that this keeps changing from year to year!

The duration of the test is 3 hours. CAT questions come in two flavors – 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)

After learning the difference in the exam pattern, let’s dive in to know the scope of acceptability, eligibility criteria to take the exams, leading business schools accepting the exams, structure, and much more.

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

The GMAT allows the students to choose the order of sections of their choice.

No option to Select Section Order.

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

Quantitative and IR/DI sections Questions in the Quantitative and DI sections are relatively easier and manageable for 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 for 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 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 the reservation of seats. Quota system for reservation of seats.
Performance Analysis Report An enhanced score report that helps you analyze your performance is available for a fee. No such report is available
Number of B-schools accepting the test score Accepted by 2300+ B-schools worldwide for 7,000 MBA and Masters programs. It is mandatory in all the leading B-schools abroad. Accepted by 230+ 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% of CAT takers get into IIMs.

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


GMAT Score for IIM

Criteria IIM-Ahmedabad IIM-Bangalore IIM-Calcutta IIM-Lucknow
Average GMAT score 706 690 +700 680
Total Fees INR 24,00,000 INR 22,77,500 INR 22,00,000 INR 19,11,000


Score Validity 

From the date of your test, your GMAT score is valid for 5 years. This is because GMAC believes your reasoning skills and abilities would not diminish appreciably over a 5 year period. Business schools, on the other hand, may have their own policies regarding the score that they accept. Before you apply, double-check with your desired institution. 

CAT scores, on the other hand, are only valid for one year from the date of the test. In addition, if you do not pass the exam the first time, you will have to wait a year to take it again.


Eligibility And Attempts 

The GMAT is open to anybody above the age of 18. If you’re under the age of 18, i.e. 13-18 years old, you can take the GMAT with parental permission. 

The GMAT can be taken up to five times per year. A minimum of 16 days should pass between any tries. There is an overall lifetime restriction of eight attempts. 

The CAT is only offered once a year, on a date set by the convening IIM. Every year in July or August, the convening IIM announces the date of the CAT. 

There is no limit to how many times you can take the CAT, and there is no upper age limit. To take the CAT, you must have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a recognized institution. Students in the last year of their degree programs are also eligible to take the CAT.


Exam Fees and Average Salaries 

The GMAT registration fee is $275. After creating and registering an account on mba.com, you may schedule and book an appointment. 

The CAT registration and exam fee is INR 2000/-. In the months of July and August, the convening IIM issues a notification. This notification contains information on registration dates, exam fees, and other relevant data. Because the CAT is not given on a demand basis, you must adhere to the registration deadlines.

The average that IIM graduates could probably earn is between the range of INR 22-25 lakhs on average. INR 82 lakhs is the highest international offer made to an IIM graduate. The average income offered to graduates of the top 25 MBA institutions in the world, on the other hand, is much higher, at INR 1.05 crore.


GMAT VS CAT – Syllabus 

Now that we have understood how both exams are different in terms of structure, pattern, and acceptance. Are these exams different in terms of syllabus also?

The most significant difference in the syllabus is that there is no Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) part in the CAT. Apart from the AWA section, let’s take a look:

Is the CAT and GMAT syllabus the same?

Now, let’s talk about the section-wise comparison of both the exams


GMAT VS CAT – Verbal Syllabus

Fill in the blanks Verb tense
Grammar Pronoun
Para Completion and inference Subject-verb agreement
Reading Comprehension Modifiers
Verbal Logic Idioms
Para jumbles Parallelism
Verbal Reasoning Comparison
Syllogisms Inference
Contextual usage Assumption
Analogies Evaluate
Different usage of the same word Strengthen and weaken
Antonyms Boldface
Sentence completion Paradox
Jumbled paragraphs
Foreign language words used in English
Sentence correction
One word substitution


GMAT VS CAT – Quant Syllabus

Geometry Number properties
Trigonometry Multiples and factors
Mensuration Fractions
Ratios and Proportion Decimals
Number system Percentages
Work and time Averages
HCF & LCM Powers and roots
Algebra Profit and loss
Profit & Loss Simple and compound interest
In-equations Quadratic and linear equations Speed, time, and distance
Geometric Progression Pipes, cisterns, and work time
Percentages Ratio and proportion
Averages Mixtures and allegations
Partnership (Accounts) Descriptive statistics
Time-Speed-Distance Set theory
Surds and Indices Probability
Inequalities Permutation and combination
Logarithms Monomials, polynomials
Algebraic expressions and equations
Arithmetic and geometric progression
Quadratic equations
Inequalities and basic statistics
Lines and angles
Rectangular solids and cylinders
Coordinate geometry


GMAT VS CAT – Adaptive VS Non-Adaptive 

The GMAT is a computerised adaptive test. This means that the difficulty level of the following question is determined by how well you did on the previous one. As a result, the GMAT is a test of ability since it adapts and refines the test to your level of skill. The test begins with a question of medium difficulty; if you properly answer this question, the next question is somewhat more difficult. As a result, there is no way to go back and examine your answers or skip a question.

The CAT, on the other hand, is a non-adaptive test that emphasises accuracy over ability. Since in the CAT, only percentile scores are published, your score depends purely on how many questions you answered correctly. Before submitting your answers, you can evaluate them in a section. There’s also an on-screen calculator.


What Factors to Consider in Choosing GMAT and CAT?

Career Goals 

Aside from the 20 IIMs, more than 100 other B schools across India accept CAT results for graduate management admission. CAT scores are also accepted by a few international business institutions for admission to management programs. The GMAT is recognized for admission to over 7000 graduate management programs at over 2,300 graduate business schools across the world. Because of its global acceptance, the GMAT is the logical choice if your career objective is to study abroad and get valuable foreign exposure and professional experience. The GMAT is also becoming more widely accepted as a criterion for admission to executive programs at several of India’s premier business institutions.


Choice of Program 

If you want to apply to any IIM’s conventional 2-year, full-time residential MBA program, you’ll need a valid CAT score. A legitimate GMAT score is accepted if you are contemplating the 1-year full-time executive program. 

Furthermore, because the CAT is administered by the IIMs, it is a better predictor of success in the programs they provide, as it assesses the abilities needed to succeed in the program.


Location Preference 

If you’ve decided to study in a specific geographic region because of the proximity of employers in your target industry, this is a point to consider while choosing between the GMAT and the CAT. If you’re looking for a job in luxury management, France is the ideal place to look. It would be best to earn an MBA at a local B school, as this would put you in close proximity to your target businesses and allow you to participate in internships.


Investment VS Return

Sr No Expense GMAT CAT
1 Test Fee $250 $ 30
2 Preparation Cost $349 (e-GMAT course) $ 450 (Average Cost of CAT coaching in-classroom programs)
3 Cost of rescheduling $50 – More than 60 days prior to the appointment

$100 – 15 to 60 days prior to the appointment

$150 – 1 to 14 days prior to the appointment

Conducted only once a year (rescheduling not possible)
4 Score Reporting $35 each (First 5 reports are free) Reported to all IIMs free of cost.
5 Enhanced score report $30 Not available
6 Score Validity 5 Years 1 Year
7 Total Cost $ 829 $ 480
8 Total cost per year $ 166 $ 480


Few Key Points to Note for GMAT VS CAT 

  • Because the CAT is only given once a year, you will have to wait another year to take it again if you do not meet the cut-off for your desired college/program, but the GMAT can be taken several times with a minimum of 16 days between attempts. 
  • The GMAT Enhanced Score Report, which is available for a fee, may provide useful information about your performance. Using your ESR analysis to develop a retake strategy could be quite beneficial. The CAT does not have such a facility. 
  • Furthermore, because your GMAT score is valid for five years from the date of your test, the actual cost of the GMAT is $167 per year.

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Scholarships – The Added Advantage of GMAT Over CAT 2023

A high GMAT score can help you not only get into a top business school, but it can also help you receive a partial scholarship or a full fellowship. These can significantly reduce the cost of an MBA. Top management schools are increasingly offering scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid to offset the rising cost of an MBA.


Scholarship Based on CAT Score

While most IIMs provide some type of need-based financial aid, it is in the form of loans rather than scholarships. Students can also apply for scholarships granted by businesses and private organizations.


Takeaways – How to Choose Between GMAT VS CAT?

The following characteristics should assist you in picking between the GMAT and the CAT. 

  • Make a decision on your career objectives (International Exposure and Work Opportunities vs. Domestic) 
  • Program Selection (Executive, Full time 1 year, Full Time 2 years) 
  • Preference for a location (India v.s. Abroad) 
  • Return vs. Investment (GMAT vs CAT) 
  • Scholarships available (GMAT vs CAT)


GMAT VS CAT Difficulty – Level of Competition 

Every year, over 2 lakh applicants take the CAT exam. Candidates must pass the GD, PI, and WAT rounds after passing the CAT Cut Off, which is approximately 99 percentile for the top IIMs. Aside from that, additional considerations such as gender diversity and work experience are taken into account when determining the final merit list. 

In the case of the GMAT, its score is accepted by a number of important national and worldwide institutions. As a result, the GMAT has a higher applicant-to-seat ratio than the CAT, and your projected chance of success (and thus your return on investment) is higher with the GMAT. As a result, when taking the GMAT, the pressure is frequently lower than when taking the CAT.


GMAT VS CAT – Admission Procedure After the Test 

After both exams, there are several stages to getting admission into an MBA program. Following the GMAT, most top colleges and universities need basic essay writing, letter of reference submission, and interviews.

In CAT, on the other hand, you must appear for, Personal Interview, Group Discussion, and Written Ability Test


GMAT VS CAT – Profile Requirements 

  • After passing both tests, a candidate’s profile is vital in obtaining an MBA. Work experience is not required for the management programs offered by IIMs. It will, however, offer you an advantage, although it is not required. 
  • In addition, IIMs look at your percentages in Class X, Class XII, and your graduation score, which all play a role in selection. To get into an IIM, you’ll need not only a good CAT score but also a strong academic record. 
  • Most overseas universities, on the other hand, need at least two years of job experience. In most cases, your grades in classes X and XII are not taken into consideration.


GMAT VS CAT – Choice Of Institutions 

IIMs and other B Schools accept the CAT score. Applicants must keep in mind that the CAT is mostly focused on Indian schooling. As a result, if students want to get into one of India’s B Schools, they should take the CAT exam. 

GMAT scores are accepted by Indian and international business schools. To put it another way, a candidate has more possibilities. The fact that the number of B Schools is growing does not imply that the quality is deteriorating. The B quality, School’s on the other hand, is improving. GMAT results are accepted by top B schools such as Harvard Business School, Wharton, and Stanford, boosting to their value.


Difference Between CAT and GMAT Exam: Ease Of Admissions 

Admission to the college of one’s choosing is difficult when it comes to the CAT. Only a small percentage of candidates are accepted into the institutions of their choice. Because there are so many candidates and so few seats, the Indian government has opened a number of IIMSs across the country in recent years. 

When it comes to the GMAT, makes it much easier for applicants to get into the college of their choosing. The key reason for this is that GMAT results are accepted by B Schools all over the world. Furthermore, IIMs have begun to accept GMAT results. When it comes to the GMAT, applicants have additional possibilities because B Schools are located all over the world.


Top Colleges in India Offering MBA

Great Lakes Chennai Great Lakes Gurgaon
ICFAI Dehradun IMT Ghaziabad
UPES Dehradun LPU Jalandhar
SRM University Chennai GD Goenka University, Gurgaon
Chandigarh University BML Munjal University, Gurgaon
Manipal University (MAHE) Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida
IPE Hyderabad IFIM Business School


Difference Between CAT and GMAT: Number of Applicants 

It has been observed that the number of applications for both tests has been steadily increasing over the last few years. For both tests, the result is nearly identical. This makes it more difficult for a student to get into their preferred college in the CAT because the number of colleges is substantially lesser than in the GMAT. It’s simple: there are more students competing for fewer spots. 

The applicant’s decision on which examination to take is entirely his or her own. It is dependent on the applicant’s circumstances. GMAT is suitable for individuals who are currently employed, whilst CAT is suitable for those who wish to pursue their MBA in India immediately after completing their bachelor’s degree.

Reasons Why Indian B-Schools Prefer GMAT Over CAT Exam

Difference between CAT and GMAT:

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.

So these were some basic GMAT and CAT differences.


Final Takeaway – GMAT Or CAT?

Many people aspire to get an MBA from a reputable institution, but many are conflicted over which entrance exam to take: the GMAT or the CAT. Making a decision between the two is difficult, but with a clear understanding of the offerings and the differences between the CAT and GMAT, it gets a lot easier. The difference between the GMAT and the CAT is in the evaluative technique for both on the candidate’s aptitude level. The GMAT is widely regarded as a requirement for most global programmes in the United States, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Australia. CAT scores are recognised by approximately 160 management institutes in addition to IIMs. Before deciding on the CAT or GMAT, you should think about the investment and opportunity costs you might incur. 



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 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 advanced level theoretical formulas but not quite comfortable with 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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Is GMAT easier than CAT?

The GMAT, unlike the CAT, is a standardized test. This means that the types of questions, duration of sections and the content tested are all predictable and standardized. So, if you practice using proper, standardized material from reliable sources and practice in a smart, efficient manner, then you too can get a great score. Though the concepts tested in both the exams are similar, the types of questions and scoring algorithms are different. CAT is held only once a year but the GMAT can be taken at your convenience, all through the year.

Can I prepare for GMAT in 3 months?

The GMAT is a standardized test. This means that the types of questions, duration of sections and the content tested are all predictable and standardized. Depending on your initial starting score and target score, you can prepare for the GMAT in 3 months with efficient practice and reliable material. However, if your current score is very low and/or your target score is high, then more time and effort will be required.

Can an average student crack GMAT?

The GMAT is a standardized test. This means that the types of questions, duration of sections and the content tested are all predictable and standardized. So, if you practice using proper, standardized material from reliable sources and practice in a smart, efficient manner, then you too can get a great score.

Are GMAT and CAT preparation the same?

Though the concepts tested in both the exams are similar, the types of questions and scoring algorithms are different. So the strategies and techniques for these exams are different.

Is GMAT preparation enough for CAT?

Though the concepts tested in both the exams are similar, the types of questions and scoring algorithms are different. So the strategies and techniques for these exams are different.

What is the difference between the CAT and GMAT?

Though the concepts tested in both the exams are similar, the types of questions and scoring algorithms are different. So the strategies and techniques for these exams are different.

How does the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) format work?

Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are both adaptive. This means that, in each of these sections, say e.g. in verbal reasoning, if an answer is correct then the difficulty level of the next question increases. Similarly, if an answer is incorrect, the difficulty level of the next question remains the same or goes down. The final score for these sections ranges from 6-51 and is calculated based on the number of correct answers and difficulty level of the questions. There is a penalty for not completing all the questions in these sections.

Is CAT and GMAT syllabus same?

The CAT and GMAT have nearly similar syllabus. The Quant component of the GMAT, on the other hand, is significantly easier than the CAT exam.

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