Top 10 differences between the CAT and GMAT

One of the biggest dilemmas of students seeking to study MBA is ‘should I write the CAT or the GMAT?’ In simple terms, if you plan to go abroad to pursue MBA, then you need to necessarily write the GMAT. But, the difference just doesn’t end there. There are other fundamental differences between the tests that you need to consider before you make an informed decision.

Below are the top 10 differences between the CAT and the GMAT:

1 Structure of the exam

GMAT consists of 4 sections: Quant, Verbal, Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) and Integrated Reasoning (IR). Quant and verbal sections contribute to the score of 800. AWA and IR, each have separate scores ranging from 0-6 for AWA and 1-8 for IR. On the other hand, CAT has 3 sections: Quant, Verbal and Data Interpretation. Your overall percentile in the CAT exam depends on you showing competency in all the 3 sections.

2 Difficulty Level

Is the GMAT more difficult than the CAT? Well, the answer depends on you. If you are strong in the verbal section and struggle with the quant concepts, then might be you are better off writing the GMAT than the CAT. That’s because many students find the GMAT verbal questions tougher than the ones in the CAT exam. The difference lies in two aspects: Grammar and Reading Comprehension. GMAT grammar concepts are much more advanced and logical than the CAT grammar questions. When it comes to RC, the CAT passages are longer and denser. But, with respect to the questions, GMAT ones tend to be gruelling and more focussed on inferences and implied meanings. As far as the quant section is concerned, the difficulty level is comparable. Except that, the GMAT quant is tricky whereas the CAT math questions tend to be complex.

3  Admission Process

The Colleges/universities which accept the GMAT score have an elaborative admission process. It includes Essay submission, recommendations, and interview stages. While some of the Indian institutes also conduct group discussions and interviews, the process of admission is much simpler. However, if you don’t score above 99.5% on the CAT exam, there is a very low chance of making it to the top IIMs. On the GMAT, even if you score 650 but have a good profile, you can still expect admission in a top global MBA college.

4 Universities/Colleges

Dream of studying at the Harvard, Stanford etc.? Then, GMAT is what you have to write.

The CAT score is accepted by the Indian colleges only. On the other hand, the GMAT score is accepted worldwide. In fact, IIMs also accept the GMAT score along with the CAT score. Moreover, you can apply for some Indian colleges such as the ISB, only if you have written the GMAT test.

5 Test Format

In terms of the test format, there are considerable differences between the CAT and the GMAT. If you need to take a break in between the exam, the CAT is bound to disappoint as it does not allow for any scheduled breaks.  Whereas, the GMAT permits 8-minute breaks twice during the course of 3 hours and 30 minutes. Further, the CAT questions are the same for everybody while the GMAT test is adaptive in nature, meaning it adapts to the ability of the test taker. Hence, the questions vary from person to person. Also, while writing the CAT you can move between the questions within the section, choose which ones to attempt first and not answer certain questions. But, you see only  one question at a time on the GMAT and cannot move forward till you answer it. Further, unlike the CAT test, GMAT allows you the option of choosing the order in which you want to attempt the sections.

6 Work Experience

If you want to do your MBA right after your graduation, take the CAT exam since IIMs do not require work experience as a mandatory criterion. However, if you plan to write the GMAT and apply to colleges abroad, you need to have a minimum two years of work experience.

7 Test-taking strategy

As the content and structure of both the exams are different, the preparation strategies also vary. For example, unlike in the GMAT, your ability to gauge the difficulty level of a certain CAT question can make or break your score. Further, your strategy for your quant should take into consideration the fact that the CAT provides an online calculator which the GMAT does not. Since the difficulty level of the verbal questions is also different, you need to include practice questions of the same standard in your preparation.

8 Application & other fees

The registration fee for GMAT test is 250 $. which is about 16k in Indian rupees. In comparison, the CAT application costs you only 2000 rupees. Apart from the 5 colleges that GMAT allows you to apply free of cost, you need to pay 50 dollars for each additional college that you seek admission to. Moreover, there is a significant difference in the tuition fee charged by the colleges in India which accept the CAT score and the colleges abroad.

9 Competition

As the number of Indian MBA colleges is less compared to the number abroad, the competition is higher for the CAT than the GMAT. Therefore, if you want to gain admission to the top college such as IIM Ahmedabad or IIM Bangalore, you need to mandatorily be in the top one percentile. In contrast, a 90 percentile on the GMAT with work experience can help you land a seat at a top B-school abroad

10 Flexibility

GMAT is any day more flexible than the CAT exam. Firstly, unlike the CAT, it allows you to take the exam on a date of your choice. Also, suppose you write the test and are not thrilled with the score, you are allowed a retake after 16 days. What’s more? You have an option of postponing the test by paying fifty dollars up to one week before the exam. Most importantly, the GMAT score is valid for 5 years. In contrast, your CAT score in a certain year can only be used to apply for colleges in that year alone

There are some important differences between the CAT and the GMAT. Before deciding which exam to apply for, understand these differences well while considering your own strengths and weaknesses.

Still confused? Well, you don’t lose anything by writing both.

Want to know more about the CAT or the GMAT exam? Give us a call at {8500300301} or visit our office at

Banjarahills ( Hyderabad):

Road No. 2, Opp. Brand Factory,
Above Balaji Hosieries, Banjarahills,
Hyderabad – 500034, India

Phone: +91 8500300301, +91 8897048958.






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