CAT vs GMAT? Choosing the Right Exam for Your Business School Goals



When it comes to applying for business school, two of the most commonly accepted entrance exams are the GMAT and the CAT. Both tests are designed to evaluate a student’s aptitude for business school, but there are some key differences between the two tests (GMAT vs CAT) that will help you choose the right exam for your business school goals.

cat vs gmat

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a standardized test that is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). It is accepted by more than 7,000 programs in over 2,300 colleges and universities around the world. The GMAT is used primarily for admission to business school programs, including MBA (Master of Business Administration) and other related programs.

CAT (Common Admission Test) is an entrance exam used by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and several other business schools in India. It is conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management on a rotational basis, and its score is used for admission to various post-graduate management programs in India.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between GMAT and CAT:

GMAT vs CAT: Format and Duration


  • The GMAT has 4 sections, Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment, and lasts 3 hours and 7 minutes.
  • The GMAT is adaptive in nature. This means that the difficulty level of the next question is decided based on your performance in the previous question.
  • The GMAT is delivered on-demand around the year via Pearson Vue testing facilities at multiple centers in several cities across India.


  • The CAT consists of three sections – Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR), Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
  • The maximum time allotted for CAT stands at 2 hours and is not adaptive in nature.
  • The CAT is conducted by one of the six oldest IIMs in a rotational fashion. The dates of the test are announced by the convening IIM in either July or August of every year.
  • CAT is not adaptive in nature and can only be taken once a year.

Here is a detailed guide to know the differences between GMAT and GRE and which test to choose for business school application.

Score Validity


  • Your GMAT score is valid for five years from the date of the exam. This is because GMAC (the company that administers the GMAT) believes your reasoning skills and abilities will not deteriorate significantly over a 5-year period.
  • Business schools, on the other hand, may have their own policies regarding the scores that they accept. Check with your preferred school before applying.
  • The GMAT can be taken whenever you want. For many candidates, the opportunity cost of waiting a year would be a factor.


  • CAT scores, on the other hand, are only valid for one year from the date of the test.
  • There is one major downside to taking the test, though: if you do not pass it the first time, you must wait a year before taking it again.

Eligibility and Attempts


  • The GMAT is open to anyone over the age of 18. If you are 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 elapse between any attempts. There is an overall lifetime limit of eight attempts.


  • The CAT can only be taken once a year, on a date set by the convening IIM. Every year, the convening IIM announces the date on which the CAT will be held in July or August.
  • There is no limit to the number of times you can take the CAT, nor is there an upper age limit. To take the CAT, however, you must have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution or its equivalent. Students in the final year of their respective degree programs are also eligible to appear and take the CAT.

Cost of taking GMAT vs CAT

The cost of taking the CAT is cheaper than GMAT, Taking the CAT costs Rs. 2,300.

If you compare it with the GMAT, then the cost of taking the GMAT is $275 or Rs. 22,000 at a test center and $300 or Rs. 24,500 at home. (per attempt).

Although the GMAT costs more, it also provides students with access to a multitude of universities both in India and abroad, while the CAT is accepted by Indian business schools.

For applicants who want to pursue their MBA in India, the CAT is a good option, but if he or she wants to apply to a foreign university and is willing to spend the money, then they should opt for the GMAT.

GMAT vs CAT: Syllabus

The main difference between the GMAT and CAT is that the CAT doesn’t have an analytical writing assessment (AWA) section. Aside from the AWA section, both exams assess quantitative, verbal, and reasoning abilities.

GMAT vs CAT: Verbal Syllabus

The following verbal topics are asked on the GMAT and CAT:

Fill in the blanks1. Sentence Correction:
Para completion and inferenceSubject-verb agreement
Reading ComprehensionModifiers
Verbal LogicIdioms
Para jumblesParallelism
Verbal ReasoningComparison
SyllogismsVerb tense
Contextual usage2. Critical Reasoning  
Different usages of the same wordAssumption
Sentence completionstrengthen and weaken
Jumbled paragraphsBoldface
Foreign language words used in EnglishParadox
Sentence correction3. Reading Comprehension
One-word substitution

GMAT vs CAT – Quant syllabus

The following quantitative topics are asked on the GMAT and CAT:

GeometryNumber properties
TrigonometryMultiples and factors
Ratios and proportionDecimals
Number systemPercentages
Work and timeAverages
HCF & LCMPowers and roots
AlgebraProfit and loss
Profit & LossSimple and compound interest
In-equations, Quadratic and linear equationsSpeed, time, and distance
Geometric ProgressionPipes, cisterns, and work time
PercentagesRatio and proportion
AveragesMixtures and allegations
Partnership (Accounts)Descriptive statistics
Time-Speed-DistanceSet theory
Surds and IndicesProbability
InequalitiesPermutation and combination
LogarithmsMonomials, 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: Difficulty

It’s difficult to say definitively which test is more difficult, as both the CAT and GMAT have their own unique challenges. The difficulty level of each exam can vary depending on factors such as an individual’s academic background, test-taking skills, and familiarity with the format and content of the exam.

That being said, the GMAT is generally considered to be more challenging due to its adaptive nature and a higher level of difficulty in certain sections. The GMAT’s adaptive format means that the difficulty level of the questions adjusts to a test-taker’s performance, meaning that a higher level of competency is required to score well. Additionally, the GMAT’s quantitative and analytical sections are known to be more challenging than the CAT’s equivalent sections.

The CAT, on the other hand, has a fixed format with a set number of questions per section. While the content is similar to that of the GMAT, the difficulty level of the questions is generally considered to be slightly lower. However, this does not mean that the CAT is an easy exam, as it still requires a high level of proficiency in mathematics, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning.

CAT’s syllabus is also not well defined, hence its overall difficulty level is higher than that of the GMAT. As a result, more time is needed to prepare for the CAT, whereas with a few dedicated and consistent days of preparation, it is possible to score 700+ on the GMAT.

CAT vs GMAT: Adaptive vs non-adaptive

The GMAT is an adaptive test. This means that the difficulty level of your next question depends on your performance in the previous question.

Thus, the GMAT is a test of ability, as it constantly adapts and refines the test to your ability level. The test starts off with a question of medium difficulty; if you answer this question correctly, the next question is of a slightly higher difficulty level. Hence, there is no option to review your answers or skip a question.

CAT on the other hand is a non-adaptive test and the difficulty level is random and not based on your previous question performance,

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, both the GMAT and CAT are entrance exams that assess a student’s readiness for business school. The GMAT is a globally recognized exam and is accepted by numerous business schools worldwide, while the CAT is primarily used for admission to business schools in India.

Choosing which exam to take depends on your goals, preferences, and the business schools you are applying to. If you are interested in studying at an international business school, the GMAT may be the better option as it is more widely recognized. However, if you are applying primarily to Indian business schools, then the CAT is a natural choice.

It’s also important to consider the differences in content, structure, and scoring between the two exams. As a potential candidate, you should evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to determine which test format aligns better with your test-taking abilities.

Ultimately, the decision to take the GMAT or CAT should be made after careful consideration of your personal circumstances and goals. By understanding the key differences between the exams, you can make an informed decision and maximize your chances of success in the business school application process

along with its increasing acceptance to executive MBA programs at IIMs and a few other Indian B-schools, stands out as the better option between the GMAT and the CAT. However, if you are aiming for admission into the traditional 2-year MBA program at IIMs or other business schools in India, such as MDI or SPJIMR, then the CAT may be your only choice.

Consider the following while making your decision:

  • Decide on your career goals (international exposure and work opportunities vs. domestic).
  • Choice of Programme (Executive, Full-time 1-year, Full-Time 2-years)
  • Location Preference (India vs. Abroad)
  • Investment vs. Return (GMAT vs. CAT)

If you’re having trouble deciding, get in touch with Admit Expert, and we will help you not only find some clarity on the tests, but also our top business school graduates will assist you in your college selection and application process too! So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with us now.

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