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GMAT vs CAT: Key differences

Are you a student who is interested in managerial programs such as MBA? Or are you a professional who is bored of his monotonous career and wants to make a career switch? Or that whether GMAT vs CAT, which is tougher?

If yes, then most probably you have stumbled across this blog post while stuck in the dilemma of GMAT vs CAT.


If this is true, then rest assured that by the time you complete this article, we assure you that you will be able to understand both exams. The article would also assist you in making well-informed decisions between the two exams.

Down below, I have mentioned a brief outline of this article. Kindly go through it once and choose the right track for you.

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1. GMAT vs CAT: Exam pattern
2. Key differences
3. GMAT vs CAT: Syllabus
4. Factors to consider in choosing between GMAT and CAT
5. Adaptiveness
6. Scholarships Opportunities
7. Key Takeaways
8. FAQs

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GMAT vs CAT: Exam pattern

Both CAT and GMAT have their own exam patterns. A glimpse of the same is displayed below in the tabular format:

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CAT Exam pattern

1. Total number of questions 100
2. Total sections

3 sections

  • Quantitative Aptitude
  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
  • Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation
3. Conducting institution 6 IIMS (on a rotational basis)
4. Total marks 300
5. Mode of exam Online
6. Question types Both MCQs and non-MCQs
7. Marking scheme
  • Correct answer – (+3 marks)
  • Wrong answer – (-1 marks)
  • Not attempted questions – (0 marks)



GMAT Exam pattern

1. Total number of questions 80
2. Total sections

4 sections

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing Skills
3. Conducting institution 6 IIMS (on a rotational basis)
4. Total marks 800
5. Mode of exam Online
6. Question types Both MCQs and non-MCQs
7. Marking scheme No negative marking


Key differences

CAT and GMAT, both are standard tests whose scores are accepted by B-schools for admission in managerial courses. Expect this similarity; both programs have several differences.

                                        Fundamental differences




Full form Graduate Management Admission Test Common Admission Test
Conducted by Graduate Management Admission Council Indian Institute of Management
Eligibility 13 years of age Bachelor’s degree. (minimum 50% marks)
Frequency All around the year Once a year
Mode of exam Online exam Online exam
Accepted by Global B-schools (worldwide) Indian B-schools
Sections 4 sections 3 sections
Total number of questions 80 questions 100 questions
Validity 5 years 1 year
Exam Duration 187 minutes 120 minutes
Exam fees US$250

₹2,000 for the General category

₹1,000 for the reserved category

Format and Duration


  • The exam is made up of 3 different sections. These sections include – Data Interpretation and logical reasoning; Verbal ability, reading comprehension, Quantitative Ability.
  • Although CAT is an online exam, it is not adaptive in nature.
  • The exam is of 2 hours duration.
  • The six oldest IIMs in India conduct it rotationally.
  • Exam dates are generally announced during July and August.


    • GMAT is conducted on demand and all year round.
    • The test is conducted by Pearson Vue testing facilities within multiple centers across India.
    • The exam consists of 4 sections. These sections include – Quantitative Reasoning; Analytical Writing; Verbal reasoning, Integrated Reasoning.
    • GMAT is an online test that is adaptive in nature. 
    • GMAT is 3 hours and 07 minutes long.

Eligibility and Attempts


  • Any person who has completed their graduation with 50% or more from a recognized university is eligible for appearing for CAT.
  • Students who are in the final year of their graduation can appear for this exam.
  • You can take unlimited attempts at this exam.
  • There is no upper age limit for appearing in this exam.
  • One can appear for this exam only once a year.


  • Any person who is 18 years of age or more can appear for this exam. However, a person between 13 years to 18 years of age can also appear for this exam with parental permission.
  • One can take only 8 GMAT exam attempts during their lifetime.
  • Being an on-demand test, a person can take GMAT exams up to 5 times a year.
  • The exam mandates a minimum duration of 16 days in between each GMAT attempt.

Exam Fees


  • CAT’s exam fees are ₹2000 for General category candidates. At the same time, it is ₹1000 for candidates from the reserved category.
  • As CAT follows an annual examination format, one must be careful of all deadlines and fill the form before this date.


  • The registration cost of GMAT is $250.
  • GMAT’s on-demand exam-taking format provides an opportunity for every candidate to schedule an examination according to their need.

Relative Difficulty


  • When we talk about CAT’s syllabus, it is not very well defined. Thus, one needs to prepare well for this exam.
  • CAT’s quantitative section is comparatively difficult from the GMAT’s respective section.


  • GMAT’s syllabus is well defined, and therefore it is much easier to prepare.
  • It’s verbal section is said to be more difficult than CAT’s. Therefore, non-native English speakers often face difficulties while preparing for GMAT’s verbal section.

GMAT vs CAT: Syllabus

GMAT and CAT comprised of multiple sections and time limits. A brief of this syllabus is as follows.

GMAT Syllabus format

S.No. Section Time Limit Score Exam details
1. Analytical Writing Assessment 30 minutes 0 – 6

This section consists of only one written task. Its primary aim is to gauge the candidate’s ability to form arguments.

Further, it also looks at the candidate’s ability to communicate and express your thoughts.

2. Integrated Reasoning 30 minutes 1 – 8

The section contains 12 MCQs or multiple-choice questions.

It aims to determine the candidate’s ability to read and analyse data.

3. Quantitative section 62 minutes 0 – 60

31 MCQs or multiple-choice questions are asked in this section.

It’s judges the candidate’s reasoning and conclusion making ability.

4. Verbal section 65 minutes 0 – 60

36 MCQs or multiple-choice questions are asked here.

It reckons the candidate’s ability to interpret written data.

The candidates can take these exams in multiple combinations. These three options are available for the candidates.

Original order

  1. Analytical writing assessment
  2. Integrated Reasoning
  3. Quantitative
  4. Verbal

    Other orders

    1. Verbal
    2. Quantitative
    3. Integrated Reasoning
    4. Analytical Writing assessment


    1. Quantitative
    2. Verbal
    3. Integrated Reasoning
    4. Analytical Writing assessment

    CAT Syllabus Format



    Time Limit

    Exam details



    40 minutes

    34 questions are asked in this section.

    10 questions are from Verbal Ability, whereas Reading comprehension contains 24 questions. 


    Quantitative aptitude

    40 minutes

    The section consists of 34 questions.


    Reasoning Skills

    40 minutes

    32 questions are asked in this section.

    Although, the section is known to be generic in nature. However, it comprises a wide variety of sections.

    Other important details

    1. The exam is conducted in two different sessions or shifts.

    • Morning Shift – 9 am to 12 pm
    • Evening Shift – 2 pm to 5 pm

    2. On-screen and non-scientific calculators are provided. Calculators are not allowed at the centers.

    3. CAT is not allowed to switch sections.

    Subject-wise Syllabus Comparison

    From the chart mentioned above, one can conclude that GMAT and CAT have almost the same sections. The only difference between them is that GMAT has four sections, whereas CAT has three sections. 

    Both exams have the Verbal, Reasoning and Quant sections whereas, the GMAT has an extra Analytical Writing Assessment section. A subject-wise comparison of these section’s syllabus is given below.

    1.     Quant section

    GMAT vs CAT: Key differences between the Quant Section

    S.No. CAT GMAT
    1 Geometry Decimals
    2 Number System Profit and loss
    3 Profit and Loss Number properties
    4 Geometric progression Mixtures
    5 Trigonometry Simple and compound interest
    6 Work and Time Fractions
    7 In equation Quadratic and linear equations Multiples and factors
    8 Mensuration Speed, time, and distance
    9 Algebra Powers and roots
    10 Time, Speed and Distance Percentages
    11 Percentage Set theory
    12 Number System Algebraic expressions and equations
    13 Logarithms Averages
    14 Average Pipes, cisterns, and work time
    15 HCF & LCM Functions
    16 Inequalities Probability
    17 Ration & Proportion Ratio and proportion
    18 Partnership Quadratic equations
    19 Surds and Indices Exponents
    20   Quadrilaterals
    21   Triangles
    22   Permutation and combination
    23   Inequalities and basic statistics
    24   Coordinate geometry
    25   Circles
    26   Descriptive statistics
    27   Arithmetic and geometric progression
    28   Monomials, polynomials
    29   Lines and angles
    30   Rectangular solids and cylinders

    2. Verbal section 

    GMAT vs CAT: Key differences between the Verbal Section








    Reading comprehension



    Verbal Reasoning



    Sentence Completion



    Contextual usage



    Fill in the blanks



    Jumbled paragraphs

    Subject-verb agreement


    Different usage of same words

    Strengthen and weaken


    Para completion and inference

    Verb tense


    Sentence correction



    Verbal logic






    Para jumbles



    Foreign language’s words used in the English language












    One word substitution


    If you want to enhance you GMAT preparation, here is an enhanced list of GMAT preparation guidance books that can assist you with your preparation.



    GMAT is famous for its adaptive nature. By adaptiveness, it means that the difficulty level of questions depends upon the candidate’s performance in previous questions.

    Unlike CAT, GMAT focuses on gauging the candidate’s abilities. During the test’s starting, candidates are given questions with a medium difficulty level. If the candidate gives the correct answer, then the GMAT algorithm increases the level of difficulty.

    Another factor to consider is that one cannot skip questions during a GMAT exam.

    Owing to this algorithm, even when a candidate answers more questions, he will have a lower score. To help you understand the GMAT’s marking scheme, we have prepared these scenarios.


     As mentioned above, in GMAT, candidates are first presented with medium difficulty level questions.

    Scenario 1 


    The first candidate, Candidate A, gives incorrect answers to a few questions at the start. However, with time, he starts giving correct answers. Overall, the candidate’s accuracy rate is 78%. He scores about 60 to 65 percentiles, which is very low.

    Scenario 2 


    The second candidate, Candidate B, gives correct answers to the first few questions. The candidate’s accuracy rate is also 78%. However, he scores about 95 to 96 percentiles, which is amongst the top levels of percentile.


    Upon analysing both scenarios, the question that arises is, why candidates with equal accuracy rate have different ranks and percentile?

    Based on the candidate’s incorrect answers initially, the GMAT’s algorithm has ranked the candidate’s ability as of ‘Low’ level. Resultantly, it will present the candidate with medium to low difficulty level questions.

    While considering Candidate B’s correct answers, the GMAT’s algorithm will consider that the candidate has ‘High’ ability. Thus, the algorithm will present him with questions of higher difficultly.

    In both scenarios, although, the candidate scores with about 78% accuracy. However, there will be a vast difference in the percentile and ranks of the candidates. As the GMAT exam primarily checks the candidate’s ability, its algorithm works on finding candidates with higher ability.

    Thus, GMAT test the candidate’s ability instead of their accuracy. Here, is a 5 steps GMAT study plan through which you can score a perfect GMAT score.


    On the other hand, CAT does not use the adaptive methodology of testing candidates. It focuses on the accuracy level. In other words, CAT follows the old school marking system. The candidate’s rank and score depend upon the number of accurate answers.

    Candidates are allowed to review their answers before submitting their sheets.

    Factors to consider while choosing between GMAT and CAT

    One must consider the following factors while choosing between GMAT and CAT.

    Career goals

    Your career goals play an important role in determining which one of these two exams you must consider giving. Suppose you intend to gain international experience by studying and working abroad. Then it would help if you chose to give GMAT, as it has global acceptance.

    Moreover, several Indian universities have also started giving equal weight to GMAT scores due to GMAT’s increasing popularity.

    Alternatively, if you intend to work in India primarily and get national and international exposure, then you should prepare for giving CAT.


    School preference

    Without any doubt, GMAT scores are referred to by several B-schools worldwide. At the same time, CAT scores are accepted mainly by IIMs, Indian B-schools and some international universities.

    Following international schools accepts CAT scores pursuing the various managerial program.

    International Universities that accept CAT scores

    S.No. University/School’s name Program’s name Location
    1 HEC Paris MiM France
    2 ESCP Europe Business School MiM France
    3 SKEMA Buisness School Global MSc in Management France
    4 Singapore Management university MSc. in management Singapore
    5 ESSEC Business School MSc. in management France
    6 Stuart School of Business, Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago MBA USA
    7 AIM MBA Philippines
    8 S. P. Jain School of Global Management MBA; Master if Global Business Dubai. Sydney and Singapore
    9. Audencia Business School MSc in International Management France
    10. EDHEC Business School MiM France

    7000+ programs worldwide accept GMAT scores for admission in graduate management-based programs. Additionally, 2,400+ B-schools accepts its scores. As per the QS World University Ranking’s: Business and Management Studies, 2021, some top schools which accept GMAT scores are:

    Top Universities that accept GMAT scores

    S.no. Institution’s name Location
    1 Harvard University US
    2 INSEAD France
    3 London Business School UK
    4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology US
    5 Stanford University US
    6 University of Pennsylvania US
    7 Bocconi University Italy
    8 University of Cambridge UK
    9 HEC Paris France
    10 Oxford University UK

    Investment vs Return

    Before moving forward with this, there are a few key points that an applicant must keep in mind.

    1. Exam frequency and cut off score – Every university that participates in CAT exams announces a cut-off score. For those of you who have no idea what it is, the cut-off score is the score below which no candidate can get admission to the particular school.

    If you do not cross the stipulated score, you will have to wait for another year’s exam. 

    Comparatively, universities opting for GMAT also announce a cut-off score. However, if you feel that you will not clear the exam in one go, then GMAT allows the candidate to retake the exam. A person can retake the exam multiple times. However, there must be a gap of at least 16 days in between all your attempts.

    Want to score 700+ on GMAT? If yes, then follow these GMAT tips and enhance your score right away!

    2. Opportunity cost – Generally, appearing for CAT is much more affordable as compared to GMAT. However, the GMAT allows you to appear for the example multiple times per year. Thus, making it much cheaper than CAT, which is an annual exam.

    With proper strategy and preparation, one can quickly improve their score and profile to get admits into the b-school of their choice.

    3. GMAT Enhanced Score Report or ESR – GMAT is famous for providing score reports to its candidates. The primary aim behind creating this report is to allow candidates to analyse their performance. The report also enables students to create a retake strategy and perform better during the retake.

    Moreover, this strategy is not available for candidates appearing for CAT.

    4. Validity – GMAT’s scores are valid for a period of 5 years, whereas CAT’s scores are valid only for one year.

    Thus, pursuing the GMAT is much more beneficial in the long run because of its multiple retakes and long-term validity. Comparatively, CAT’s annual exam feature and short-term validity make it more time and money consuming.

     5. Overall ROI – If we look at the Return of Investment, the GMAT allows you to take admission in the world’s top business schools. As per the FT Global MBA Ranking 2021, students pursuing MBA programs receive an average salary of $91,913 to $200,287. Thus, covering all entrance exam’s costs. In contrast, the highest salary provided by IIM programs is $192,390.

    All in all, the GMAT provides a consistently better return of investment when compared to CAT.

    Let’s get a brief about the investment and return you will get from this program.

    S. No. Expense GMAT CAT
    1 Test Fee $250 $27.43
    2 Cost of preparation $350 to $800 $500 to $990 (average CAT coaching program’s cost in India)
    3 Rescheduling cost
    • $50 – If one wants to reschedule the exam 60 days before the appointment.
    • $100 – if one wants to reschedule the exam 15 to 60 days before the original appointment.
    • $150 – If one wants to reschedule the exam 1 to 14 days before the appointment.

    No rescheduling.



    4. Cost of Score reporting $35 for each report.
    Although the first five reports are free of cost.
    Conducted annually.
    5. Score validity For 5 years For 1 year
    6. Total Cost $829 $480
    7. Annual cost $166 $480

    Location preference



    Students must always choose the universities and their locations with utmost care. The reason behind this is that location plays a vital role in enhancing student’s career prospectuses.

    For instance – Suppose a student intends to pursue a program whose employers are based in the USA. In such a case, the student must target specifically US-based universities. The presence of an ample number of recruiters exposes students to the best employment and internship opportunities.

    Suppose you are one such candidate who has any particular preference with regards to your program. Then deciding the location must be your first choice.

    The primary reason behind deciding a location is that GMAT and CATs have location-based limitations. It means that GMAT is accepted by B-schools globally, whereas Indian schools mostly prefer CAT.

    For instance, to pursue a program from one European country, you should choose GMAT. Whereas, if you intend to pursue a similar program from, say, an IIM, then you should prepare for CAT.

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    Program Choice

    Your program choice also plays a vital role in deciding your exam preference.

    For instance, if you want to pursue a regular, full-time MBA program for an IIM, you should go for CAT.  Whereas, if you want to pursue a 1-year course such as executive programs, you should prepare for the GMAT.

    Suppose you are an international student and wants to pursue a management program from IIMs or any Indian b-school. Then several Indian schools accept GMAT scores. Just go through the list before deciding which school you want to go to.



    Both GMAT and CAT are competitive exams. It simply means that your score and ranks also depends upon the performance of other test-takers.


    GMAT is a standardized test; thus, its difficulty level and standards have been maintained during past years. It means that in GMAT, it is as difficult to score a 750 today as it was five years ago.

    It is the primary reason why the average score of top b-school remains fixed throughout several years. All in all, if you have a competitive profile and a score of 95 to 96 percentile, then you will undoubtedly receive admits from top b-schools.


    However, this is not the situation with CAT. CAT also provides percentile scores. Usually, its scores do not hold as much value. It is not a standardized test. Thus, you can compare your score only to the test-takers performance who have taken the test with you.

    Also, CAT’s test standard and difficulty vary year by year. Thus, IIMS and other Indian B-schools have to announce different cut-off every year.

    Moreover, IIMS are highly biased towards CAT scores. One only needs to score better than their competitors to gain admission.

    Percentile and Rank-based Comparison

    As GMAT is an internationally acclaimed exam, it goes without saying that it has worldwide test takers. In contrast, most CAT takers are Indians. That said, it is not easy to compare GMAT and CAT based on percentile and rank.





    If you have scored a good GMAT score, then there are high chances that you will get a scholarship from your b-school. Based on the school’s admission guidelines, candidates are awarded full or partial scholarships. At times, they even receive full fellowships.

    Apart from schools, eternal agencies and social working organizations also provide scholarships based on GMAT scores. All these financial assistance aids students in completing their studies without worrying over financial needs.

    Another interesting fact is that most students in top B-schools have started giving scholarships to their entire cohort. Almost every student gets one or more scholarships during their study.


    Win Scholarship

    Although most IIMs provide need-based assistance to selected candidates. However, it is mainly in the forms of loans instead of scholarships.

    Scholarships are offered to students by external agencies and private entities. Only a minor percentage of students can avail these scholarships.

    If you are interested in giving CAT, you can get more scholarship related information on the university’s website.

    Key Takeaways

    Key takeaway

    After completing this article, you must have understood the critical differences between CAT and GMAT exams. Although, the primary aim of both programs is to evaluate the skills of candidates. However, their manner of evaluating skills is very different from each other.

    Following essential points can be used to make your choice between these two programs. They are:

    • Determine your career goals.
    • As per your career goals, choose a program. These programs can be a Full-time program (2-year program), a Full-time program (1-year program), Executive program.
    • Determine your location preference.
    • Calculate and compare investment and return.
    • Determine the program’s scholarship opportunities.

    All in all, GMAT scores are more widely accepted worldwide than CAT scores. Comparatively, with the exam’s better ROI, ever-increasing acceptance rate, accessible to schedule program, GMAT is a much better option than CAT.

    Another interesting fact to consider is that IIMs and other top b-schools even accept GMAT scores. However, CAT would be your only choice if you want to pursue a full-time program from any IIMs or other Indian b-schools.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q 1. What are the recent changes in the CAT format?

    CAT 2020 has recently changed the timings of all the sections. Earlier, a candidate used to get about 60 minutes to complete each section CAT section. However, this time has been reduced to 40 minutes per section.

    Q 2. Is there any reduction in the total number of questions per section?

    No, only the timing of the sections has been reduced. The number of questions per section remains the same.

    Q 3. How many B-school accept CAT for MBA admissions?

    1200+ schools pan India accepts CAT scores for MBA as well as PGDM programs.

    Q.4 How many B-schools accept GMAT scores?

    Internationally, more than 2500 b-schools accepts GMAT scores.

    Q.5 Does GMAT and CAT have the same syllabus?

    Both GMAT and CAT have almost the same syllabus except for two prime differences. First is that the CAT’s Quant section is much more challenging than GMAT’s Quant section. Another is that GMAT’s verbal section multiple types of questions than in GMAT.

    Q.6 Is GMAT’s Quant easier than CAT’s?

    Yes. Comparatively, GMAT’s Quant is much easier than that of CAT’s. If you ace CAT’s quantitative section, then GMAT’s Quant would be easy for you. 

    Q.7 Does IIMs accept GMAT scores?

    Yes, all in all, there are 6 IIMs that accepts GMAT scores. They are, IIM Ahmedabad; IIM Bangalore; IIM Hyderabad; IIM Calcutta; IIM Lucknow; IIM Indore,

    Other schools include SP Jain, BITS Pilani, ISB Hyderabad, IMT Ghaziabad, IFMR, and IIFT.

    Q.8 How many times a candidate can appear for GMAT and CAT in one year?

    In one calendar year, one can take GMAT up to 5 times. Comparatively, you can appear for CAT only once per year.

    Q.9 For how many years does CAT and GMAT scores remain valid?

    CAT scores are valid for 1 year. In contrast, GMAT scores are valid for up to 5 years.

    Q.10 How many times I can retake GMAT and CAT in one year?

    One can retake GMAT up to 5 times in one year. However, there must be a difference of at least 16 days between each attempt. Comparatively, a candidate can appear for CAT only one time per year.

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