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Deciphering GMAT vs CAT: Essential Contrasts

What are the main distinctions between the GMAT and CAT exams?

Are you considering pursuing a managerial program like an MBA, aiming to enhance your skillset and propel your career to new heights? Or perhaps you find yourself at a crossroads, contemplating a career change to break free from the monotony of your current profession. Maybe you're curious about the nuances that distinguish the GMAT vs CAT exam, pondering which one presents a greater challenge.

Fear not; by the time you reach the end of this article, you'll be equipped with a comprehensive understanding of both exams, allowing you to navigate your academic and professional journey with confidence. We'll delve deep into the intricacies of the GMAT and CAT, shedding light on their respective structures, scoring systems, and unique features.

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:

Total Number of Questions 100 80
Total Sections - Quantitative Aptitude
- Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
- Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Verbal Reasoning
- Integrated Reasoning
- Analytical Writing Skills
Total Marks 300 800
Mode of Exam Online Online
Question Types Both MCQs and non-MCQs Both MCQs and non-MCQs
Marking Scheme - Correct answer: +3 marks
- Wrong answer: -1 mark
- Not attempted questions: 0 marks
No negative marking

GMAT vs CAT: Fundamental Differences

Here are some fundamental factors on which we can compare which test will be suitable for you: 

Factors GMAT CAT
Full form Graduate Management Admission Test Common Admission Test
Conducted by Graduate Management Admission Council Indian Institutes of Management
Eligibility 13 years of age Bachelor’s degree (minimum 50% marks)
Frequency All around the year Once a year
Accepted by Global B-schools (worldwide) Indian B-schools
Sections 4 sections 3 sections
Validity 5 years 1 year
Exam fees US $250 ₹2,000 for General, ₹1,000 for Reserved

Format and Duration


The CAT examination comprises three sections: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Ability. Despite being an online exam, CAT doesn't follow an adaptive pattern. The duration of the exam is 2 hours, and it is conducted annually by the six oldest IIMs in India. Exam dates are usually announced during July and August.

GMAT, in contrast, is conducted on demand throughout the year. The test, consisting of four sections: Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Integrated Reasoning, is administered by Pearson Vue testing facilities across multiple centres in India. GMAT follows an adaptive online format and spans 3 hours and 7 minutes.

Eligibility and Attempts

Graduates with a minimum of 50% marks from a recognized university are eligible for the CAT. Final-year students can also apply, and there is no upper age limit. However, candidates can attempt the CAT only once a year.

Individuals aged 18 or above can take the GMAT, with those between 13 and 18 requiring parental permission. Each candidate is allowed up to 8 attempts in their lifetime, with a minimum gap of 16 days between attempts. Owing to its on-demand format, the GMAT can be taken up to 5 times a year.

In conclusion, while both GMAT and CAT pave the way to esteemed management institutions, understanding their disparities is vital in choosing the path aligned with your strengths and aspirations. Whether it's the adaptive nature of GMAT or the annually conducted CAT, each examination offers a unique journey towards your managerial dreams.

GMAT vs CAT: Syllabus

Both the GMAT and CAT exams are structured with multiple sections, each designed to assess different skills and abilities crucial for success in the business world. With strict time limits imposed on each section, candidates must efficiently manage their time and prioritize tasks to maximize their performance and achieve their desired scores. Here is the GMAT Syllabus:

GMAT Syllabus Format

S.No. Section Time Limit Score
1. Analytical Writing Assessment 30 minutes 0 – 6
2. Integrated Reasoning 30 minutes 1 – 8
3. Quantitative section 62 minutes 0 – 60
4. Verbal section 65 minutes 0 – 60

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

Original order

  • Analytical writing assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative
  • Verbal

Other orders

  • Verbal
  • Quantitative
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing assessment


  • Quantitative
  • Verbal
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing assessment

CAT Syllabus Format



Time Limit



40 minutes


Quantitative aptitude

40 minutes


Reasoning Skills

40 minutes

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. Candidates are provided with on-screen and non-scientific calculators during the exam. However, physical calculators are not permitted at the test centres.

3. In the CAT exam, candidates are not permitted to change sections once they have begun.

Factors to consider: GMAT vs CAT


Your career aspirations are pivotal in determining which exam to pursue. Opt for the GMAT if you aim for global opportunities, as it's widely accepted internationally. Increasingly, Indian universities are also recognizing GMAT scores. Conversely, if your focus is primarily on India-based career prospects with some international exposure, CAT may be the better choice.

In terms of school preference, GMAT scores hold sway in many global B-schools, while CAT scores are primarily for IIMs and Indian institutions, though some international universities do accept CAT scores for certain management programs.

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; Masters in 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 accept its scores. As per the QS World University Ranking’s Business and Management Studies: 2024, some top schools which accept GMAT scores are:

Top Universities that accept GMAT scores 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

GMAT vs CAT: Assessing Investment and Returns


Considering the pivotal decision between GMAT vs CAT, it's essential to weigh various factors. From exam frequency to overall return on investment, each aspect plays a crucial role in determining the best fit for your academic and career aspirations. Let's explore these key considerations in more detail:

Exam Frequency and Cut-off Score: CAT universities set a cut-off score below which admission is not granted. Missing the mark means waiting for another year. GMAT also has cut-off scores but allows multiple attempts with a 16-day gap between each.

GMAT Enhanced Score Report (ESR): Unlike CAT, GMAT provides ESRs for performance analysis and retake strategies.

Overall ROI: The GMAT offers admission to top global business schools, and graduates earn salaries that often cover exam costs. In contrast, the CAT's ROI is comparatively lower, with fewer opportunities for international exposure and lower salary potential.

Location Preference: Selecting the right university location significantly impacts career prospects. For instance, targeting US-based universities opens doors to employers in the USA, offering extensive internship and employment opportunities. Conversely, Indian schools predominantly prefer CAT, limiting international exposure but providing strong regional networks. Consider the program's location preference when choosing between GMAT vs CAT.

Program Choice: Your desired program influences exam selection. CAT aligns with full-time MBA programs like those offered by IIMs, while GMAT suits executive programs or international students aiming for Indian B-schools. Research specific program requirements and exam preferences to make an informed decision.

Competitiveness: Both the GMAT and CAT are competitive exams, but their natures differ. The GMAT maintains consistent difficulty levels over time, making competition predictable. In contrast, the CAT's variable difficulty and scoring system make competition less certain, with Indian schools often favouring CAT scores due to their regional relevance. Understanding these differences helps applicants strategize effectively for their chosen exam.

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.

In essence, GMAT typically offers a superior return on investment 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 

Rescheduling cost

  • $50 –60 days before the appointment
  • $100 –  15 to 60 days before the original appointment
  • $150 – 1 to 14 days before the appointment

No rescheduling

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


In conclusion, understanding the disparities between the GMAT vs CAT exams is pivotal for informed decision-making. Both assessments gauge candidate skills, yet various factors must be considered when selecting the most suitable exam. Factors such as career aspirations, program duration, location preference, financial investment, and scholarship opportunities play crucial roles.

While GMAT scores enjoy broader global recognition, offering a higher return on investment, increased acceptance rates, and flexible scheduling, they also open doors to prestigious institutions like IIMs, thereby expanding aspirants' options. However, for those specifically targeting Indian business schools, CAT remains the primary avenue.

While both exams serve distinct purposes, the GMAT emerges as a preferred choice for its versatility and wider applicability on a global scale. Ultimately, candidates should weigh these factors carefully to determine the exam that best aligns with their goals and aspirations.

Know Your Author
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Rohit Rajaram
Study Abroad Expert
Rohit is a results-driven individual with a strong background in Education Mentorship, Program Management and Business Development. Holding a Master's degree in Management from ESCP Business School in Paris, Rohit combines academic excellence with extensive industry experience. Throughout his career, Rohit has consistently delivered exceptional results, driving sales, increasing turnover, and achieving targets. Known for his strategic acumen, Rohit formulates and executes successful business strategies, enhancing operational quality, customer satisfaction and key bottonline drivers. As the Co-Founder of MiM-Essay, a leading Early Career Degrees application consulting company, Rohit has successfully mentored over 10,000+ students, enabling them to secure admissions in top-ranked schools worldwide with significant scholarships. Under his leadership, the company has maintained high-quality service and exceptional client satisfaction rates. With expertise in analytics, product development and business excellence, Rohit has successfully driven the success of various initiatives. Committed to constant innovation, he is expanding the company's offerings by introducing digital and technology-powered products for comprehensive education solutions.
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