GMAT vs CAT: A Differential And Easy Guide

CAT (Common Admission Test) is a test to get into a graduate management program. The tests are Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Ability (QA). Whereas the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a computer-adaptive test intended to assess certain analytic, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to a graduate management program, like an MBA program. But is that all? In this article, we will explain the differences between GMAT vs CAT to help you choose the right test.

  1. Key differences between GMAT and CAT
  2. Exam Pattern & Syllabus
  3. Factors to consider in choosing GMAT vs CAT
  4. MBA Scholarships

1. Key differences between GMAT and CAT

Both the GMAT and the CAT serve as standardized tests for admission to MBA programs. GMAT is a global exam accepted by more than 7000 MBA programs worldwide whereas CAT is accepted only by Indian business schools. They are both designed to provide a measure of skills such as:

  • Quantitative ability
  • Reasoning skills
  • Data Interpretation

However, there are quite a few fundamental differences between these exams. Take a look at the table below to see a few differences between GMAT and CAT:

Full-FormCommon Admission TestGraduate Management Admission Test
Conducting bodyIndian Institute of ManagementGraduate Management Admission Council
ValidityOne yearFive years
EligibilityBachelor’s degree with a minimum of 50% marksAt least 13 years of age
FrequencyOnce a yearRound the year
Accepted byIndian business schoolsGlobal business schools
Mode of ExamOnlineOnline
Number of sections34
Number of questions10080
Exam Duration120 minutes187 minutes
Exam FeeRs.2,000USD 250

2. Exam Pattern & Syllabus

Sections4 Sections         · Quantitative reasoning (QR) ·Verbal reasoning (VR) · Analytical writing (AWA) · Integrated Reasoning (IR)3 Sections         ·Verbal ability and reading comprehension (VARC) ·Data Interpretation and logical reasoning (DILR) ·Quantitative Ability (QA)
No. of Questions/ Time limit80 Questions in total         ·QR – 31 Questions / 62 Minutes ·VR – 36 Questions / 65 Minutes ·IR – 12 Questions / 30 Minutes ·AWA – 1 Question / 30 Minutes100 Questions in total         ·VARC – 34 Questions / 40 minutes ·DILR – 32 Questions / 40 minutes ·QA – 34 Questions / 40 minutes
Test Duration3 Hours and 7 Minutes2 Hours
AdaptivenessQuestion adaptiveNot adaptive
Score reportingAbsolute score (Out of 800) and percentile score reportedOnly Percentile score reported
Score Validity5 Years1 Year
Scheduling FlexibilityDelivered on-demand, can be taken up to 5 times a year. With at least 16 days between attempts.Conducted only once a year.
Test Fee$ 250 (approx INR 18,000)INR 2000
Eligibility·Lower age limit – 13 years         · Upper age limit – None· No lower age limit but bachelor’s degree from a recognized university or equal qualification required.         · No upper age limit
Number of Attempts· Maximum 5 attempts in a year (Minimum 16 days between consecutive attempts)         · Lifetime Limit of 8 attempts overall· Can be attempted only once every year.         · No limit on the number of attempts.

Syllabus For GMAT

1. Quantitative reasoning (QR):

  • Problem-solving
  • Data Sufficiency

2. Verbal Reasoning (VR):

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Sentence Correction

3. Analytical writing (AWA):

  • Scrutinizing the given argument
  • Recognizing the motif behind an argument and placing the views accordingly
  • Drawing a structured way of presenting the answer
  • Take into account the distinct point of views
  • Pillaring the answers with proper examples and facts
  • Lastly, effective grammar usage is needed

4. Integrated Reasoning (IR):

  • Multi-Source Reasoning
  • Table Analysis
  • Graphics Interpretation
  • Two-Part Analysis

Syllabus For CAT

1. Verbal ability and reading comprehension (VARC):

  • Unseen Passages
  • Analogies
  • Antonyms
  • Contextual usage
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Para Jumble
  • Sentence Correction
  • Meaning/Usage match, etc

2. Data Interpretation and logical reasoning (DILR):

  • Tables
  • Data Sufficiency
  • Combination of Graphs
  • Analogies
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Seating Arrangement
  • Calendars
  • clocks and cubes
  • Blood Relations
  • Venn Diagrams, etc.

3. Quantitative Ability (QA):

  • Number System
  • Arithmetics
  • Percentages
  • Profit and Loss
  • Time and Distance
  • Algebra
  • Geometry and Mensuration
  • Modern Maths
  • Set Theory, etc.

3. Factors to consider in choosing GMAT vs CAT

In deciding which test to take between GMAT vs CAT, you should take the following factors into consideration:

Career Goals

Besides the 20 IIMs, more than 100 other B-schools all over India accept CAT scores for admission into graduate management programs. A few international business schools also accept CAT scores for admission into management programs. Some of the international schools that accept CAT scores are:

Sr NoSchool/UniversityProgramLocation
1SP Jain Institute of ManagementMBASydney/Dubai/Singapore
2SKEMA Business SchoolMiMFrance
3Singapore Management UniversityMiMSingapore

The GMAT is accepted for admission into graduate management programs at more than 7000 programs across 2,300+ graduate business schools worldwide. Some of the world’s top-ranked business schools accept GMAT scores for admission into their graduate management programs such as:

  • Harvard Business School
  • MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business

If your career goal is to study abroad and gain valuable international exposure and work experience, then the GMAT is the obvious choice because of its wider acceptance globally.

Choice of Program

Depending on your target B-school and its program admission requirements, you may need to take either the GMAT or CAT. E.g., If your target program is the regular 2-year, the full-time residential MBA program at any IIM then you must have a valid CAT score. However, if you are considering the 1-year full-time executive program then a valid GMAT score is accepted.

Location Preference

If you have decided to study in a particular geographical location, due to the proximity of employers in your target industry; then this is a factor you should consider in deciding which test to take between GMAT or CAT. E.g., If you are looking for a role in luxury management, for which the best employers are in France. It would be best to pursue an MBA from a B-school around that area as this would place you in close proximity with your target employers and open up opportunities for internships as well.

4. MBA Scholarships

A good GMAT score helps not only in getting into a top business school, but it also increases the chances of securing a partial scholarship or a full fellowship. These can help immensely with the cost of doing an MBA. To offset the increase in the cost of an MBA, top business schools are increasingly offering scholarships, fellowships and other forms of financial aid.

Scholarship based on CAT score are in the form of loans rather than scholarships, while some form of need-based financial assistance is offered at most IIMs. There are Scholarships offered by companies and private entities that are also available to students.


In conclusion, the GMAT with its wider worldwide acceptance, lower opportunity cost, and greater return on investment 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 GMAT vs 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.

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