For several candidates, the decision between concentrating on GMAT or CAT is extremely difficult. While the ideal solution would be to give both the exams, this is not an option for most people. There are several reasons for this:

  • Cost: The GMAT Registration Fee is $250 which is the equivalent of Rs. 17,000. This amount for simply appearing for the GMAT exam seems quite extravagant for most people. Now, if the registration fee of CAT and the application fees for different colleges are added, the amount that a candidate would spend becomes quite expensive.
  • Preparation: The GMAT Preparation and CAT Preparation are quite different. This means that the candidate will be under severe pressure if he/she is required to prepare both exams at the same time. One of the major difference between CAT and GMAT is the difference in the difficulty levels of the sections. For most CAT aspirants, the Verbal section in GMAT seems quite difficult while the Quantitative section would seem to be easy.

These are two of the biggest reasons for people having to choose between CAT and GMAT rather than giving both. This lies in stark contrast to the other MBA Entrance Exams in India which roughly follow the same pattern and sectional focus as CAT which makes simultaneously preparing for them relatively easy.
In order to take the decision between CAT and GMAT, the first step that has to be followed is to collect information about both the exams and compare & contrast it.

About CAT Exam and GMAT Exam

The CAT Exam and the GMAT Exam are quite different in several ways. The Exam Pattern and Syllabus are quite different which leads to the different preparation strategies however this aspect will be discussed separately. There are several other aspects in which the CAT Exam and GMAT Exam can be assessed:

  1. Mode of Examination: The CAT Exam is a computer based test in which the computers at the test centers are loaded with the CAT Question Paper which allows the candidate to attempt the CAT Exam. On the other hand, the GMAT Exam is a computer adaptive test which is unlike any MBA Entrance Exam in India. Here there is no exact question paper which is uploaded but rather each candidate has a unique GMAT Question Paper which is generated question by question according to the candidate's correct or incorrect response.
  2. Validity: While the CAT Exam Score is accepted by most of the top colleges in India, the GMAT Score is valid for over 2300 colleges across the world. In addition to this, the CAT Score is only valid for 1 year while the GMAT Score can be used for 5 Years. Thus in terms of Validity and Reach, the GMAT Exam outstrips the CAT Exam by a huge margin.
  3. Registration: In terms of the Eligibility Criteria, both the CAT Exam and the GMAT Exam do not have any particular bar except the fact the candidate has to be at least an undergraduate. In terms of cost though, the CAT Exam is far more affordable for Indian Candidates than the GMAT Exam. The GMAT Exam registration fee is around Rs. 17,000 compared to around Rs. 2000 for the CAT Exam. In this term, the CAT Exam is far more attractive to some students compared to the GMAT Exam. Only the most confident candidate would be willing to invest in the GMAT Exam.
  4. Competition: While this comparison does not seem fair since the GMAT Exam is an international exam in comparison to the CAT Exam which is a National-level Exam, the numbers should be analyzed nonetheless. The total number of candidates appearing for the GMAT Exam in 2017 was around 250,000 compared to around 199,000 candidates appearing for CAT 2017. This difference is surprisingly low due to which the competition for both the exams is roughly equal.
  5. Post-Exam Procedures: The CAT Exam and GMAT Exam have somewhat different Post-Exam Procedures. While the post-exam procedures for each college is different, there are some common procedures that almost all colleges, which accept CAT Scores, follow. The most probable rounds for a CAT aspirant are the Group Discussion, Written Assessment and Personal Interview. For most colleges accepting the GMAT Score, particularly foreign colleges, the most probable post-GMAT Procedures are SOPs (Statement of Purposes)/Essays and Personal Interviews.
  6. Fees and Packages: The GMAT Exam Colleges are going to be more lucrative than the CAT Exam colleges on the basis of the fact that most of the GMAT Colleges are based abroad. However this comparison has to be made since the salary is a significant factor for the candidates. The average salary for GMAT Colleges is Rs. 65,00,000/- while the average salary for CAT Colleges is Rs. 15,00,000/-. However the fees for the GMAT Colleges can be anywhere between Rs. 20,00,000/- and Rs. 65,00,000/-. The CAT Colleges are relatively pocket-friendly at Rs. 12,00,000. This comparison is somewhat of a draw since the GMAT Colleges are more lucrative however charge more as well compared to the CAT Colleges.

GMAT vs CAT: Exam Pattern and Syllabus

GMAT Exam and CAT Exam are quite different in terms of the basic exam patterns as well as syllabus as indicated above. Let us have a look at the GMAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus briefly:

GMAT Syllabus

The GMAT Exam consists of 4 sections, all of which have their own sectional time limit. These 4 sections are:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: The AWA section consists of a short argument which has to be analyzed and broken down by the candidate. It tests the logical reasoning capability of the candidate as well as their skill in written communication.
  • Integrated Reasoning: This section consists of several different graphs, charts and word problems which tests the candidate on his ability to analyze and understand data provided in several different formats.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: This section consists of two basic types of questions: data sufficiency and problem solving. It tests the mathematical ability of the candidate.
  • Verbal Reasoning: It consists of Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning type of questions. It tests the English language proficiency of the candidate.

GMAT Exam Pattern

The GMAT Exam is a computer adaptive tests which means that the level of the difficulty of the questions depends on the response of the previous questions. Correct Responses leads to increase in the difficulty level of the questions while incorrect responses leads to decrease in the same. Apart from this, each section has its own time limit. Some of the highlights of the GMAT Exam Pattern are:


Number of Questions

Time Limit

Score Range

Analytical Writing


30 Minutes


Integrated Reasoning


30 Minutes


Quantitative Reasoning


62 Minutes


Verbal Reasoning


65 Minutes


The GMAT Exam gives the candidates an option of taking two 8 minute breaks between sections to recuperate and put their best foot forward in the following sections. It is also important to note that there is no option of skipping a question in the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections, which are the only two sections to be scored for the overall score.
The overall score in the GMAT exam can range from 200-800 with the average score being somewhere between 400 and 600. In order to enter the consideration of the Ivy League Colleges, the candidate needs to score around 710 with the best colleges needing around 730. Apart from the GMAT score, the profile, the admission essay and the interview all have to be cleared in order to get into the best of colleges.

Keeping this in mind, we can look at the CAT Exam Pattern and CAT Syllabus:

CAT Syllabus

The CAT Exam consists of three sections namely Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) and the Quantitative Aptitude (QA). Each section in the CAT Syllabus tests the candidates on different criteria.

  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension: As the name indicates, this section has two primary components in the form of Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability. The Reading Comprehension includes 4-5 passages which have several questions that the candidate has to answer after reading the passage. The Verbal Ability has three types of questions which are Paragraph Jumbles, Summary Type and Odd Sentences in the Paragraph. The section focuses on the candidate's ability to understand and analyze the English Language. Grammar is not generally tested in this section.
  • Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning: The section has two equal parts in the form of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. The Data Interpretation section consists of data given in tabular or graphical form. Based on this data, the question given have to be answered. The Logical Reasoning section also consists of data given, generally in the form of word problems. The DILR section of the CAT Syllabus tests the students on their ability to understand graphical data as well language based puzzles and arrive at logically sound conclusions.
  • Quantitative Aptitude: The Quantitative Aptitude section is basically a Mathematics section based on topics that candidates would learn by the 10th Grade. It tests the basic Mathematical Ability of the candidate.

CAT Exam Pattern

While the CAT Exam Pattern changes from time to time, it has remained relatively consistent over the past 3-4 years. As mentioned above, the CAT Exam consists of three sections which have their individual sectional time limits. Some brief highlights of the current CAT Exam Pattern are:


Number of Questions

Time Limit



34 (24 RC+10VA)

60 Minutes



32 (16DI+16LR)

60 Minutes




60 Minutes




180 Minutes


The CAT Exam Pattern gives practically equal weightage to all the sections which indicates the kind of Preparation that would be required for the CAT Exam. There is no break in the CAT Exam which means that the candidates needs to practice quite hard to ensure the optimal energy level and concentration throughout the entire CAT Exam duration.


GMAT vs CAT: Comparison of Exam Pattern and Syllabus

There are a few differences between the CAT Exam and the GMAT Exam that stand out as we look at the overall CAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus compared to GMAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus:

  • The Verbal Section for CAT is dominated by RC while Grammar is not very important. The focus in CAT is on the understanding of the Language rather than fluency. In comparison to this, the GMAT Verbal section has a strong focus on Grammar & Language Proficiency.
  • The DILR section in the CAT Exam appears to be an amalgamation of the Integrated Reasoning and the Quantitative Reasoning section. The level of difficulty of this section and its equivalent in the GMAT Exam is roughly equal although the scope of the section in the GMAT Exam is quite a bit more.
  • The Quantitative Ability section in CAT is quite a bit tougher than the Quantitative section in the GMAT exam. This is the part that attracts most candidates from India since they see this section as a way to make up for the errors made in the Verbal section.
  • Also the CAT Exam is a much "faster" exam than the GMAT Exam. In the CAT Exam, the candidate is expected to at least look through 100 questions over the period of 3 hours. The GMAT Exam on the other hand expects the candidate to solve 80 questions in 3 hours and 7 minutes. Looking a bit deeper, the candidate has to solve 31 Quantitative questions in 62 minutes in GMAT which is more time afforded for less questions compared to CAT. The Verbal section has approximately the same time per question but the number of Reading Comprehension passages are lower for GMAT than for CAT.

The Verdict: GMAT vs CAT

GMAT vs CAT is a debate which can keep one busy for a very long time but ultimately it comes down to the candidate to decide whether they want to prepare for GMAT or CAT. There are a few factors which could help the candidate with the decision:

  • If the candidate has a decent amount of work experience (4-5 Years), then GMAT would be a better option than CAT. The reason for this is that the candidate's profile has a larger impact in foreign colleges, which accept GMAT Scores, compared to Indian Colleges which accept the CAT Score.
  • If the candidate is able to afford the amount of investment required in not only the GMAT registration and the college applications but also the living cost abroad, they can look at GMAT as a valid option.

The GMAT vs CAT debate cannot be solved by anyone but the candidate themselves as mentioned above. The final decision for GMAT vs CAT can be taken on the basis of the candidate's career aspirations, location preferences and their financial considerations (fees, salaries, scholarships, etc.).
Hope this helps!

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