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CAT vs GMAT: Choosing the Right MBA Entrance

Last Updated - October 02, 2017

CAT and GMAT are the most frequently heard names when it comes to MBA entrance test. Both tests open the doorway for admission to premier MBA institutes, but the main confusion is to pick the right test. While CAT is conducted for admission to Prestigious IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) and other top b-schools in India, GMAT is recognized globally as well as in India for admission to management programs in top institutes.

Each test has its own merits and demerits. The decisive factor in the final decision, however, remains candidates’ future roadmap for a successful career.

In this article, we have tried to compare CAT and GMAT on several factors including its scope, level of competition, examination pattern, admission process after test, validity of score, number of attempts, etc. The main objective behind this comparison is to help candidates make an informed decision.

CAT vs GMAT - Scope

From the context of management aspirants in India, CAT has an obvious advantage over GMAT. CAT is conducted by IIMs every year to select candidates for admission to PGP, PGDM and other courses. Moreover, several big names in management education like FMS, SPJIMR and JBIMS also accept CAT scores. CAT scores are accepted by nearly 1000 b-schools and colleges in the country.

On the other hand, GMAT has much wider scope, as many international universities ask for valid GMAT scores. Even world’s most reputed b-schools like Harvard Business School and INSEAD recognize GMAT scores for enrolling students in management programs. Some top Indian b-schools such as ISB Hyderabad accept GMAT scores as well. Moreover, GMAT score are also utilized by IIMs and several other b-schools for admission to certain seats (for example seats reserved for NRI/Foreign candidates). Overall, around 300 colleges accept GMAT score.

CAT vs GMAT - Level of Competition

CAT is undoubtedly the predominant choice for most MBA aspirants. Approximately 2 lakh candidates take the exam and top 6 IIMs have around 2500 seats. Even after considering several factors, you need nothing less than a 99th percentile to get shortlisted for subsequent selection process. It is therefore not very difficult to surmise the level of competition in CAT. The qualifying percentile would only marginally decrease for Non-IIMs.

CAT Cutoff for IIM

In case of GMAT, number of candidates appearing for the exam is comparatively quite less. Around 60000 candidates appear for the test every year, and number of seats allocated in various institutes in India is also quite less. Therefore, in terms of competition GMAT lags far behind CAT.

Read MoreCAT Registration 2017

CAT vs GMAT – Exam Pattern

The pattern for both the tests varies highly. CAT Exam Pattern includes 100 questions which are to be answered in 180 minutes, 34 questions in Verbal Section, 32 in LRDI and 34 in Quantitative Aptitude section.

On the other hand, GMAT has 1 writing assessment test which is to be done in 30 minutes, and 90 other questions from Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Ability and Quantitative Aptitude which are to be done in 3 hours.

In CAT, almost equal weightage is assigned to all 3 sections, but in GMAT, 41 questions out of 90 are from verbal section, 37 from quantitative aptitude and 12 from integrated reasoning.

CAT vs GMAT - Level of Difficulty

Overall, difficulty level of CAT is higher than GMAT. The uphill task in CAT is the LRDI section, which has been very high on the difficulty level from past two years. On the other hand, GMAT has the integrated reasoning section which is much easier than LRDI in CAT.

Also, quantitative aptitude section of GMAT is slightly easier that CAT. On the other hand, Verbal Section of GMAT is of higher difficulty than CAT. Vocabulary used in verbal section questions in GMAT are of comparatively advanced level. Therefore, aspirants who find English tough nut to crack, GMAT will not be a cakewalk.

CAT vs GMAT - Admission procedure after the test

Selection Process is an integral part of MBA admission at most top-notch institutes around the world. The process comprising Group Exercises, WAT (Written Aptitude Test) and Personal Interview aims to check candidates’ level of confidence and ability to handle pressure.

After GMAT, admission procedure in most of the top colleges and universities consists of basic essay writing, sending letter of recommendation and interviews. On the other hand, in CAT, you need to appear for Group Discussion, Written Ability Test and Personal Interview.

CAT’s admission process is comparatively tougher than universities under GMAT. Dedicated preparation for group discussion and personal interview is required after CAT. In GMAT, candidates with good over the language will have a distinct edge in the selection process.

CAT vs GMAT – Course Fee Structure

Funds required for pursuing MBA program is an important factor. Institutes under CAT have relatively low course fee structure than those under GMAT. The highest fees you need for MBA in India is 20-22 lakhs, for IIM Allahabad, Bombay or Calcutta. Also, with a good CAT score, you can get admission in institutes like FMS (Faculty of Management Sciences), Delhi University, where fee is as low as 10000 per year.

But on the other hand, under GMAT your fees can be around 40-50 lakhs or even more, which straight away means that you need a huge amount of money to pursue MBA after GMAT.

In this context, it important to note that most students opt for education loan to pursue MBA at top b-schools. However, taking loan to pursue MBA abroad can be tricky because of the fluctuating foreign exchange rates and high cost of living in those countries.

CAT vs GMAT - Profile requirements

Candidates’ profile plays a crucial role for pursuing MBA after taking both the exams. For management programs offered by IIMs, you do not necessarily need work experience. Work experience will give you an edge, but it is not mandatory.

Besides, IIMs check your Class 10, Class 12th and Score in Graduation, and these do play an important role in selection. So, to get into an IIM, you do not only need a good CAT score, but overall a good academic record as well.

On the other hand, most of the international universities do require at least 2 years of work experience. However, there is no emphasis on your scores obtained in class 10th and 12th. Also, the quality of education and work experience does matter for top universities like Harvard.

Therefore, experience in high profile companies, can help you land in top colleges accepting GMAT score. However, the quality and nature of work experience is not a decisive factor in case of all institutes.

CAT vs GMAT - Number of Attempts and Validity of Score

Number of attempts available under both the exams is a big differentiator. CAT is conducted only once during a year, which means that you have to appear in the exam on the date, place and time decided by IIMs. And in case you fail to deliver your best on the day, you will have to wait a full year for next CAT.

However, appearing for the test is quite flexible in GMAT. The test is held within a definite window of dates, and you can choose any date to appear in the exam. Also, you can take GMAT 5 times in an year, and improve your scores. So somehow if you couldn’t perform well on any given day, the world does not come to an end for you.

CAT score is valid only for 1 year. Which means that if you appear for CAT in November 2017, then the score thus obtained can be used for applying for programs in 2018 only. But GMAT Score has a validity of 5 years from the date of qualifying the exam. This is certainly a big advantage that you get with GMAT.

Final Verdict – CAT or GMAT?

Now, that you have seen an in-depth comparison of all the factors to take into consideration, it will be easier to take an informed decision. Both the exam has its share of challenges and obstacles.

If you cannot not afford to take a very huge amount of loan and a costly international MBA, then CAT is an obvious choice. Also, for freshers who want to immediately pursue MBA, then again CAT is the obvious option. Top 3 IIMs do come in top 100 institutes worldwide, while with GMAT you can get world’s best institutes.

GMAT is a better choice if your performance at class 10th and 12th was average. Appearing for GMAT is obviously more flexible and the score are also valid for a longer duration.

The decision to take GMAT or CAT may involve a lot of factors. Candidates must choose the test after analyzing all the alternatives. MBA is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so try and take a well calculated decision for a successful career ahead. Good Luck!



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