Differences and Similarities Between the CAT and GMAT

differences similarities cat gmat

Is the CAT the right MBA entrance exam for you? If you do need to take the CAT, should you take the GMAT too? Today, we’ll look at CAT vs. GMAT in-depth

CAT vs. GMAT: Which Test to Take?

The CAT’s biggest “rival” is the GMAT. OK, OK, it’s not exactly a rival. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), the group of Indian B-schools that design the CAT and accept it for admissions, also accept the GMAT. So the makers of the CAT treat the GMAT as an equally acceptable alternative, not a less-favored competing exam.

In fact, if you are applying to an IIM school from outside of India, you will need to take the GMAT instead of the CAT. This is because the CAT is only administered at select locations within India.

The GMAT is also your only option at most international and US-accredited business schools inside of India or out.

If you are an Indian national and are applying to B-schools in-country, there still can be some advantage to taking both the GMAT and the CAT. Having scores on both exams may give you a wider choice of schools. Also, if you do better on one test than the other, you can submit your best score to the IIM, whether it’s the CAT or GMAT.

Of course, you may not have enough time to prepare for both exams…. or enough money! (Fees for test prep and test registration can really add up.) So if you have to choose just one exam, which once is best?

For Indian applicants to IIM schools, I recommend choosing the CAT, if you can only do one test. Why CAT? Because preparing for and taking an entrance exam is a way of preparing for your actual classes. And if you’re an IIM candidate, the CAT is actually designed by the schools you’ll be attending. The professors and administrators you’ll study under have carefully crafted the CAT as a measure of your ability to do IIM coursework. In other words, CAT content, more than the content of any other exam, matches the exact skills you need to succeed on an Indian Institutes of Management campus.

CAT Content vs. GMAT Content

And speaking of the content of the CAT exam, let’s look at CAT content vs. GMAT content.

The CAT Quantitative Ability section and the GMAT Quantitative section are actually quite similar. Both tests have comparable problems in pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, numeric properties, statistics, and so on. There is one very noticeable difference between CAT Quant and GMAT Quant, though. The CAT allows you to use a calculator, while the GMAT does not. Now, this may seem like a huge difference, especially for those of you who are “math-phobic.” But the difference is smaller than you think. Although you can use a calculator on the CAT, most CAT math problems are really designed to be solved mentally, with some light use of scrap paper and pencil. The same is true on the GMAT.

You’ll start to see bigger differences between the tests when you get to the Verbal sections of each exam. CAT Verbal emphasizes reading comprehension a lot more than the GMAT. (Although RC is certainly important on both tests!) In addition, the heavy English grammar component in GMAT Verbal simply doesn’t appear on the CAT. With CAT Verbal Ability, you deal with paragraph structure, not the grammatical structure of sentences and phrases.

This brings us to CAT DILR (Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning) vs. GMAT IR (Integrated Reasoning). Here, the tests become very different. The only similarity here is that CAT Data Interpretation and GMAT Integrated Reasoning both have graphs, charts, and math operations. However, CAT DI keeps the graphs, charts, and calculations relatively simple. In contrast, GMAT IR’s data problems are a lot more complex. The graphs and charts are more detailed, with paragraphs of accompanying text. Then there’s CAT Logical Reasoning. This really is nothing like GMAT IR. In CAT LR, you need to detect and comprehend logical patterns. Although there are elements of logic in GMAT Quant, Verbal, and IR, logical pattern comprehension is not tested directly on the GMAT.

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12 Responses to Differences and Similarities Between the CAT and GMAT

  1. jumana September 14, 2017 at 8:02 am #

    very useful…im preparing for both cat and gmat…and i have only two months to prepare..can you help me out with the study plan…

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 18, 2017 at 10:29 am #

      I’m glad you found this post helpful, Jumana. 🙂

      I’m also happy to tell you that Rachel has made three excellent posts on CAT study schedules, right here on the blog. Links are below:

      1-Month CAT Study Schedule
      3-Month CAT Study Schedule
      6-Month CAT Study Schedule

      For your schedule needs, I suggest combining the elements of the 1-month and 3-month CAT study schedules, in order to make your own 2-month CAT study plan.

  2. Diksha November 30, 2017 at 7:03 am #

    I want to know is 5 is sufficient for gmat? And after registration waht to do to select colleges for MBA in IB?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Diksha,

      I’m not sure if I understand your question–what do you mean by ‘5’? For more information about how to send your CAT score to your target schools, I recommend that you read this blog post: https://magoosh.com/cat/send-cat-score/

  3. Bhavik January 14, 2018 at 10:15 pm #

    Is CAT easier or GMAT

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 16, 2018 at 11:49 am #

      That’s a very personal question, so we don’t have a ready answer. There are definitely a lot more student data points for the GMAT, but you can probably find some online discussion of students comparing the two. Good luck! 🙂

  4. Chait21x January 19, 2018 at 8:24 am #

    How would u recommend me to begin studying as i am looking forward to appear in CAT as well as GMAT, some mutually important things etc. so that i can excel in both of them. Currently my First year in B.com is coming to an end, the ironical thing is in the university i am , there is a barrier for the percentage each year’s final exams that’s maximum 60%, that’s what govt univ’s in India are like, how will my GPA affect my application of CAT as well as GMAT.
    Thank You,
    Chaitanya

    • David Recine
      David Recine January 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

      That’s a great question, Chait! I know that India’s public unis are QUITE competitive. 🙂

      Doing both the GMAT and CAT is quite ambitious and a great way to maximize your options inside of India and out. I personally recommend studying for both exams at the same time. Even in the places where the tests don’t overlap in terms of content, similar skills are being tested. You may find that GMAT IR helps bring you to new levels of ability with charts and tables, ones that make DI easier on the CAT. And the rigorous logic of CAT LR can help you build logic skills for GMAT CR and Quant.

      With that said, I have met students who studied for the exams separately, first preparing and sitting for one test, then the other. While I do believe that studying for both exams at the same time is the best option for most students, if this option doesn’t feel right for you, you can always switch to separate exam prep.

      Either way, I strongly recommend making and following a good study schedule. You can check out example CAT study schedules here on the Magoosh CAT blog. And you can combine activities from CAT study schedules with the types of activities you see in Magoosh’s GMAT study plans.

  5. Jainis Chheda March 8, 2018 at 9:24 pm #

    Hey, I am a working professional with almost 3 yrs of work ex. I now want to do my MBA but studying along with my job is a bit challenging. Does Indian as well as univ abroad consider the point that a candidate left his job early just to prepare for MBA exams as a negative sign? Looking from the perspective of CAT as well as GMAT.

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 13, 2018 at 10:44 am #

      That’s a great question, Jainis, and a tricky one. Although the majority of MBA applicants do not quit their jobs in preparation for MBA application and entry, it’s also not completely uncommon. I regularly work with students who’ve chosen to leave their job early and focus on getting into the best MBA program that they can.

      If you’ve quit your job early to prep for the CAT, GMAT and/or other aspects of the b-school application process, I recommend directly addressing that in your application letters or essays. The most competitive B-schools like to think of their degree programs as career advancement rather than a way to jump start a career. So it would be good to make it clear to schools that you left your current job voluntarily, because you feel that focusing on MBA studies is the next logical progression in your career right now.

      Now, let’s talk about how quitting your job may be received by the Indian Institutes of Management, vs. universities abroad. It’s hard to say if lack of current employment will be a disadvantage at all. But there is a better chance that quitting your job will decrease your admission chances at Indian schools rather than foreign ones. This is because India has some of the most competitive MBA programs in the world. As you may already be aware, some IIM campuses are as exclusive– or more exclusive– than American Ivy League business schools!

  6. MAHAK March 15, 2018 at 1:18 am #

    Hi,
    I am an IT professional and can you please help me in giving a study schedule for CAT preparation along with my job.


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